What can be measured can be improved, as the old adage goes, and that is certainly true for the swim.
Testing allows you to track progress, look for limiters, and sharpen your mental game.
Since not all tests are created equal nor complimentary to your goals as an athlete, I am giving you three different tests that you can implement into your training depending on your goals and current swim skill.
- The 1000m/1600m TT:
- Protocol: do a 500 warm up and 5×100 at what you think will be race pace on 30s rest. Then go into a 1000 or 1600 straight for time. Record your time at the end. 200 cool down
- Who is this best for? Long distance and endurance athletes who are intermediate to advanced swimmers.
- Who is it not for: Beginner swimmers, short course athletes, if you cannot swim 1000 straight without a rest
- How to use the data: use to track progress, measure fatigue, and sharpen your abilities to swim straight without rest. You can also use your average split as your threshold pace to structure your training around. Take mental notes about how your form and pace changes throughout the set
- CSS test 200/400 double:
- Protocol: Warm Up 300 easy freestyle, 4 x 50 freestyle (25 fast/25 easy) on 10 seconds rest, then 4 x 100 freestyle at what you think you can do for the 400, Main Set: 400 time trial, 200 easy swimming plus some time on the wall (5min total) THEN 200 time trial, Warm Down 100 easy choice of stroke
- Who is it best for? Shorter course athletes and beginners who see the 1000 or 1500 TT as a bit daunting, or even longer course athletes who do not want to do a 1000 TT
- Who is it not for? Beginner athletes who still need to focus on form
- How to use the data: Look at your times to see which one you were faster at. If your 200 was much faster than the 400 then you need to focus more on endurance sets but if your splits for both TTs were close or the same, then you should work on developing your speed. Your 400 time is also a good indicator of where your endurance to speed ratio is. With an online calculator you can also set your threshold pace to structure your workouts.
- Note: I really like to do this on the Vasa Swim erg in addition to the 1000m TT in the pool. The swim erg gives me a power number that I can then use to train with over the next training block
- Swim GOLF efficiency test
- Protocol: Warm Up 300 easy freestyle, 4 x 50 freestyle (25 fast/25 easy) on 10 seconds rest. Main Set: 5-10×50 at a good sustainable pace on 15-30s rest. Cool down as needed. Count your strokes for each 50 then add them to your time in seconds (so if you swam the 50 in 60s and 40 strokes your score is 100). Track your scores for each 50 and see if they change.
- Who is this best for: those who are working on form and novice swimmers
- Who is this not for? Those you have good form and many years of swim experience.
- How to use the data: does either your time or number of strokes drastically change throughout the test? Then your form and endurance is not quite there. Also you can track progress in both form and speed over time. You can improve your score with better form (lower stroke rate) and a more powerful pulling (speed). It also helps to find your ideal cadence. If your cadence drops but so does your speed then you have gone too low and need to speed up your stroke. The opposite is also true.
As always, try to minimize variables and keep things constant.
Record as much data as you can including: the temp and distance of the pool (i.e. don’t go from a college Olympic sized pool that is usually kept at 74 degree to a hotel 30 ft lap pool that is 90 degrees), what you eat before, and time of day (if you test in the morning then after work, your times will be different).
Then as you analyze for your TT data, look back and see if you need to make modifications before your next test. Tests should be performed every 4-8 weeks.
Befriend the swim!