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All Strokes – Counting Strokes

In all strokes, counting strokes is an effective way to monitor your stroke efficiency.  Plus, when you’re training a long set and your mind begins to drift, stroke counting can help you stay mentally involved. 


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Why Do It:
In all strokes… fly, back, breast, and free… counting strokes is a great way to help you determine what your prime stroke rate can be.  By experimenting with the number of strokes you take per length… and doing this on a frequent basis… you’ll discover how much force you need to apply on each stroke to maintain your speed.   In this particular case, we’ll try to keep the speed the same, but vary the number of strokes we take to achieve that speed.  There are other ways to do this drill.

How to Do It:
1.
  Let’s start with freestyle because, of all the strokes, this is is where you put in most of your yardage.   Count strokes as you swim some 25s and try to reduce the number of strokes you take by 1 on each 25.    You’ll probably notice that there is one stroke count (or a narrow range of stroke counts) at which you feel most comfortable.   You find a stroke count that allows you to swim at a good pace, without expending too much energy.  Try to keep the push offs fairly even, so you’re actually varying your rate, not the distance you swim.
2.  Counting strokes on breaststroke is easier, because you don’t have as many TOTAL strokes to count, but this also makes it tougher to vary your stroke count.  To get a higher count, you’ll probably need to keep the pull and kick small and consistent.  A lower count will mean a LONG glide.
3.  Backstroke, like freestyle, is generally pretty easy to adjust your stroke count by varying how deep, or how far back you’re pulling.  Keep experimenting until you find a good flow.
4.  Of all strokes, butterfly presents the biggest challenge for counting strokes… or at least for VARYING your stroke count.   Because butterfly demands that you use your full body, it’s a bit more difficult to change things around.  The easiest way to vary your count in fly is simply to kick farther off the wall, which isn’t a bad thing.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
We focused mainly on keeping the time consistent in this drill, but another quick check… and this works for all strokes.   is to focus on your heart rate when counting strokes.  While you’re experimenting with your counts, and maintaining your pace, frequently check your heart rate to make sure you’re being efficient.  Your ultimate goal will be to go as close to your pace as possible, with the lowest heart rate possible.