The more time I spend swimming, reading about swimming, trying stuff out, the more I realise that even paced swimming is incredibly important if you want to go a long way.
Luckily there are a lot of tools available to help with that these days:
(1) Swim watches – count your lengths of the pool and the pace for sets, or even gather stats for every length. Brilliant at keeping a tally of what you have done in a session, but not necessarily giving you feedback as you go along. You have to stop to peer at it, to see how many lengths you have done or how fast you have been swimming, which may defy the point. I have the Poolmate Pro for pool swimming:
and the Garmin Forerunner 910XT for open water GPS.
(2) Tempo trainer. I bought one of these ages ago, but it didn’t last more than a month or so due to some pretty poor waterproofing. Essentially it is a small widget that fits under your cap or attaches to your goggles, which generates a beep according to whatever you tell it.
You can either set it to help with stroke rate, timing your strokes to coincide with the regular beeps, or you can set it to help with how long it takes you to swim each length. Then you aim to hit the wall at the same time as the beep every time. Fall behind and you know you need to make it up. Move ahead and you know to ease up a little.
I wish I had (a functioning) one of these right now, as I think I would use it a lot, but I am worried that if I get another one it will have the same poor build quality as the first, and another £30 or so goes down the drain.
Maybe I should give them another chance……
(3) The pool clock. This is fine for doing interval work. For instance if you are doing 20 x 100 on 90 seconds, going on 100 seconds, then this works fine, but say you are trying to do mile sets on 98 seconds per 100 m, then it is a slightly harder challenge to keep up with the mental mathematics, and work out every 100 m how you are doing.
Having said that, I did give something like this a go the other morning.
I woke up on Thursday with a sore nose and throat, having been unable to breathe through my nose all night, and having had a pretty terrible sleep. I was also feeling achy and ill. I decided to adopt the ‘kill or cure’ approach and go for a nice challenging swim before work. I got to the pool around 6.40, and decided to do an even paced 5 x 1 km swim, at 95 s/100 m pace, going every 17 minutes. I decided to use the pool clock this time, which is something I have never really tried before for some reason. It has always been a case of stopping the swim watch at the end of a set and being happy/content/disappointed to see what the pace was.
I was surprised how well it went. The sets obviously got harder as they went on, the first one having to make an effort to not go too fast, through to the final one feeling the pace a little, but still not killing myself by any means. I ended up with this awesome looking session:
Each one of the sets were 15:50 +/- 2 seconds, each calculated at 95 s/100 m, each (apart from the first) at 9 strokes per lengths (actually 9 times turning my left arm over), and at the same stroke rate. I do always doubt the calorie calculation though. This suggests I burned 1,840 calories in 1 hour and 24 minutes which seems a little far-fetched. It would be great to hear people’s comments on that.
Did it kill or cure? Well neither. I continued to move slowly downhill, and ended up spending most of the day after (yesterday) asleep in bed. It has moved to my chest as well now, so probably best to give the pool a miss for another day to allow my lungs to recover. At the moment there are still billions of (probably) viruses making merry down there; I need to give them the chance to die.