Swim Club Blog: Pace Judgement & The Internal Clock

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

Before we started the first Swim Club training block, I posted a couple of blogs regarding pacing and using the pace clock. At this point, I'd like to go back and remind you why pace judgement and your internal clock is so important.

What is the role of a great swim coach?

Most people will say 'to teach technique'. In fact, in triathlon circles, many coaches feel their only 'swimming role' is to teach technique. We all know that getting the basics of a good technique is important, but there is another element to swim coaching. It takes a GREAT COACH to manage a full pool of swimmers and get each lane swimming at the right pace, with the right recovery and following a structured set. Getting swimmers to understand pace judgement and use their internal clock is extremely difficult. If you want to be a swimmer, then you need to start acting like a swimmer.

Using pace for swimming is critical and you should either be using a watch, or preferably using the big pace clock on the wall. Pace is the only thing you can use as heart rate is a waste if time when swimming and nobody has invented power meters for hand paddles. The beauty of pace is that for swimming, it's reliable. The pool is always flat, there's no uphill, you don't get windy days so conditions in the pool are the same every time (although some pools, due to depth and design are quicker than others). 

Pace Judgement & The Internal Clock

If you are doing a training set such as 12 X 100m with 15 seconds recovery, you should know the target pace for each repetition. Don't simply set off on the first 100m and swim 'hard' with no pre-planned pace. You should have a target in mind such as swimming each repetition in 1:45 and then leaving on 2:00. It's fine having a target in mind such as 1:45, but if you have no idea what 1:45 feels like when you are swimming, how to you keep on track? If you set off aiming to swim 1:45 and you complete the first rep in 1:38, that's an entirely different post code to 1:45. The probability is that if you swim 1:38 for the first 100m, you'll swim 1:56 for the last of the 12 X 100m. You need to learn pace judgement and you need to use and develop your internal clock. You should be able to judge 100m speed to within 1-2 seconds at most.

This has a huge impact on your race performances. Many swimmers start way too fast in open water or pool races and after 200m, they are full of lactic acid and slow down significantly, losing time. With the adrenaline pumping, it often feels easy to swim way too fast for the first few minutes, but you will pay a costly price for this mistake.

You target times should vary depending upon the set / objectives you are completing. If you are doing a longer endurance session, then your pacing should be slower. For example, if your target pace for 12 X 100m is 1:45, then for an endurance set such as 8 X 250m, you may wish to aim for 1:48 per 100m, the extra 3 seconds makes a big difference.

One final thing to understand is how swim speed and recovery time interact. You only need to swim 2-3 seconds faster per 100m, to make the session significantly harder. The difference between 1:45 per 100m and 1:42 per 100m is huge. If your session is 12 X 100m in 1:45 with 15 seconds recovery (leaving on 2:00), then swimming 1:42 and taking 18 seconds recovery is much harder than swimming 1:50 and taking only 10 seconds recovery. If you're out of breath and can't keep up, you may be better to slow down and take a shorter recovery and swimming 3-4 seconds slower, makes it a lot easier to recover.

It's really important that you master the skill of pacing and use the clock on the wall to structure your training. It gets very frustrating that EVERYONE talks about swim technique but VERY FEW seem capable of using pace judgment and completing a structured swim set. Start acting like a swimmer, make sure you read the 2 blog posts which were posted earlier this year HERE and HERE.

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The Endurance Store