How to quantify improvement in swimming

Posted Ella Villas Articles

At Tri Swim Coach, we get questions all the time like:

“How many strokes should I be taking per length?”
“What’s a good Swim Golf (SWOLF) score?”
“How do I know if I’m going a proper high elbow catch?”
“How many days per week should I swim?”
“Why am I not getting faster/better?”

With triathlon, it’s often the case that you may have a race, and your next one is 4-8 weeks away. But you want to see how you are doing. Improving or moving backwards.

It will of course depend on what level you are on what your goals are, but there are some great and effective ways to quantify your swimming progress:

1. Days per week you are getting in the water. Some of this just comes down to, are you just showing up? If you are “in season”, ideally you can swim 3-4x per week, once in the open water and the rest of the time in the pool.

2. Number of strokes per length you are taking. Especially if you are more of a beginner, simply counting your strokes and keeping track of your average stroke count per length will help keep your focus on technique. There really is no “ideal number” to try to hit. Just paying attention to what helps bring your average stroke count down will lead to overall improvement.

3. Playing Swim Golf (SWOLF). This is the next step after getting used to just counting strokes. Do a set of 50s, count your strokes and get your time with each 50. Try to lower your “score” each time, by paying attention to your technique. Can you extend a little more? Rotate your hips? Use a high elbow pull? Play this game weekly for the best results.

4. Do intervals with a drill. Perhaps your 100 meter base is normally 1:55. And maybe you’re stuck on this interval and haven’t been able to move up to 1:50.

Try this: Pick a drill, let’s say the fist drill, and add 5-10 seconds to your base interval. Then do 6-8x100s on that interval. Switch to another drill, like 3/4ths catch-up, and repeat. The next time, you can see about decreasing your interval by 5 seconds. This way you are working on just one aspect of your stroke as well as your conditioning, and able to quantify improvements.

There’s a few ideas on quantifying your swim!

And of course…accountability will be the glue to make sure you stick with it, and continue to improve.

We have recently added accountability “score cards” to our Tri Swim Success program. These are weekly surveys that members fill out to stay on track and keep themselves from slacking off, as well as help encourage fellow members to hit their goals.

It’s like teamwork within an individual sport! If you are a member, you can log in and access your scorecard by going here: