Going With the Flow: Swim Tempo Training

images (1)I owe allot of my current swimming success to the Total Immersion method of swimming.  Growing up I learned how to swim… flat with all legs and arms doing the work.  When I started to get ready for my first triathlon last year I immediately realized that was not going to work.  I researched triathlon swimming and came across the “Total Immersion” method of swimming, involving rotating and swimming more from the core.  Since I changed my swim method, roughly a year later I now am now a pretty capable swimmer in open water as well as the pool.  I still suffer from slowness, roughly a 2:06/100 meters in the pool, but its faster than the 2:26/100 speed I used to clock.  Recently, while researching swim workouts I discovered an interesting little device that has changed the way I do my swim workouts and I feel has been very beneficial to my overall technique, the Finis Tempo Trainer.

imagesThe Tempo Trainer is a tiny waterproof digital metronome that fits under the swim cap or attaches to the goggles strap.  At a specified set interval it emits a beep indicating when you should stroke.  So far I have been doing the five workouts found here  (split to work with a limited 30 minute time) and have found my form has improved and my speed has picked up a bit in a short time.

I basically break my workouts into two sets: distance change and speed change.  So far the speed change has resulted in some interesting patterns.  Basically I start off with a constant interval distance of 1:35/1:36 (I am slow), leading to about 27-28 seconds/25 meters, which is a very comfortable pace.  I do about ten sets of 25 meters each, just stroking with every beep very smooth and consistent.

I tuck mine under my cap, guess this works too.

I tuck mine under my cap, guess this works too.

Next, I slowly slow the tempo down by one point for ten laps of 25 meters.  The thinking is explained on the linked website above, but basically the idea is to really hammer out form and try not to loose too much speed while stroking with less frequency.  I find this to be a very heavy technique drill by the time I hit  the final lap as I am stroking so slow it is a challenge to keep my speed withing a second or two of what it was at the beginning.

The most telling exercise is the one I finish my set with, increasing the tempo. I usually start out a little bit higher than my flat tempo, about 1:40 and try to get faster with each increased stroke.  Oddly though, I have found that if my form is not good and I slack in my overall swim technique I actually do not gain any speed while i increase my strokes.  So the challenge here becomes to nail the overall stroke technique to benefit from a greater stroke count.  So far I have gotten my speed down to 25 seconds per 25 meters, but not consistently enough yet.  The last couple of laps with a very fast tempo really become technique and speed sessions.  Its easy to see with this device how increased faster strokes do not always lead to faster lap times.

So far I have found these workouts to be a great benefit to my swim mastery.  I have noticed when I complete my longer mile evening swims or weekend open water swims, my form is more effortless and often my times have gotten steadily, albeit slowly, faster.  For a list of good tempo workouts as I mentioned above, I really like this set and I have broken mine up to utilize a limited time frame.  I bought my tempo trainer on a whim and so far I cannot say enough about the efficiency I have gained since I started using it.   I can see how utilizaation of the device in the long run will improve my swimming ability.  If anything it provides a good way to squeeze in challenging and beneficial short-on-time swim workouts  into a busy day.  Til next time.

Have you used a swimming tempo device? Suggestions for workouts? 



  1. One of the best inventions EVER.

    1. I Second that!!!

  2. The precision writing here about your experience in swim training shows a committed attunement to your sport. This is so inspiring because it sustains a fitness life with purpose. It turns fitness into athleticism.

    1. Thanks Mike, I try to give it my all and share whenever possible.

      1. It helps others focus on personal excellence. Cheers to that!

  3. sweatingforit · · Reply

    Oh wow. I love this. I might have to buy one to work with in the off season. I am also a slow swimmer, althoh much faster than I used to be.

    1. It is really amazing see stroke more and not really be any faster. It really exemplifies the importance of good form and technique to be a faster and stronger swimmer.

  4. Great review! Sure to help many people decide if this is for them.

    1. I was hesitant on purchasing this originally but I was curious to see if it would help with my quck 30 minute lunch time swims. It has made the short time very useful, as I can now feel my pace and I know when my stroke technique is spot on or missing something. I next want the Finis no strap paddles.

      1. You can get the same feedback from a pair of regular strokemaker paddles by just removing the wrist strap like I did here and save a few bucks: http://waterbloggedtriathlete.com/2012/09/12/hand-paddles-hand-entry-exit/ Of course it is up to you 😉 Most pools already have paddles in the equipment room for lap swimmers and doubt they’ll have any issue if you remove the wrist strap so long as you put it back on when you’re done. ttyl, Chatter. Happy swimming~

        1. Good to know. I have never used paddles yet, but I know soon I will have to sit down and re-examine my swim program for next season. Thanks for the advice.

          1. My pleasure! Any paddles will feel strange at first, but you can use them to help lengthen/finish your stroke and enter the water correctly. You might not like them initially, but stick with it and they can become a regular in your swim arsenal. I love swimming with paddles!

  5. kruzmeister · · Reply

    Might have to look into that little gadget, thanks for the write up mate!

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