Swim coaches Rachel Perry and Graeme Cox reveal how to get the best from tempo trainers

swim 2

One of the directions we are taking in our pool sessions is using tempo trainers. At first many of our swimmers were esceptical and as coaches we were unsure how best to use them, so here are some tips to help, whether you’re swimming in group sessions or doing your own training.

1 Don’t be put off before start

At first it will look a bit daunting, as it’s a complicated world of abbreviations and formulas. To some, the idea of having a device tucked under your swim cap randomly beeping at you will be uncomfortable.

For others the idea of a test is off putting. Stick with it though, as we’ve found with a little jargon translation and planned sessions you’ll quickly see results.

2 Take the test

It all starts with getting a measure of your swim fitness, which is your ability to sustain a steady pace over the sort of distances you’ll be racing at. We base our approach on the world leading Swim Smooth coaching system.

Around once every two months we organise timed tests over 400yds and 200yds (our pool is a bit Victorian), then plug the numbers into the Swim Smooth calculator to get each swimmer’s Critical Swim Speed (CSS).

3 Structure

We base at least one of our weekly swim sessions around the CSS threshold pace, progressively bringing down the time.

One week we might set the tempo trainers at each swimmer’s CSS, plus five seconds. If they get to the end of the length before the beeper they’ll instantly know they’ve set off too fast. Then, week by week we gradually reduce the times, with great results in terms of fitness as well as pace judgement!

4 Experiment with your stroke rate

Another way to use the tempo trainer is around your stroke rate. Getting through the water faster is not always about how quickly you can turn your arms over.

By using the tempo trainer’s strokes per minute mode you can experiment with setting the beeper slower or faster than you’re used to and see what effect it has on how comfortable you feel and how fast you actually are.

You’ll be surprised by the results!

Don’t forget your technique

Slow things down and focus on one element of the stroke. Try drills such as kicking on the side or sculling, to isolate one position or movement.

Focus on one element at a time, such as a relaxed, controlled and constant breathing out underwater or imagine you’re breathing from the hips to help ingrain a streamlined body roll.

Make sure you have the right gear! Check our Gear Section for more!