In the previous article, we discussed the importance of measuring your speed to ensure that you are creating the feedback you need to improve your performance.
In this article, we're going to apply the same approach to measuring your stroke count.
Speed is a great measure of effectiveness. Are your performances effective in accomplishing the objective in going FAST.
By measuring your stroke count, you can measure the efficiency of your swimming. Taking fewer strokes generally means that you’re swimming more efficiently, provided you’re not gliding excessively, kicking more, or dolphin kicking more than normal.
While counting strokes is not a perfect measure, the advantage is that it’s objective, anyone can do it, and it’s simple to count. Zero technology is required, and any swimmer can keep track at any time.
What it may lack in accuracy, it more than makes up for it with practicality.
So why does efficiency matter?
Efficiency matters for two reasons.
Swimming obviously requires energy, and regardless of how well you’re trained, that amount of energy is limited. It matters how you USE that energy.
Taking fewer strokes for the same speed has consistently been shown to use less energy. That means you’ll be able to sustain your speed in training and competition for longer.
Efficiency also matters because it will increase your speed. Speed is a product of how long your stroke is and how fast your stroke is.
Long, fast strokes result in speed.
A lower stroke count indicates a longer stroke. As we’re pretty limited in how fast we can move our arms, it is usually stroke length that determines how fast we go.
With how fast you can move your arms at top speed being relatively constant, we need more efficiency to go faster.
Let’s look at an example to help this idea come to life- compare a dachshund and a greyhound. The long legs of the greyhound are going to allow the greyhound to run much faster. While the dachshund can move its legs at a similar rate, it can’t come anywhere close to achieving the same length per stride.
That’s why greyhounds are racing dogs and dachshunds are not!
Swimming works the same way in terms of the relationship between stroke length and stroke rate. However, there is good news for those looking to swim fast.
While anatomy (the length of the legs) plays a big part in determining length with dogs, the length of your arms and your height play a much smaller role in swimming.
It is your SKILL that determines the difference. Skills can be improved, and that’s what you’re here to develop.
What gets measured, gets managed. Here’s how we can use to stroke count to improve our swimming-
Evaluating change. When we implement a change, it’s going to impact our efficiency, hopefully in a positive manner.
The only way you’ll know is if you keep track of it.
Let’s say you make a change with how you’re swimming and you INSTANTLY take 2 less strokes per 25 without doing anything different. That information should definitely reinforce the effectiveness of what you’re doing.
That is a change you want to replicate.
What did it FEEL like?
That’s how you calibrate your feel for the water. Compare outcomes to sensation.
In contrast, if you make a change and instantly take 2 MORE strokes, that’s probably not a change you want to continue to use.
Whatever that felt like, DON’T try to re-create those sensations.
By measuring efficiency, you’ll learn to FEEL what’s right and what’s wrong, and those sensations may surprise you.
They should surprise you because if you were already doing everything right, you wouldn’t be learning about improving your feel for the water!
Sensation versus efficiency
As we’ve just mentioned, developing a feel for the water is all about calibration. By keeping track of your efficiency, you can learn what efficient swimming feels like.
Your body lies to you.
Many of our instincts for fast and efficient swimming are flat out wrong, and it’s really difficult to believe this.
The only way to convince yourself is to measure efficiency.
You have to measure your efficiency so that you can figure out what efficient swimming actually feels like. Once you know what to feel, it’s a lot easier to swim fast with more consistency.
The only way to calibrate what we’re feeling is by measuring outcomes so that we can relate sensations to performances. We have to learn to associate the right feelings with positive outcomes.
What feels right is often wrong, and what is feels wrong is often right.
If left to our own devices, we’re going to chase sensations that are compromising our performance. We can change that calibration by paying attention to our stroke counts.