Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things that go "BLEEP!" in the night!

Dear Athletes

Many of you have now had chance to use the little beeper we call a "Wetronome" during your training sessions over the last couple of weeks. The Wetronome is a great little product designed and created by our very own Mr Andrew Holmes (Lane # 1 @ 5.30am).

We have been using it recently to help you pace out your efforts a little more effectively than normal. We do this by giving the leader of your lane a target 100m pace. For example 1'40" per 100m breaks down simply to 25 seconds per 25m. We therefore set the Wetronome to beep at you every 25 seconds, setting off on the next available "beep-beep". The aim is to swim at a consistent pace such that you swim through each and every 25m mark at EXACTLY the same time as when the beep goes. This is the most efficient way to swim an interval (of any distance) and is interestingly how most world records in the pool and on the track are broken (i.e. either perfectly paced or faster in the 2nd half).

Many of you have realized that you are actually starting your efforts way too fast as a result, being ahead of the Wetronome significantly at the 25m, 50m and even 75m markers, but then finding that the Wetronome is "catching you up" by the end of the interval. This is a very inefficient way to swim a series of intervals. You might ultimately hit the same target time (1'40") but if you've done that with the first 25m in 22 seconds, the 2nd in 24 seconds, the 3rd in 26 seconds and the last in 28 seconds, you are seriously hurting your performances over a longer distance swim compared to holding consistent 25s.

We have heard comments such as "the Wetronome is broken, it keeps getting faster!" and "I need to get ahead of it in the first half of the interval in order to make it to the end in time!" - both of these statements are incorrect. The next time you use one in the session, don't be afraid to set off a bit steadier - it will really help and you'll feel much better at the end of the session.

In fact, I personally used the Wetronome for my 2009 Rottnest Channel Swim campaign. I knew I had to be really efficient at swimming 1'30" per 100m for two hundred 100m 'intervals' continuously (!). I have a habit of going off too fast, so the Wetronome ensured that in my training sessions I was pacing myself appropriately and therefore developing the correct energy systems to be successful in the marathon swim.

To use a final example, Don (from Lane # 1 at 6.30am) recently had a 1-2-1 swim session with me. This was a follow-up after a previous video analysis session. Don's stroke was looking much better, but he was still finding it hard going in some of the longer sessions, often blowing up by the 60% point. As in the first example, Don was swimming way too quick in the first 25m (~21-22 seconds) but then actually averaging closer to 27-28 seconds per 25m for the remaining markers. All of this was at a high stroke rate of ~72 strokes per minute (essentially "fighting the water"). We used two Wetronomes to control Don's pacing strategy - one to keep him at a steady 60 strokes per minute and the other to keep his 25m splits at 26 seconds. As a result, he has made a tremendous improvement in his pacing ability...something which we can all do quite easily!

Don't be afraid to ask to have a go with the Wetronome in your next session - you really will find it useful. Considering that both the Australian Institute of Sport and British Swimming use these units with their top swimmers is saying something for Mr Holmes's (and the rest of the guys at Atamo) foresight in this area of swimming!



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