Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lesson 3: Cadence

Another of the leftovers from having learnt the Total Immersion method is that I have a very low cadence (stroke rate). Obviously, speed can be thought of as the product of cadence and stroke length: Total Immersion puts the emphasis on eeking out the maximum glide from every stroke which is good, to a point. It is all very well being ultra efficient (which, by the way, is hardly the case for me) but when you are competing you have to get speed from both length and cadence. Add to that the fact that Triathlon swims generally take place in open water with thousands of other people thrashing about and it quickly becomes apparent that you are not going to get much out of

The idea is to coordinate the entry of the hand with the pull phase of the arm already in the water. The "pull phase" follows immediately on from the catch that we worked on last week. We practised this doing drills where we broke the swim cycle (with a "dead spot") just at the point after the catch, timing the start of the next stroke to coincide with the entry of the recovering arm. My cadence certainly increased but it started to spiral a little out of control.

I've bought a gadget to help swim with a more appropriate cadence. Actually, this time it was coach Luis' idea, not mine, even though any excuse to buy another gadget is a good one. It hasn't arrived yet but it is a small device you place in your swimming cap that beeps every so often, like a metronome.

I've found precious little information on the internet regarding swim cadence or stroke rates suitable for an Ironman or a Half Ironman but, judging from videos on Youtube, the faster swimmers are going like the clappers. Recently, I read an interesting article in Triathlon Plus magazine with a rough guide which I found very useful:

30-45 strokes per minute: extremely slow stroke rate, certainly over-gliding with a long pause.
46-54 spm: low stroke rate, probably due to dead spot at front of stroke.
55-64 spm: moderate stroke rate that should probably be higher in open water swims
65-74 spm: good rhythm for open water
75-94 spm: very fast stroke rate. Most elite triathletes swim at 90 spm
95-120 spm: extremely fast stroke rate for 1:05 /100m pace

The article also makes the point that you should increase your cadence for open water swimming to account for the chop and wake from other swimmers, otherwise you are likely to come to a complete halt in between strokes.

As I have been saying lately, I think Total Immersion has helped me instil some good habits but I have gone too far the other way. Now it is time to put some speed back into the equation and, while doing so, hopefully not lose too much of the efficiency and length.


  1. Tom,

    I have been through exactly the same experience with TI. It was very usefull in terms of improving me from a poor swimmer. I am now following Swim Smooth and this is helping me in terms of momentum of stroke.


    1. Rob,

      No idea why I called you Tom, sorry about that.....