Sunday, July 3, 2011

Distance per Stroke

Whether you are swimming for fitness or competition distance per stroke is an excellent skill to work on; we of course recommend regularly but will settle for occasionally for those who are more fitness inclined.

Distance per stroke, along with tempo (how fast you move your stroke cycle) are the two main components of speed. For general fitness you can simply focus on dps (distance per stroke).

What is it? No mystery here. It is exactly what it says: how far through the water can you propel yourself with each arm cycle. When you swim freestyle, backstroke or butterfly you only count the propulsive phase. Do not count the recovery. When you swim breaststroke you count the arms and legs as “1” complete stroke cycle. If you come up with a partial number, such as 16 and ½ then you are counting incorrectly. It is probably 16.

It is extremely important to do this in the regular pool you training in so you have a “base line” number. Obviously 25 yards and 25 meters and 50 meters will all be different. Some folks swim in a 33 1/3 or a 40 meter pool. It makes no difference. If you swim open water you will not be able to get an accurate count.

So let’s say you have a number in a 25 yard pool (we’ll use this since it is the most common one here in the US) that is 18 strokes of freestyle. If you can figure out how to get that number down to 17 or even 16 you have made a significant improvement in your stroke efficiency. If you swim competitively that is very important. If you swim for fitness it is also huge in a different way. By lowering your stroke count from 18 to 17 you have just moved your body (your weight hasn’t changed) over the same distance with one less stroke. Another way to look at it is this. If you bench press 100 lbs. 18 times you have lifted 1800 pounds. Lift that same 1800 lbs. in 17 lifts and you will need to add some extra weight to the bar to make the totals the same. To do that you will put more stress on your muscles which will break them down and have them rebuild at a stronger level. You just got stronger.

If you want to swim competitively in open water you need to master this dps skill. If you simply want to swim for fitness you probably have a goal of some sort; swim a certain number of laps or yardage per week. Why not get stronger in the water (and out of the water at the same time) while you are achieving your goals? If you get into the dps skill you will do just that. You will get stronger and more efficient in the water…

…and that is a great thing since swimming is the only sport activity that can actually save your life…if you are strong – efficient – enough to reach shore.

Have a great week and count your strokes now and then!

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