A Stroke Cadence2 in Time - Part 2

by Coach Emmett Hines

Stroke Cadence2 is part of the A Stroke In Time series assumes you have read part 1 and understand the concepts, logic and terminology presented there. Also, in order to do the exercises presented through the rest of this series you’ll need a Tempo Trainer from Finis (www.finisinc.com), or other, similarly adjustable (1/100th of a second increments) personal swimming metronome.

Set your beeper to the correct mode

The Tempo Trainer has two modes of operation – mode 1 for stroke tempos and mode 2 for lap/repeat pacing. For all the exercises in this article series you want your beeper in mode 1.

Definition: Bpr1 - used to refer to mode 1 beeper settings – ex: 1:25 Bpr1

When you purchase a Tempo Trainer it will likely be set to mode 1. If so, the colon ( : ) will be static when the display is showing. Mode 1 allows for time settings at 1/100th-second intervals from 9.99 seconds down to 0.20 seconds. When the TT is in mode 1 it gives single BEEPs to which you can sync your strokes. Use the left and right buttons set the beeper to somewhere between 2:00 and 1:00. Your base stroke tempo will likely be somewhere in this range. (Note that in mode 1 a setting of 1:00 means the beeper will beep once every 1.00 seconds, not once per minute.)

If the beeper is set to mode 2 (flashing : colon) reset it to mode 1 by pressing and holding the left button to scroll down through the time settings past 0:10 seconds to enter mode 1 at 9:99 (now with a static : colon), then keep scrolling down to somewhere between 2:00 and 1:00.


For Stroke Cadence2:  Start by Finding your base tempo

If you’ve never used a beeper before, it takes a bit of getting used to swimming to a defined tempo (stroke cadence2). When you first get a beeper you should set it to sync with the stroke tempo you currently use when swimming at a moderate pace for several hundred yards. You want the beeps to occur just as your hands enter the water out in front of you – one beep for the right hand entry, one beep for the left hand entry. This may take some trial and error. The critical thing here is to find a beeper setting that matches swimming you are already comfortable with, not trying to sync your swimming to an arbitrary beeper setting. Once you’ve found this base tempo you can use it as a starting point for other activities.


Tempo balance and consistency

Once you’ve found your base tempo (base stroke cadence2) you want to work on tempo balance and consistency. Tempo balance means taking strokes of equal duration on each side – each hand entry occurs right on the beep, as opposed to one hand entering on the beep and the other hand entering either before or after the next beep. Tempo consistency refers to maintaining synchronization of your stroke to the beeper throughout a long series of strokes, especially strokes associated with breathing. Tempo balance (stroke cadence2) and consistency can be established by simply doing long moderate-paced swims at your base tempo where your sole focus is staying in sync with the beeper on every stroke.


Increasing tempo range

Most swimmers use a narrow range of stroke tempos (stroke cadence2) in training and competition. But really good swimmers develop a wide range of tempos. To work on increasing your tempo range, swim a set of 10 repeats of a short distance (say, 50 or 100).

  1. Swim the first repeat at your base tempo, counting your strokes.
  2. Rest enough to allow a good effort on the next repeat.
  3. Set the beeper to a new, slightly faster tempo.
  4. Swim the same distance at the new faster tempo, counting your strokes.
  5. Repeat from step 2 above.

Definition: Beeper increment – the amount by which you change a beeper setting as you move from one repeat to the next. The smallest beeper increment is .01 seconds but for many exercises you’ll use larger increments, say, .02 to .05 or more.


When increasing the tempo, choose a beeper increment that will allow you to cover your anticipated range of tempos as you move through the 10 repeats. You may find that you need a larger increment in order to cover your range of “doable” tempos. If you get part way through the set and realize, “There is no way I can keep using this big an increment”, then trim the increment down for the remainder of the set. If you get to the end of the set and realize, “I can still go faster tempos”, then go a few extra repeats (and next time you do the set, choose a larger increment).

When you first do this type of set, count your strokes on each repeat so you’ll know how your stroke count changes with faster tempos. Later, an enhanced challenge is to see how little you can let your stroke count go up throughout the set.


Going Beyond Basic Tempo Control

Once you’ve spent sufficient time with these exercises to have a good feel for using the beeper in mode 1 and have explored some tempos that you haven’t used before, it is time to couple tempo control with DPS. For that, see A Stroke In Time - Part 3 for a number of exercises that will help you do just that.  v

© H2Ouston Swims, Inc. 1999-2010

Emmett Hines was Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1981, was a Senior Coach for Total Immersion Swim Camps for many years, holds an American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He recently overhauled his popular book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers) and the second edition was released mid-2008. Fitness Swimming has been published in French (entitled Natation, pub. by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, pub. by Hispano Europea), Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong), Portuguese (Natacao Para Condicionamento Fisico, pub. by Manole)  and, soon, in Turkish and Italian. Currently Coach Hines coaches the H2Ouston Swims Masters group in Houston, TX and works privately with many clients.

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