The Importance of Timing

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When I say the word “timing”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably the most notable would be the overuse of it as an excuse for relationships not working out on TV sitcoms.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the importance of timing in terms of swimming and how your stroke are affected by it. It might not seem like it from the surface. But timing plays a huge role in the efficiency of your stroke. And has the power to ruin a swim.

First and foremost, the timing of your rotation affects your breath and the cadence of your strokes. If the timing of the rotation of your hips is off, you won’t be able to take a proper breath.  The cadence of your stroke will be thrown off as well, breaking your streamline and causing you to swim like a snake through the water.

This might look cool from a bird’s eye perspective. But swimming this way will hurt your times. And it forces you to engage the wrong muscles to counteract the additional drag your body is facing.

To work on the timing of your rotation we use the Finis Tempo Trainer. The tempo trainer is a waterproof metronome that we have our SwimBox clients place inside their cap. You rotate your hips to the timing of the beat. It’s important not to use the beat as a cue for your hand entering the water. This will reinforce the use of your arms to set your cadence. You don’t want your arms to set your cadence because that will lead to your arms and hips being out of sync.

Your hips need to be the driving force behind your stroke, plain and simple.  This is because you’re dependent on them for mobility through your shoulders and your neck as well as to generate power through your pull.

Try starting out with 60-70 bpm on the tempo trainer when first doing this drill. Play around with it once you’re more comfortable with the rotation of your hips being the driving force and try it at a faster bpm to see how it goes. You have to be able to implement drills/proper technique at a faster speed for them to have a beneficial effect when racing.

Another important aspect of timing is in respect to your breath. It’s crucial to know that the timing of your breath is different from that of your arms and hips.

This might seem obvious, but it can be quite a difficult concept to learn and put into action.

To keep proper timing, you can’t initiate the turn of your head to breathe until you start to rotate. AND your face needs to be back in the water BEFORE your hips start to rotate downward and your recovering arm’s hand enters the water.

That’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle that depend on timing.  It’s weird to break it all down that way. But it really shows just how important it is to have proper timing during your stroke. Otherwise all of that will fall apart. And you’ll be thrashing around in the water.

In all seriousness, take the time to notice the timing you’re looking for in the water and see if there are components you need to work on. Seems like a part of swimming that can be easily overlooked. But it’s the main piece that really brings it all together.

Lissa Henderson, Tri Swim Coach