What's The Common Factor In These World Records From Different Sports?

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Here's three famous world records from different sports:

Katie Ledecky 800m Freestyle World Record: 22nd June 2014
Time: 8:11.00, 400m split: 4:05.70

Kenenisa Bekele 10,000m Athletics World Record: 26th August 2005
Time: 26:17.53, 5km split: 13:09.19

Rohan Dennis, Cycling Hour Record: 8th February 2015
Hour distance: 52.491km, 30 minute split: 26.363 km

Apart from each being phenomenal performances, what's the common factor?

Notice how in each case the second half of the race was at the same speed, or slightly faster than the first half. None of them started fast to try and get ahead.

Lots of studies have looked into this phenomenon and they have all found the same thing - nearly all world record records in every sport are set with even pacing or where the second half is slightly faster than the first (a "negative split").

What About You?

Ask a friend or coach to time you over a fast 400m and take your split after the first 100m. From coaching experience we can tell you that you will almost certainly set off much too fast and go through the first 100m too quickly (around 5 to 10 seconds too quick). This causes you to slow down hugely in the second half of the swim and get a slower time overall. (See test results from the SS squads in Perth here).

But that doesn't just happen when you swim fast, it happens nearly every time you start a swim of any speed or distance in training. This is not only a bad habit to develop for your races but it also harms the quality of your training meaning you don't get the fitness improvements you deserve.

One of the easiest ways to solve this problem is to use a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro set to beep at you once per length. If you swim 100m in 2 minutes, set it to beep every 30 seconds and wait for the beep to set off on a swim. Your goal is to pace your effort so that you reach every 25m when the beep goes - you'll find it so easy to get ahead of the beep over the first few lengths and then it starts to catch you up and then overtakes you - that's your poor pacing!

Work on developing your pacing skills by setting off a little slower and let the beep control your pace - you'll immediately start setting some faster times... and the improvements will keep coming over the weeks and months of swimming that follow. Use that same pace judgement in a race and you will move significantly up the field.

A Tempo Trainer makes an amazing training partner, pacing you perfectly
through sets and giving you maximum 'bang from your training buck'.

Pacing skills aren't a sexy subject in sport but they are vital to reach your potential as a swimmer - just as much in your early stages of development. Is poor pacing stopping you reaching your goals?

Swim Smooth!

P.S. Just one word of caution when observing sprint swimming records, the time gained from the dive at the start can be worth 1-2 seconds despite the effort being even throughout the swim.

P.P.S. Extreme (and deliberate) poor pacing: http://m.runnersworld.com/boston-marathon/who-was-the-dad-leading-the-boston-marathon-at-mile-one


Fatih ├ľkten le atletik spor said...

hi, i completely agree with you.on the other hand this is valid for 400m and longer distances.for 200m shorter distances,the coaches recommend fast start,then hold onto that pace.why?because,they think the swimmer should not get negatively effected from the possible wavees of another faster swimmer in the next lane.but for 400m and above,must not press the gas pedal early.thanks for the simple but crucial remind.

Anonymous said...

I understand the concept and completely agree if you are in a pool, but how do you translate this into a mass start in a triathlon where you might need to go out a little fast to establish a good position? If that's the kind of race you're targeting, does it make sense to have your training reflect this?

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous,

You've got to be careful, even when you're looking for fast feet. Try not to make that initial surge too hard or last longer than a minute or you will lose large amounts of time in the second half of the swim (and lose the draft whilst doing so).


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