By Dan Bullock
Making timekeeping and length counting easy
The big round thing at the end of the pool?
Maybe to the side of the pool?
Do you see it?
Usually decorated with a blue/red bar across the middle? The bar usually moves in circles, through 360degrees. Maybe now? Divided up into 5sec increments around the edges from 0 at the top?
The Clock! Yes, that’s the one and it is there to help your Training. It can tell you more than just how fast you covered that last 100m and how long until you start your next swim. With some ingenuity, you can use it without the need for a clumsy watch at your wrist to count the number of repeats you have completed and also present a reasonably accurate Heart Rate measurement.
We will start with an easy exercise first to get the hang of some of the basics. We will also need to get familiar with some basic swim training terminology as well.
Try 5x100m FC off 2:15, basically 5 times 100m (4 lengths in a 25m pool) and you rest until 2:15 expires when we start repeat No2. If we start on the Red 0 then we will start the next repeat on the red 15, the third on the Red 30 and so on.
- RED 0; swim 1st repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:
- RED 15; swim 2nd repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:
- RED 30; swim 3rd repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:
- RED 45; swim 4th repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:
- RED 0; swim the last swim inside of 2:15
If we have an approximate idea of our best 100m (i.e. 1:40) then you will possibly come in on the RED 50 (1:50 for 100m) after the first swim. It is unlikely you will suddenly swim 2:20 or 1:20 so we should be able to avoid Red/Blue confusion. We get 25secs rest so we will we go again on the RED 15. Perhaps next swim we return on the RED 3 so we have swum 1:48. We rest until the RED 30 and commence with 3rd 100m repeat. Noting the time it takes to complete the 100m is often just a case of subtracting or adding positions on the clock. RED 15 to RED 3 is 48secs. From the earlier assumption you can also deduce it will be 1:48 rather then 2:18 or 1:18.
Another way to look at this is to think about how the interval patterns move around the clock. To swim 50metres choosing an interval of 1:10 for instance. If you start on the BLUE 0, finish your 2 lengths of the 25m pool on the BLUE 50 then we get to rest 20secs before commencing the second 50m on the BLUE 10. i.e.
- BLUE 0; swim 1st repeat inside of 1:10; target of 50; rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 10; swim 2nd repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 20; swim 3rd repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 40; swim 4th repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 50; swim 5th repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 0; swim the last swim inside of 1:10
Another 50sec swim will have you finish on the BLUE 0 before we set out again on the 20.
With 12 x 5sec increments marked on the clock 6x50s will have us finish on the 0 again having worked our way around the clock, starting each 50m 10secs later. The last will see us push off on the 50. No7 would have started on the 0 again for a second block if necessary.
For intervals over 60secs we move clockwise around the clock face (Consider this a positive interval). You could move anti-clockwise if you chose a tougher interval of 55secs for instance. 12x50metres of FC off 55 sec would have us depart on the RED 0 and then depart after our rest period (possibly not much now!) on the RED 55, then the RED 50. The 12th 50m would start on the RED 5 and have us again complete the set by the RED 0. No13 would have seen us depart on the RED 0 again.
Intervals of 40 or 1:20 (for 25metres or 75metres possibly depending on ability) would see us either move around the clock anti-clockwise or clockwise using the 0,20 and 40 as our departure points.
Counting lengths & Pace Control
The clock can help count the number of lengths we have swum during longer swims if you keep on eye on it. Suppose we set ourselves a swim of 400m (16lengths in our 25m pool.) You might already have an idea of your best 400m time, but it is not so important if you do not have an accurate best time. If we start on the RED 0 it is helpful to check the 2length split but not essential. If I see the RED 50 as I touch at 50m then if I have not gone out too hard I should be approx 1:45 (RED 45) at the 4length marker.
- If you are turning and the clock is at the other end of the pool then this is an ideal opportunity to practice looking up to sight the clock. I would start these swims at the opposite end to the clock for least disruption to your stroke and rhythms since the sighting movement will be most natural.
- If the clock is to one side then a breath to the side out of the turn will enable a quick snapshot.
Pace control helps and this regular checking of time will guide you. At length 6 we should be seeing RED 40, then RED 35 for a 3mins 35secs 200metre split. The pattern of subtracting 10initially then 5secs with each swim will have us move anti-clockwise around the clock. If you lose track as I usually do at around lengths 10 or 12 then we can just check the clock position for an update. Sighting the RED 25 tells me, providing I am swimming similar stroke counts and keeping my HR consistent then I am highly likely to be at 12lengths. Another 4lengths and I will finish on the 15 for a 7:15 swim, which was nicely even splitted off of the 3:35 halfway point. The very first two lengths are generally a fraction quicker due to the more accurate streamlined push and glide, the lower fatigue having just come off a rest and general sensation of easy speed. The key thing to recall is which top you started on!
The above example summarized.
- RED 0; swim 1st 50m in 50sec and turn on:
- RED 50; swim 2nd 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 45; swim 3rd 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 40; swim 4th 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 35; 200m split = 3:35; swim 5th 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 30; swim 6th 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 25; swim 7th 50m in 55sec and turn on:
- RED 20; swim 8th and last 50m in 55sec and finish on:
- RED 15; Total time 7:15, with 2nd 200m split of 3:40
At this point you might be feeling sure it is easier to wear a watch or rely on the person in front to do all the counting for you. Keeping a track of your own splits and lengths brings ‘interest and variety’ to your swim, keeping you occupied. It will help with pacing and along with counting strokes provides an almost instant assessment of swim efficiency. It might even keep your mind off the drudgery of a less than exciting swim. Swimming with a watch regardless of size, to me still feels clumsy. Most would avoid wearing their key from a locker at a public pool around their wrist. Both occupy space at a critical part of the arm that needs to feel clean as it enters the water and strong as it sets up an ideal hand, wrist, and forearm position for the pull phase.
Useful swim sets
A useful clock agility set to try is as follows. You can see patterns emerge as you arrive and judge your rest and calculate your departure time. The following could equally work with 25m, 33m or 50m swims depending on your ability. First we will demonstrate this with a positive interval and work from the 0 down to the 30. We will then repeat with a negative interval.
SET1: Start on:
- RED 0; swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 10; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 10; swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 20; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 20; swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 30; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:
- RED 30; swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs and finish.
SET2: Start on:
- BLUE 0; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 0; swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 50; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 50; swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 40; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 40; swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;
- BLUE 30; swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs and finish.
To further help you keep track of your swims we could set an interval that would help perform the counting for us. Choose a top (BLUE or RED usually) and stick with it. Again depending on ability this might work for 25m, 33m, 50m or even 75m. We swim each repeat within 61 secs.
SET3: Start on:
- RED 0; swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;
- RED 1; swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;
- RED 2; swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;
- RED 3; swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on
- RED 19; swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs and finish for 20 swims.
For a more dramatic climax you could always count the number of repeats down. Start a set of 15x100s off 2:01 on the RED 45. With each swim we get one notch on the clock closer to the top. Its just psychological but we usually get better performances in the pool when we count down from 45 rather then up to 15!
If appropriate to your ability you could again attempt a very tough set of 15x100s of 2:01. Again we use the clock to keep track of the number of repeats we have swum. The added sting to this one is to attempt to get back before the clock hits a certain point. For instance attempt to always finish by the BLUE 0,
starting on the:
- RED 0; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:30; depart on:
- RED 1; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:29; depart on:
- RED 2; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:28; depart on:
For those stronger swimmers the start of this set will be not too challenging but once we are into double figures then suddenly it gets very tough. i.e.
- RED 11; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:19; depart on:
- RED 12; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:18; depart on:
- RED 13; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:17; depart on:
- RED 14; swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:16
Finish 15 swims.
A slightly less intense session that offers a challenge to all, is to swim 20x50m off a 91sec interval. This gets a little trickier. There are 2 ways to do this.
- Alternate the interval between RED and BLUE clock hand, thus starting on RED 0, BLUE 1, RED 2, BLUE 3 etc. to finish with RED 18, BLUE 19 for the 19th and 20th repeats
- Keep to one colour. RED 0, RED 31, Red 2, RED 33 etc. finish with RED 18, RED 49 for the 19th and 20th repeats
The session starts deceptively easy for most and I almost had a few moans about too much rest but once we were into double figures it started to take its toll. Especially when coupled with the idea of getting back before the RED/BLUE 0 (Option 1) with each swim. So break a minute on the first swim, then 59, 58 as you leave later but come back on the same time. At numbers 17+ you are in the low 40s and it will be challenging!
Another use for the big mostly redundant circle on the wall enables you to do away with taking another item to the pool. Without a Trisuit on covering the belt and stopping it flapping around when swimming I find a traditional HR monitor quite intrusive and distracting. Swim Club coaches often use the Equine Hand Paddle option to quickly get a reading of their swimmers efforts. In a squad situation this might make some sense but you could consider an easier if slightly less accurate option if on your own. As soon as you finish your repeat find the strong pulse in the neck, the Carotid Artery and press with the fingers. Use the clock to count the number of beats in 10 secs and multiply this by 6. Not exactly NASA high tech accuracy but not a bad guide to your training intensity. With frequent use it will act as a benchmark and to see similar times maintained as the HR falls or the HR maintained as you get faster will be a good indicator of improved fitness.
At some point, sensors around a pool will measure your speed, laps swum, calculate distance and efficiency making for possibly a reason to mentally switch off from using the Wall Clock. Swim Tag has this right now but you still need to wear a large Tag and the information is not presented in realtime. A download later reveals how far you swam. Not much use if you were 50m away from a new max. Goggles with head-up displays are on their way but still more focused on Heart Rate – from the Instabeat website –
“We are building a connected accessory for swimming goggles that captures real-time heart rate, stroke type, and laps. Instant heart rate information is fed into the swimmers’ eyes and presented in a mobile app.”
This product has been floating around for a few years now but is still struggling to take off so for now how about giving our old friend on the wall a chance?!
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