It’s a Numbers Game: Why You Should Count Your Strokes in the Pool

To some, counting strokes while swimming is akin to counting sheep – dull and will put you to sleep. Swimming is already boring enough as it is, right?

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However, for those of you who are looking to improve your swimming for triathlon, improving your stroke efficiency will result in big gains.

What would you rather do: 100m in 1:10 while taking 80 strokes or 60 strokes? You’d take the lower stroke count, right? The same result with 25% less effort.

For a given speed, reducing the number of strokes will make life easier for you. Count your strokes, and work on reducing the number of strokes you take per length, per 50m, per 100m.

The goal is to maintain smooth technique with a steady stroke count.

Work on getting the most out of each stroke and watch that number plummet. We all love competing, right?!

How to improve your stroke count

Focus on these different aspects over the course of a few weeks, and watch the benefits each generates.

  1. Count!
    The simple act of counting your strokes will lead to immediate improvements. Like anything, the simple act of focusing on something will result in gains.
  2. Drive!
    Get more out of each stroke – work on developing a stronger pull by really driving your hand through the water. Focus on propelling yourself further with a strong underwater pull. Notice yourself getting more distance per stroke. Later, gym workouts will further improve your strength.
  3. Reach!
    When your hand enters the water, drive your hand forward, reach towards the wall and glide. Use your hip rotation to get added reach at the front of the stroke. Be careful not to overextend your shoulder when reaching and don’t lose your momentum by gliding for too long.
  4. Finish!
    Make sure you finish your underwater pull at the thigh. Get the most out of each stroke by keeping it long at the front and back. Thumb-thigh drill will help you work on a full extension at the end of the pull.
  5. Push!
    You can also reduce your stroke count in the pool by pushing hard off the walls. There is some debate as to whether or not triathletes should do this however as there are no walls in open water.

Before you start working on these drills, be sure to count your strokes and establish your benchmark stroke count so you can track your improvements.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of improving your stroke efficiency. While you may only reduce your stroke count by two strokes per length, if your starting point was twenty strokes, that is a 10% improvement – significant!

Let me know how you get on. Who can record the biggest reduction in stroke count?

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