Monday, May 13, 2013

The Gradual Crescendo

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Olympic Triathlon Gold Medallist Alistair Brownlee ran a 28:32 10,000m on the track at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford a couple of weeks ago. If you're a runner or triathlete you'll appreciate that serious running speed.

After the event Alistair tweeted: Learnt that 68s felt easy at 3k and 69's felt hard at 8k. Can't wait for another go.

Alistair's referring to his lap time per 400m on the running track, where in the early stages of the race 68 seconds per lap felt easy but later in the race 69 seconds per lap felt hard. We call this progressive increase in effort through a well paced race "the gradual crescendo" and it happens just as much in swimming as in running.

How Training Sets And Races Should Feel

If you swim a hard effort (say a 400m or 1500m timetrial) and you pace it out evenly (with every 50m swum at the same speed) the feeling of effort should rise throughout the swim at bit like this:

The first quarter of a well paced effort feels pretty easy and in fact it's possible to go significantly faster over this initial distance. However by the half way point of the swim, the effort has risen and you are aware you are working hard to stay with the pace. By the last quarter of the distance you are getting close to maximum effort, working very hard to finish off the swim well.

Remember, this is all at the same actual speed, you're not speeding up through the swim. The same pace is gradually feeling harder and harder - this is the gradual crescendo.

If I Can, Shouldn't I Work Harder Earlier?

In a word, no. For two reasons:

- It feels easy to do but by going faster in the early stages of a race you will do damage which you cannot recover from. It takes a while for your breathing rate and heart rate to catch up but by starting fast you will slow down in the second half of the race and be much slower overall.

- In a training set, if you start too fast and then blow up and slow down you will not get the training benefit that you would by pacing out your training sets well. If you feel that your swimming fitness is on a plateau this could be where you are going wrong. As a bonus, not only are well paced swim sets more beneficial but they are less painful too.

To help get your pacing right, we strongly recommend the use of a Tempo Trainer Pro in lap-interval mode (mode ##). This will beep to you when you should be turning at the end of each lap helping you pace out your training sets perfectly. Many swimmers find that it's only when you use a Tempo Trainer for the first time you fully appreciate how bad your pacing skills are!

Pacing Is An Essential Part Of Swimming Technique

At the moment when you think of your swimming technique you might just think of your stroke mechanics but your pacing skills are also a critical part of your technique to swim at your best. Pacing out training sets and races is critical to reach your potential in the water, it's something that elite swimmers and triathletes have developed and honed during thousands of training hours in the water and on the running track.

Get it right yourself and you should experience that gradual crescendo and the personal bests that come with it.

Swim Smooth!

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