What’s YOUR stroke count?
I’ve been reminded recently that swimmers can become obsessed with stroke count — usually a LOW stroke count. But we all have to remember that lower isn’t always better. it’s really all about finding YOUR stroke count.
Focusing on low stroke count can lock you up and make you look and swim like a robot. You can end up rolling too far, holding a glide too long, and looking very mechanical — while others stream past you doing what swimmers SHOULD be doing… focusing on flow.
While this is a perfect time to grab your Tempo Trainer, you can do this set on your own with a pace clock. You can also do this for 25s, 50s, or really any distance you’d like. The important thing is that you maintain your speed through the set.
First, as with any stroke-count set, swim a few 25s or 50s at a comfortable pace, counting your strokes and finding what your normal rate is. Once you have a number (and please don’t ask me to recommend a "good" number:))… remember it.
Start with 4 x 25 on the :30. Swim these at your normal stroke rate and get your time on each one. As an example, let’s say you’re completing the swims in 17 seconds and are taking 13 strokes.
Now, swim 4 x 25 on the :30 with the following goals: Continue to swim them in :17 seconds, but now take 14 strokes. Even though you’re taking more strokes, try not to go any faster.
Next, swim 4 x 25 on the :30 taking 15 strokes, but still complete the swims in 17 seconds…. again, not getting any faster.
Continue with another 4 x 25 on the :30, taking 16 strokes, but still taking 17 seconds to reach the end.
As your stroke rate increases, you may feel awkward — as if you’re not extending or reaching or rotating. The set requires that you learn to use your hands, arms, and legs more effectively by letting go of the water. Too many swimmers think that every time their hand travels through the water, they have to take a Great Big Pull. This is not the case, but it’s one of the hazards of practicing a low stroke count. Low-stroke-count swimmers like to get EVERYTHING possible out of EVERY stroke… simply because the low stroke count doesn’t give them enough propulsion or allow them to maintain momentum.
Drills that encourage a low stroke count are useful for polishing stroke technique. But if you’ve adopted a low stroke count as your GOAL in swimming… STOP IT. While it’s not bad to be able to accomplish a length with a low stroke count, it’s not going to allow you to swim very fast… or with flow. Others may argue this point… but try the set anyway and see what happens.