A Rule Of Thumb For Your Swim Fitness

What rate of improvement can you expect from your swimming fitness training per week? And if you miss a week, how much do you slip back?

Here's a rule of thumb we use at Swim Smooth:

- With consistent training, you improve by 0.5 second per 100m per week

- When you miss a week's training, you lose 1 second per 100m per week

So, if you've just had a 5 week break from training it will take you about 10 weeks to get back to where you were before the break - really highlighting the importance of consistency in your training!

Anticipating The Change

These gains and losses show up most clearly at your CSS or threshold pace. If you use a Tempo Trainer Pro or Wetronome to pace yourself through these sets (see below), adjust your pace before your training session using the rule above. Based on your previous training (or lack of it) speed up or slow down the beeper in anticipation of your change in fitness.

We've trained a lot of athletes over many years and this rule of thumb normally works very well. However, if you are new to fitness training in swimming, you may initially improve more quickly than 0.5 second per 100m.

Tempo Trainers And CSS Training

We know that many of you have been using CSS training sets to improve your swim specific fitness and have seen some huge improvements in your swimming performances as a result. For example, Alen Pezzin in our squad improved his speed by 13% in 10 weeks, dropping from 1:47 to 1:32 / 100m at threshold!

The Tempo Trainer is worn under
your swim cap and beeps once every
lap to set you a target pace.
Using a Tempo Trainer Pro in mode 2 is a great way to pace yourself accurately through these sets but did you know you can also use mode 1 to become even more accurate with your lap time? You can then adjust your lap time in 0.01 second intervals allowing you to be really precise with your pacing. The original mode 2 only allows whole seconds at a time, equating to a change of 4 seconds per 100 in a 25m or 25yd pool. That's OK but if you want to adjust things by 0.5 second per 100m you need to be more precise by using mode 1.

You can find out more about CSS training here and the Tempo Trainer Pro here.

Swim Smooth!


DocL-Moat said...

I thought mode 1 only went up to 10 seconds? How can that be used to do laps - do you set it so it beeps say 3 times a lap?

e.g. if you want to do 23.5 seconds per length, you would set it in mode 1 to beep every 7.83 seconds and remember that it beeps 3 times per length?

David Kaufman said...

Let me preface my comment by saying that I love your advice, your book, and of course your websites.
How can you possibly say that there are 5 different swim types and many many more levels of proficiency but everyone improves at the same rate? That is preposterous and simply untrue! Half a second per week from my 100 time? Are you serious? I have been training consistently for a while now and I plan on swimming consistently for the long term. If I were improving at half a second per MONTH that would be a tremendous motivator!

Adam Young said...

Hi notiophilus,

I think Finis made a software change a little while back and now you can slow Mode 1 right down. Or you using a normal TTranier (blue) or TTrainer Pro (yellow)?

But yes, you could do three beeps per lap if you wish!

Hi David,

A couple of things: obviously we're talking about fitness improvements only, not stroke technique (just to be clear!). Secondly, if you're very well trained and near your peak of fitness then obviously the gains do taper off. However, even elite swimmers are rarely at their peak fitness year round and will see changes at approximately the same rate as they train.

What sort of speed are you swimming? And what do your quality sets consist of?



Rachel said...

For this rule of thumb to apply, what do you consider 'consistent' training? Any thoughts on frequency/volume of training?

DocL-Moat said...

Adam - mine is not pro and yellow!! Bought this year about 3 months ago.

Adam Young said...

Hi notiophilus,

You sure it doesn't go slower than 10 seconds in mode 1??


DocL-Moat said...

Adam: it goes slower than 10 seconds, but beyond 10 seconds it only moves in 1 second intervals. e.g. you cannot have 25.5 seconds, just 25 or 26 seconds

You can have fractions of a second but only between 1 and 10 seconds.

Hence if you want to move up a gear for 25m say from 25 to 24.8 seconds (a 1% change), you cannot do this - you could only go to 24 seconds which is a big 4% change in one go.

zackme said...

Useful, but frustrating stats indeed. What does one lose in a week? breathing capacity, muscles (I thought muscles melt by 1% a year when less active), toning, technik?
Does traning help improving for sprinting too? Basically, if one wants to improve his 100m best, should he train on that length at CSS or rather do a mix of different lengths (as in some programs examples you gave). Thx.

David Kaufman said...

Hi Adam,

I am a masters swimmer and I have been consistently swimming 4 days a week on average (with two different swim teams) for the past few years (down from 5). I do compete in masters swim meets where I usually do freestyle, backstroke and IM races and also some ocean one mile races in the summer.
After reading your book I am inspired to swim some longer freestyle races (500 yards as opposed to 50s and 100s).

My fastest 100 yard time is 1:10.88

I am also interested to see your response to zackme above. How can one best improve their 100 time? I know that starts and turns are immensely important when racing the shorter distances.

Adam Young said...

Hi Rachel, probably training 3 to 4 times per week with one of those sessions being a CSS type session...

Hi notiophilus, OK that makes sense then as the blue non-pro version only does whole numbers. But yes, you could certainly set it to beep several times per lap to get the end points right.

zackme, we're talking predominantly about distance swimming here (400m and up) but something very similar will happen over sprint distances. What will you lose in a week? A touch of aerobic capacity from no training. Exactly what decays first you'd have to ask a sports physiologist but my best guess would be mitochondria density in your muscles.

Most of our materials are around distance swimming but if you're training 100m speed you want to do some CSS work but also sprint sets with longer recoveries as you need that anaerobic capacity over short distances. The 50m guys need very little aerobic training at all (some do zero) but at 100m you need some condition there.



Abigail Emery said...

Now I know that I am not improving my distance because of the times that I didn’t attend training. I am a fast swimmer but there is a limit.

Alicia Dashwood said...

I regret ever having to stop after my foot surgery. I haven't done a lot of things while I was on the healing process. Now I'm a slow swimmer. Good thing I don't compete anymore.

April Thomas said...

Swimming is one of the sports I advise when I give lectures in healthy living. It's a kind of sport that improves breathing and the more we try to improve our swimming performance, the more we are close to fitness. Thanks for all your info. They would be useful for my upcoming lectures.

Yajaira Liggett said...
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Freddie Lowe said...

This just shows how practice can bring people to new heights. Many successful athletes now reap the fruits of their labor and that is because of their training and practice. Anyone can be great, just put the right amount of effort to it.

Owen Cameron said...

Swimming is a sport that can be very beneficial to our health in just a small amount of time. It is also a good cardiovascular exercise and be also used for therapies.

Ben Robertson said...

I didn't know before that you could lose such time in just a week. Its frightening that an injury is a possibility. Imagine having a torn ACL and having to go on rehab for six months. That would mean a year of training just to get back to old form.

Bailey Nelson said...

Many athletes cross train to swimming cause it is one of the most complete fitness training program. You can develop agility, strength and improve your core. If utilized properly, fitness training in this kind of sport can be beneficial to athletes.

Michael Gough said...

Push the limits. I believe the stats but athletes can break barriers. Its the desire to succeed, nothing is impossible with hard work. Even if injuries would sideline you, there are still ways and things to improve on.

Kurt Lao said...

The Tempo Trainer Pro is really a great way to measure progress. Counting laps is sufficient but some people tend to be inconsistent with their strokes so the Tempo Trainer would be a better measurement.

Emarie Finn said...

It is important to have a consistency in training. It helps the body grow accustomed to the training and improves it further. Proper diet and nutrition also plays a vital role in building strength.

Bruce Grant said...

You really have to keep the consistency when it comes to any sport. If you take a break for a while from your usual practice regimen then suddenly come back at full force afterwards, you'll just cause more harm than good to your body. Better do things gradually.

Unknown said...
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