Knowing where you’re at is the trick to further improvement over the winter, says Clapham Chasers’ coach, Tim George.

Benchmark 1

After a busy season many of you will be taking a well earned rest to allow your body and mind to recover. However, soon it will be the perfect time to turn your attention to your foundations.

The first place to start is to set some benchmarks, so you can set improvement goals for the winter and keep your focus and motivation high. This is best-achieved where progress is easily measurable, which is why we have introduced tests you can do in the pool, on the exercise bike and at your local Parkrun where you can benchmark your performance.

Head to the pool

A classic benchmark test is swimming golf (swolf), which is aimed at measuring stroke length and time together to give you an efficiency score. As stroke length increases it is common for a swimmer to slow down because their stroke rate can drop.

However, if you’re able to swim 2cm further per stroke at the same stroke rate, then over 1500m you will have gained around 25m.

  • Swim 4x50m, 1min with rest intervals
  • Measure time for each 50m and count the strokes taken for the distance
  • Add the time in seconds to the total number of strokes taken for the 50m to give you your swolf score.

Tip: To make it easier, count your strokes for each 25m of the 50m and add them together. For example 50m in 45 seconds with 19 strokes per length would give 45+19+19= 83 swolf score

Tip: Vary how you swim each 50m to try and find your optimal balance between strokes per length and effort (stroke rate).

Achieving the most efficient stroke while maintaining speed is the objective here.

Typical Scores

Novice age-group triathlete (+30min 1500m); 50m 52s + 23 strokes + 23 strokes = 96

Good age-group triathlete (27/28 min 1500m); 50m 43s + 18 strokes + 19 strokes = 80

Top age-group triathlete (<21 min 1500m); 37s + 15 strokes + 15 strokes = 67

Olympic swimmer (15min 1500m); 26s – 28s + 15 strokes + 15 strokes = 58