3 things all good swim programs do

Project #SwimReboot Week 4: Retesting

Posted Chris Articles, Vasa Swim

(Continued from Part 3: Take a Chill Pill)

With three weeks successfully completed, Coach Eric Neilson and I wanted to see how much I had improved. Three weeks of consistent training is enough time to see gains and make adjustments, especially for beginners or those coming back from hiatus.

In particular, if you are feeling like your previous times or powers are easier than they should be, it is time to retest. As I will talk about in another post, it is essential to continually update your swim fitness and form so you can make adjustments and focus on what you need to instead of blindly progressing without a specific plan.

Like the first week, we did a 5/1 min max effort time trial (TT) on the Vasa SwimErg. Important note: when testing, keep the testing protocol identical each time so you can better compare the results. The exact protocol for the test can be found in my first blog post. But to summarize, it is a 5 min all-out, puking on the pool deck effort (or this case, my training cave’s floor) 10 minutes of recovery, then 1 min all-out, throw up what you have left effort. Going into the test we were looking for changes in:

  • Strokes per minute (SPM)
  • Power/watts
  • Distance/pace

From the results, we will get my endurance pace zones and my sprint pace zones.

Going in, I was nervous but in a good way. I was confident that I was improving. Even if the results did not show tremendous gains, as long as I focused and treated it as just another hard workout and just another data point of this project, I was fine. The nerves were just excitement–and excitement is the best type of fuel.

TIP: In training, there are no good or bad tests. There are no passes or failures. Only data points that tell you what is going on and what to do about it.

So here are the results:

First 5’ test Second 5’ test First 1’ test Second 1’ test
Power (watts) 62 69 77 89
SPM 49 48 53 52
Distance (yards) 279 288 61 63
Pace 1:38/100 yd 1:35/100 yd 1:29/100 yd 1:27/100 yd

So let’s dive into what this all means.

Looking at power, I definitely improved especially in the 1’ test. Putting this into context, you can see that my power increased while my SPM stayed the same! This means I am producing more power with the same number of strokes and going faster for it.

You can see this in the graphics below too that shows the power data for my two test. Power is shown in pink, SPM in yellow and speed in green.

Here are my first results


And here are my latest tests:


The biggest difference between the two is that in the first test everything but my SPM is drifting downwards as I fatigue. In the second test, everything stays “coupled” (i.e. parallel to each other).

These results are easily applied to the water. If you do a 500 m TT and your pace drops while your SPM remain the same, your form is breaking down because you are not rotating enough, dropping your elbow, prematurely exiting the water, or a combination of all of the above. Breaking down your tests and going beyond “Did I go faster?” is essential in swimming.

This is just one way power on the SwimErg/swimming is different from that on the bike. Just because you are producing more watts (or increasing your effort) does not mean you are going faster in the water.  You want to be sure that those watts and that effort is going to pushing you forward and not laterally or even up and down as it can in the pool.

So now what? Tests are just guide posts showing you where to go next and what to focus on.  With this data we know I am improving and that I need to continue to focus on form, consistency, and endurance.  

Overall, one big fear coming back to something you have not done in a while, is the fear of not improving. I know a lot of people, myself included, who are afraid that they have lost their edge permanently after an injury or after a break. What they do not realize is how much the body retains.

And after a bit of proverbial dusting and oiling, it comes back and then some.

Maximize your power and stamina while improving your technique outside the pool.

  • Take your swimming up a notch
  • Increase your power, speed, and stamina
  • Improve your swim technique
  • Measure performance gains

Try it for yourself for 3 months, risk-freeyour improvement will be dramatic!