Tempo Practice Maintaining Strokes Per Length

Monday I swam, thinking a lot about what Coach Shinji and I worked on Saturday.
I warmed up and then instead of only practicing Strokes Per Length (SPL) I did SPL with the tempo trainer.
As one workout, I will practice SPL without caring about tempo. I just keep trying to maintain the lowest SPL for as many 25y lengths as possible, until I start to tire. This time I decided to do something slightly different. I wanted to see if I could maintain the same SPL but at a higher tempo. In doing so, I could practice efficiency but at higher speeds. I can start practicing what it takes to be efficient at higher tempos, and what I need to do in my stroke and body position to make it so.
I started at 2.0 seconds on my tempo trainer and did the first 25y length at 13 strokes then got to 12 strokes on the next three 25y lengths. I then went to 1.9 seconds and maintained 12 SPL for four 25y lengths. I then dropped to 1.8 seconds and so on, swimming four 25y at 12 SPL at every tempo setting. I finally found my limit at 1.5 seconds where I was feeling like I was gliding a little bit longer at my 12th stroke to the wall. At 1.4 seconds I lost 12 and did 13. I tried for the next three lengths to hit 12 and think on the last one I could have finally glided to the wall on 12, but took the extra stroke anyways.
It was very interesting to note exactly what I had to do to maintain 12 SPL especially at faster tempos. At 1.5 seconds, I really had to shoot the forward arm fast while stroking back with the other arm with more speed/force. But I also had to do this by being more relaxed and not tense, and also making sure my body streamline was more precise. Just more stroking force and forward arm speed was not enough. At 1.4 seconds tempo, it took me 3 lengths to get the right technique to barely make the 12, even as I took the 13th stroke to firm up hitting the wall.
I was also getting tired too so that didn’t help. In addition, as my tempo rose, it seemed my breathing technique got messier and I was not gliding as much when I took a breath.
I sent this to my coach for feedback and he told me that this is a good thing, which is to be able to control my speed at the same stroke count. He estimated my time to hit the wall on a 25y length at 2.0 seconds tempo to be about 30 seconds (12 SPL x 2.0 seconds tempo + 2.0 seconds tempo x 3 additional strokes my coach adds for the push off the wall and glide = 30 seconds). Using the same formula, at 1.5 seconds tempo it took me about 22.5 seconds. So between 30 seconds to 22.5 seconds I could control my speed and still maintain my SPL.
He also told me that my body position must be more precise as I increase my tempo, and that being tense will make me slower. He mentioned that as I practice the various tempos, I can eventually determine what part of my body I should loosen and tighten up to maintain SPL.
He then told me to practice the same process with 13 strokes, but now at a faster tempo range like 1.6 to 1.3 seconds. Then I repeat until I get to 15-16 SPL at a super fast 0.8 seconds. If I can master this tempo control and maintain efficiency, then I can employ a variety of speeds during races.
Cool stuff. I think over the next few weeks I will work a bit on seeing if I can maintain 12 SPL at higher tempos for some of my workout sessions. I will also try to figure out what it is my body needs to do to be more efficient at higher tempos. It will be critical in figuring out how to get faster in the water and not just be exponentially increasing my effort needlessly to get a tiny increase of speed.

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