Teaching Pacing Skills to Age Group Swimmers by Ron Heidary (2001)


I appreciate everybody being here and I appreciate the opportunity to talk.   On the handout (which is included at the end of the talk), the first two pages are just an overview of our team and success, and are just to give you an idea of what we’ve done in the last five years.  One thing that we have made a commitment to do is to do whatever we can to develop our swimmers and help out the program, and we have made a commitment to do what it takes.  If that includes buying equipment, and I hate to say it, but money is not an object.  The aqua pacer, is a device that we were introduced to two years ago, and we purchased it and have had tremendous success with it, and we highly recommend it.  Just as a caveat, it’s not that I’m here trying to sell the aqua pacer, what I’m doing is saying that I found something that is great for programs, any program, whether it is a age group program or college program.  I’ve used it extensively, almost everyday in practice and I’m just saying that I highly recommend it.


Now, just about our program, we are technique oriented and kind of focused training oriented.  We do not over train so we are not into just the lap swimming and the aqua pacer allows us to do focus training where we keep kids on splits and stroke rates, and they are very intelligent about what they are doing.  Also, with our program we try to keep it interesting and one of the things that we are proud of is that we have a very low drop out rate.  Our kids are excited about moving on and swimming in college, so when they get to their senior year, they really want to go on.   And one of our, I guess best statistics, is 19 out of 23 seniors in the last two years are swimming in college, and they are swimming in very good schools.


Another thing about our program is, we like it to be a social outlet, and have it be positive.  We have Wednesday meetings, which are more about character and self-esteem rather than swimming and training, just so kids can learn other things outside of the pool.  We do a lot of social things exercise wise, like ultimate Frisbee, and with the aqua pacer.  One thing I do use is the stroke rate watch, I don’t remember the name of it, but I use it everyday, and I’m on the deck with it checking stroke rates and splits.  If you are doing anything with stroke rates you really need to have that watch, it is invaluable.
We purchased the aqua pacer two years ago, and we have the unit.  First, I purchased two of the individual pacer units, which are these, and we started using them more and more.  Now, we have 16 and we probably need more.  One of my examples in a workout was I put 16 aqua pacers on kids, wrote it all out on two white boards, and there were two kids on this side and another kid looked at me and said, “Where is mine?”  And I said, “I can only do so much.”  So, they’re a desired thing.


Now, the reason we got it, was we started our team six years ago and we were going through a learning process with the kids, and one of things was pacing.  We wanted to be better pacing and one of our swimmers, Scott Metcalfe, was a 200 backstroker and he was swimming about a 1:58 when he was 13 or 14 years old.  He would do his stereotypical race, fast 50, easy 100, fast 50, and it would just drive me crazy.  Now, we didn’t do stroke rates back then, all I knew was he was really slow in the middle.  I said, “Scott, we have to do a better job at this.”  And he couldn’t tell that his stroke rate was dropping, and I didn’t know enough about it to even coach him on that.  And, as we got this unit, the one thing is, and this is one of the positives about it, which I have in here, is that if you’re not intelligent about stroke rate and stroke rate training, it will make you intelligent about it.  It has made me much better at it, so now when we train, everything is stroke rate related.  And he is so smart about stroke rate he can almost tell me what it was in a race on any given lap.


When we do sets in practice I’ll say, “I’m going to set you at a 42 or 41.”  And he’ll say, “I feel better, I think I can go 43.”  And so he is almost an expert at it.  But his races now are machine like when he swims, and it’s made that difference.  And there is a back page on his development, and one thing you can see is he has improved from a 1:58 to a 1:49 in the 200 back at 16 years old, in two years.  And although he is a hard worker, and I do think that I’ve done a good job with him, I attribute a lot of it to using this and training smartly.  He doesn’t do a lot of 10 200 backstrokes, 20 200 backstrokes, but he does a lot of broken things like 8 25’s.  A lot of what he trains with is really just efficient 25’s and 50’s.  So, that is one of the reasons why we bought it.  Another reason is three years ago we had a girl go to the National Select Camp in Colorado Springs.  She said, “What is a stroke rate?” And I said, “Well, you know that is how fast your arms go.” And she said, “I know, and I didn’t know anything about it and the coach yelled at me because I didn’t know.”  And she had this whole thing about how to figure it out under water and stuff, and to do this division and stuff.  And I said, “You know what? I don’t get it.  I mean, I read it and I don’t get it.”  So, I kind of made that commitment to be smarter about it and so as we go through let me just start on the first page.


The benefits for the program I think will elevate your training. I think that whatever you’re doing, you can be better using this and it makes the swimmer more knowledgeable and more intelligent. We have had college kids that come back, and one of them for example said, “My coach talked to me about stroke rates and I knew what he was talking about and I told him what I knew and where I should be.”  And he said, “That is great, most of our kids have no idea about stroke rates when they get into college.”  And that could make coaches more knowledgeable, as I’ve said, and I’m an example of that and it makes swimmers work harder.  My experience has been that when kids put this thing in their ear, it is almost like it has a power that is greater than what it is that it pushes them to do something that they wouldn’t normally do.  If it is a stroke rate and they get tired, there is a little signal that says, “Work harder, come on, keep going.”  And they do that.  And if I set it on splits, then they will kill themselves to get on a split, I mean they will fight into the wall to try and hit their split that they are supposed to be on.


So I believe kids work harder with the aqua pacer.  I think that swimmers are motivated using it.  The kids that we have using it do feel special, they feel like it is almost like an elite type of training method.  So even though it is harder, they want to do it more, and kids that don’t do it want to do it.  So, I think it’s almost like kind of like an award, even though it is harder, and I think it can change a program.  I think it can elevate the training of a program.


My last point in here, is it sends a positive message to your team and I made it very clear to our kids that if there is anything out there that can help us swim better, I’ll buy it, and I don’t care what it costs, because that is my commitment to you and your development.  Now there are some coach’s caveats, and you have to be knowledgeable about your swimmer’s strokes and stroke rates to use it.   You can’t go in blind with it and start setting splits and stroke rates and have kids kind of all over the board, you need to be good at this.


The other one is incorporating stroke count when you are dealing with stroke rates, which when the tempo philosophy came out years ago, I never really bought into it, because I just saw kids moving their arms real fast.  We were more distance per stroke oriented so we were always trying to be longer and stronger, and feeling into the future kids would be better, so I didn’t get into it.  Now when I use this, I usually always incorporate a stroke count into free, breast and fly.  I don’t do it in backstroke, the reason is because my experience has been that our kids don’t slip in backstroke.  Their stroke is a stroke, and they generally get their hand under the water and hold it, and I watch to make sure that they are O.K. with it.  But with freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke they do tend to hurry to stay in the stroke rate.


So, when we do freestyle, which I’m going to go through later in here, our freestylers are at either 13 or 14 or 15 for the girls, and that’s where they train at.  With the butterfly they’re at a 9 or 10 and with breaststroke kids are at 6 or 7., So, they all have a stroke rate and we’ll do a set and I’ll say, “Stay in your stroke count,” and they know exactly what it is.  You need to keep accurate data.  When you do this there are so many variables.  There is a stroke rate and the stroke count and the interval, and all the things that are working together that you have to keep the data straight.  You have to know if one week you did something at a 36 stroke rate and the next week you want to go to 37, you have to know exactly where the kids were.  So when we do this I keep a log book.  I go through and whenever we do it I write the set on the board and I write it all out.  I think there is a little example in here.  I say, “O.K., we are going 42 today.  Do you remember last week when you were at 41, you did a good job at that?”  And they say, “Yeah, I do. I think I can do this.”  So, you have to be really on top with what you’re doing with the kids and the set need to be challenging, but doable.


I have had the experience of establishing sets with kids where it was a little too much and if they are trying to be on a stroke rate and you have set it too fast and they can’t do it, they feel like they fail because they trust that you have said something that they should be able to do. And they get very discouraged on it, so my philosophy always is set it a little bit lighter then what I think they should do so that they feel like they can make it.  And they have more confidence to build from that, so it has to be a doable set.  I mean kids will come into the wall, and lets say I set a set of 100’s and they will come in after the second one; this was early when I was using it, and they’ll just stop and say, “I can’t do what I’m doing.” And they are just frustrated.  So, you have to know where you’re setting it.

Now, on the other hand, when they do beat a challenging set, my quote is they feel like they’ve beaten the pacer, and I have a guy that does this regularly, Scott Metcalfe.  And I establish these sets for him and he comes in and I say, “Scott, how did you do on that?”  And he would use a bad work and he said, “I kicked its butt,” and he has this idea that he beat this thing and he won.


How it works, is it’s this small, kind of computer unit and you can program sets into it.  You can program six sets or 16 sets into the pacer, or into the unit itself, and then you can program actually four sets into each one of these.  So you can put 4 sets into this and a kid can just cycle through and go through the sets you put.  So, you can set it and they’ll go through, splits with 100’s, and you can set stroke rates on a strokes per minute or second per stroke, either way you want to do it, you can personally do anything with it.   And we can establish sets or splits, and you can set the split, and you can have them train by 25’s or 50’s.  The stroke count as I said, is what we use, and on to that.


The stroke rate is how fast you want them to swim with the given stroke count, the interval.  And the interval is very important, because the rest that you give them will really determine the quality of the set and sometimes we will do broken swims.  I have examples in here where we will give kids 3 seconds rest on 8 25’s, so you have to adjust where the stroke rates should be and when their splits should be given that rest.  Now, if you have kids getting a minute rest on some things, then you obviously expect more quality, but the rest is very important.


The last variable in here, which is also important, is stroke quality.  Now, what we haven’t done, is we haven’t set this thing and said, “Go, lets do this aggressive set,” and not watch how the stroke holds up. Efficiency is very important, and so is stroke length.  So when we do this, if the kid is slipping at all, lets say working on his catch and his stroke and he starts to slip on it, because he is trying to stay on the stroke rate or he is trying to make his split, we stop and readjust it, so he can make it.  I think the best way to describe it is, what is the best stroke rat or best split you can do with a perfect stroke?  And then we make the interval as tight as possible, holding that good stroke as we go through.


I have some benefits and sample sets and what I’ve said before is that it can teach 4 sounds like a bad word, and kids can learn to build a stroke rate.   And a simple example for age group kids is, when we have 200 Imers, lets say 13 or 14 year olds, or high school kids, and they are not backstrokers, when they get in the 200 IM they are always very slow on the backstroke stroke rate, it is kind of like resting.  We’ve used it to build the stroke rate in the backstroke in the 200 IM for example, so it forces them to do that, where I couldn’t get them to do it before.  So like an example on the cycles per minute, 200 IMers that are bad backstrokers go like 30 or 31 when they do that and we force them to be 35 to 37 and try to get them even to 39.  We have kids that are at like a 29 stroke rate, which is like our joke.  It is like in the error range, I mean you’re almost not even registering on the watch.  So that is what helps dramatically in forcing them to do that.


It also can get kids to slow down a stroke rate.  If you set it at a slower stroke rate, they can get a feel for lengthening out.  We have done that a little bit; we don’t have kids that swim that fast in stroke rate, so we haven’t done a lot, but you can do that also.  You can get kids to increase their distance per stroke, too, when you add these stroke counts per lap.  My example is on here with a junior group of 7th and 8th grade kids.  We did 10 50 freestyles, and I think this is a really great example on how you can make a difference.  We’re going 10 50 freestyles, this is short course, on the 45 interval, so I asked them to go 33 flats on the split.  And then I said, “I’d like you guys to stay at 36 stroke rate,” and they did it.  They were a little bit slower and I also told them I wanted 15 strokes per lap, no more.  So they are so focused on 15 strokes, that their stroke rate was like 31 or 32, and I said, “No that is not where we want to be.”  And so I got the pacer, I set it at 36 stroke rate, and I said, “O.K. let’s try it again.” So, they are on a stroke rate and they’re going 17 strokes per lap, 16 or 17 strokes per lap.  I said, “No, you just spread your arms up and shorten your stroke to stay on the stroke rate. You’re supposed to stay on the stroke rate and stay long.”  So, the third time we did it, they were 15 strokes per lap at 36 stroke rate and they looked great. They were on the splits and they were very, very tired.  It was one of the hardest sets that we did because it forced them to lengthen out their stroke and be aggressive with it.  The neat thing about it is, the next day they say, “Can we use the pacers again and do a set like that?”  So after they do the hard set they want to do more of it.


The sets can be programmed for any interval, with any split.  For example, if you want to go 100 freestyles on this, you can go on the 108 instead of the 110 or the 105.  You can go on anything you want, you can go on the 59.5, you can set splits for whatever you want, you can go 10 100’s on the 108, you can split it at 14.25 to go 57 flats, you can go 50’s splitting 16.50, and you can do breaststrokes on the 45’s splitting 18.5 and holding 37 flats.  We do a lot of broken swims with these and the examples are 500 free broken and 20 25’s on the 17.5 with a split of 13.8.  So we would do that and I would also give them the stroke rate and the stroke count.  We go 100 flys broken and what’s neat about it is on the 100 flys we go 4 25’s, and we start out at 19 on the interval.  Then we’ll go to 18 and then 17 and so with some of our high school kids we’ll go 4 25’s on the 17 and split 13.75.  A broken 200 fly, this is one of the sets we’ve done quite a bit with our girl 200 butterflyers.  We’ll do 8 25’s on the 19 and split whatever they should split.  We have actually done 8 25’s on the 18 holding 15 flats and in addition to that I give them a stroke rate and a stroke count.


You can do long distance swims with it like a 2000 free, and you can put splits on it and just have them know where the split is each lap.  You don’t need to put a stroke rate in if you don’t want to, so it’s not all stroke rate.  You can set it at 0 and just have them swim the splits.  You can go the 2000 free and you can just put a stroke rate and no splits and just let them feel the stroke rate for a 2000.  You can do the same thing with backstroke, or whatever you want to do with it for long swims.

Another thing you can do is a descend split, which I think is really interesting.  If you are going 100 free, you can set the first lap at a separate stroke rate and split and then change it every lap.  So you can literally have a kid descend each 25 of a 100 free in a set and do a series of 5 or 10 of those.  We’ve also used it for kicking, you can increase your kick speed and I’ve used it for underwater butterfly kick.  What I did was, it’s not scientific, but we have some kids that kick butterfly underwater and I would say, “Go one lap underwater fast.” And I would just get my watch and I’d just go boom, boom, boom and I would ball park where their aggressive kick rate was and then I would use that.  And I would have them to 8 25’s on the 30 underwater kick at a 140 stroke rate, and I would get their splits- they were about 16, and so I told them to set it for 16 and I said that we were going to do 8 of them.  It was the hardest kick set they had ever done, and I mean they had to stay on this thing and they had to work hard at it.


You can do it for breaststroke kick, and set a stroke rate for an aggressive kick beat and have them stay on it.  I think that, that’s helped our breaststrokers to.  You can use if for fast kicking and speed swimming and this is an interesting thing I did when I’m trying to get kids to be a little more aggressive on the underwater kick and on the breakout and sprinting for 25.  So, what I did was I set their approximate underwater time, of let’s say 5 seconds, and I set it at that kick speed.  So, for a backstroker I set it for 5 seconds or 6 seconds at a 140 stroke rate and then I set it for 8 seconds on a 44 stroke rate for backstroke swim, which is 14 flat.  I had them do a series of 25’s like that and Scott Metcalfe, who is a good backstroker and did a lot of hard sets, he did one of those and he said, “Man, that is tough.” 4 25’s just killed him.  I actually have that on here so you can get a feel of what it was.


So, what it sounds like in the kid’s ear, is when you start it, it sets you off with a 5 second countdown, like a rocket ship, so it kind of gets you ready.  You’re on the wall ready to go, and then it sets you off with a long beep, and the short beeps is the rate that you want to stay at.  When you hear a long beep, that is the split.  We use it for drills like one arm backstroke, and I use it for pulling with paddles.  I’ll have the kids pull with paddles and see where they should be. I’ll set a stroke rate and they can work through a hard set with that. I use it for breaststroke pull downs because kids are too short, so I set it for zero stroke rate, but I beep at three seconds, beep at two seconds, and beep at 1 and a half. They just have to keep doing it and hold it.


One of the best sets that we have done with our 200 butterflyers, is I combine the kicking and swimming, and I have the kids go 4 25’s kick underwater on the 30 at the 140’s or the 130’s stroke rate all out.  I want to get them tired and work their legs so they do that and they go right into the second set which is the eight 25’s on the 18, holding 15 flat. We’ve done this as we’re training for the summer, even though we’re short course.  We do this every couple of days where we do the 4 25’s kick and the 8 25’s swim.  It’s a very hard set and I would set their stroke rate at the 200-stroke rate, and I’d set the splits where they want to be.  The kids do a good job with that.


Now establishing set priorities, on the next page, when you do this, sometimes there are so many things that kids can work on it is hard to do everything.  So, what I might do is I might write a set on the board and the kids will ask me how I want them to do this, and I’ll say, “Well, lets focus on this.” So, if we’re going 10 100 freestyles on the 1:10 and we’re splitting 14 flat, holding 56’s, the stroke rate is 39 and the stroke count is 13. I might say, “Lets stay on the stroke rate and the stroke count, don’t worry about the split.” Even though it’s there and if you are on it great, but if you’re not don’t worry about it because then the kids start trying to do something, maybe too many things, then they don’t do a good job in either one.  So, I might want to do distance per stroke, and that’s what we might do. We might do the same set and I’ll say, “Stay on the same stroke count on the split,” and I want them to swim long and not worry about the rate.  With these kinds of things, I usually establish their priority.  If we’re doing 40 25 backstrokes, I set a split and a stroke rate and I’ll tell the kids to stay ahead of the stroke rate and not worry about the split.  I just want them to do a good job with the stroke rate.  And we might do 25 flys, and I’ll say, “Beat the split and stay on the stroke count and don’t worry about the rate.” I do that a lot because I don’t want them to hurry so much.  So I’ll tell them I want them to swim fast, but stay long.  They get their splits, but they can tune out the rate if they’re not on it.


There’s some sets where we ask the kids to do everything right.  We want a perfect set, so when we do 10 100 freestyles, I’ll say, “Do everything.”  I’ll have my watch and I’ll say, “I want you at 13 strokes no matter what, I want the stroke rate a 39 on every single lap and I want you to stay on the splits. Those are harder sets and I might give the kids a little more rest on those sets.  Sample sets with or without the aqua pacer if you are doing a 200 free, I think you pretty much have to watch the clock, and if you are doing this you can set the thing for anything you want the kid to do.  They can virtually be a machine on this.  If you’re doing 200 backstrokes with kids, they swim and they are going to try to negative split, and they’re going to try to hold their stroke rate, but I can set it exactly where I want it, and I can descend by 50’s or by 100’s. If we are doing 20 25’s rather than going on the 15 or the 20 we go on the 17 or 17.5.


On the speed work, if we’re going 6 25’s, I can set the stroke rate were I want them for a 50 and a split of 13.25, so I don’t have to be there with my watch with all these kids checking what they are doing.  The same thing can happen with the butterfly, and we talked about the underwater kick.  I kind of want to show an example of the development of a high school swimmer, a guy that I had for 4 years.  When he was a freshman, these were his times: 50.00 in the 100, 150.00 in 500, and all through the freshman year and sophomore year I was just trying to lengthen his stroke out and get him to be as long and smooth as possible.  He wasn’t swimming that fast for a competitive guy and these weren’t very good times.  Actually, he was swimming in a race one time, he was swimming a 1000 and he was swimming real long and smooth.  He was swimming at this far western meet and all these guys were just going right by him.  His mom came to me afterwards and said, “Can’t you speed him up a little bit? He seems a little slow.”  And I said, “I’m trying to lengthen his stroke, be patient.”  I knew she was a little concerned about it, but it has worked out well, because now as a senior he has a real long, smooth stroke and he is much better.  So, the goal has been the last two years to build the stroke rate and not decrease the stroke length at all, or have him lose any efficiency.


So, what we have done the last two years is we have gotten on the pacer and we have done this- I just call this a base set of 5 100 freestyles on the 1:20.  My parameters for him were 13 strokes per lap absolutely, so when we train it’s usually 13, or sometimes I’ll make them go 11 or 12 if we do some distance stuff, just to lengthen out.  And so we started on the first month and we were going on the 1:20 and I established a doable set, 14 flat 38 stroke rate.  So, each month I just changed it a little bit and asked him to stay on it.  The second month I went from 14 to 13 with the same stroke rate, if you haven’t done that, it is really hard to do.  I mean, kids have to work hard on that, especially when they get tired.  The third month I decreased the split by a quarter of a second and increased the stroke rate a little bit.  The fourth month I reduced the interval, to give him a little less rest, and to get him more fatigued by trying to hold the same parameters.  The fifth month I increased the stroke rate a little bit to 40, kept the stroke count the same, and kept the split the same.  In the sixth month I decreased his interval again to 1:10 to get him to do this more fatigued and I decreased the split he had to hold, 13 strokes and a 40 stroke rate.  And when we do that set I’m standing on the side with my watch and I’m checking almost every 25 he does, because if he does this for example, and he is supposed to be at 13.5 he would be at 13.25 and it would be 13.5 and then he would be 13.7 and then he would be 13.9.  I would say, “You know you have to do a better job with that.”  So, I might say, “Lighten your legs up- you really have to work to stay on that last 25 because that is where your race is.  So, I watch everything he does, even though I ask him to kind of be accountable and give me honest feedback , I still watch and I’ll just give him mine.  I’ll tell him if he’s off of the stroke rate a little bit.  But I think it has been probably the most important thing that he has done over the last two years to get where he is, and I believe he has a long way to go, because his stroke is very long and he is just building into the stroke rate.  His stroke rate is really lower than a lot of kids in his ability.  He is going to go swim at Princeton and I think he is going to do very well there.

Now, here are a couple of set ideas. I call these “chase the 25” with the pace.  I’m just trying to be creative and kids actually get into this stuff and so what I do is, and you really need this kind of thing to do it, I figure out a 25 split and a stroke rate for up to 200 or more, and then we do this little challenge of how far they can go holding that.  So, the first kind of box is chase the 25 to the 200, 300, 400 continuance.  So, lets say Justin, for example, is going to swim butterfly and set a stroke rate of 50, stroke count of 9, and split it at 15.25.  And he is going to start at the 50 so we will go two laps and then I’ll let him go one lap easy and then he’ll increase by 25 and then he is going to go 75 and try to keep the split and stroke rate and stroke count.  They don’t go up to 100 and I’m asking to see how far he can go, so if he had to go up to a 200 fly and he had to stay on the split and he had to hold the stroke count and stay on the stroke, if he failed in any one of those then he was done at whatever distance he was at.  So, it is a challenge when we do this for the kids.  I have the board set up and everybody is on it and so they all want to go farther than the other guy, so it is kind of like this competitive game.  So he did that and we had the girls doing similar things and when you get up to the 200 you are swimming a lot of pretty hard swimming.  But each time you go you are really determined to make the next lap, and chase the 25 on an interval.  It’s all about how many you can make, and you must hold all criteria.


For example, Kristin swims butterfly, and so we set a stroke rate of 50 which is a 200 stroke rate, stroke count 10, and split at 15 flat on the 18, and I basically set it for like 20 25’s, how many can you do?  And so she made up to 12, which I thought that was a good set, and she did it with another girl, and they were competing to do the same. Then Justin went after them and he had to do 13 because they did 12 but he made that.  I did “chase the 25” just to the 150 straight and I made it a fairly aggressive 200 pace.  So lets take for example Scott Metcalfe in the backstroke.  I set the stroke rate at 40, the split at 14 flat, and I had him start on a 75 and then increase it by a 25 up to a 150.  So he is going to go 75, 100, 125, and 150, and he has to stay at 40 stroke rate and if he drops at any lap below that then he didn’t do it and it doesn’t count and he has to stay on the splits.  So, I think that is a good way to build kids into a very aggressive 200 pace and to do it kind of in an interesting way and a challenging way.


And the note at the bottom is we use this for backstrokers in a race, a long course race.  I know of some other coaches who have used this in races in meets and they actually work really well.  What I do is, we were doing 400-meter backstroke and I set it for the stroke rate that I wanted them at on the second 50, because usually they will be faster on the first 50.  So let’s say for a girl stroke rate they might be 48 or 49 on the first 50 and they might drop to 46 on the second 50 or 45.  So I set it at 45 for like three minutes.  I said, “Put it under your cap and when you jump in just go under the water and push the button to start it and it will start beeping.  Don’t worry about it, take your mark, go, ignore it on the first lap, go through the turn when you come off of the turn, pick it up and don’t drop below it.”  And visibly you can see them coming, passing the flags, and starting to get a little tired.  You can see them start doing this and hearing the pacer and just working through it.  We had some great swims at that meet and some great second lap splits on that, but I didn’t know if it was legal or not, so I told the kids to be discreet and not tell everybody in the warm down pool what they were doing.  So they told everybody, and then one of the kids lost one and they came back, and you know it is $100.00, and they were kind of upset about it.  So then I hear like a half an hour later over the loud speaker, and this is at a championship meet, “There is a little blue unit that was lost, can the coach come and pick it up?” And I said, “What a way to be discreet.”


So the next page is Scott Metcalfe swimming and it is his development and these are just some sets that I’ve done with him.  If you have a backstroker and you want to do this broken type stuff you can do it, but some of these examples are: 50 25’s with paddles on the 20, set a stroke rate of 35, or 40 50’s with those with paddles,  or 8 25’s, (some of these with paddles are more aggressive) 8 25’s broken, 14 fly, 40 stroke rate.  And so we did a lot of this stuff to get them comfortable with the stroke rate and to get them to feel the splits on a 200 race with as little rest as possible.  And I don’t know whether I just don’t know, but when people do broken swims and they get like 10 or 15 seconds rest, my personal opinion is that it is not realistic and then people say I do a broken swim and I go O.K. and they never do it in a race.  So, I’m trying to make the broken stuff down to almost nothing and then if they can do their splits then I believe that they can swim that in a race, and with this you can do that.


So again, his development leading up to a meet last year, you can see on the bottom from 13 to 16 1:58 and then he trained for a year at 14 years old and dropped to 10.  That was a frustrating season and then the next year he went to 1:52 and then the next year he went to 1:49.3 and broke the pacific swimming record.  The splits in that race are here and you can see how the stroke rate is very consistent and his splits were very good.  So that is the benefit that we got out of that.  And you know our kids are smart kids but they say, “You don’t want me to think, do you?”  And I say, “You know I like you, but I really don’t want you to think a whole lot and you really have to be like the machine. Be machine like when you do this.”  And you know I say that respectfully.


Here is the piece of paper with the workout.  This is just something that I don’t write very well, but I just wrote the workout and then I put the set that I wrote 2x 6 25’s just to give you an idea.   I write out what I want to do on a white board and then when the set is over I make these notes just to see how the kids did, because you have to have this feedback.  Because sometimes you write a set, like I’ll write a set in my book and they will do it, and then I’ll forget to make the comments, and then a couple of days later I’ve forgotten who was good and who wasn’t good, and who was off, and this is what kids did well, or what they didn’t do well.  And then when I go back I can see how the kids did on any set we did in the past and I’ve kept these for the last two years. So it was good also this year, as we were kind of going into the important part of the season and I could go to last year and find the same set and see how the kids did and I can even show them and say here is where you were last year in your stroke rate and your splits and interval and we’re doing a lot better now with less rest.  So that is important, and this just gives you an idea of how I write this up.  I try to be a little bit neater with it.


And then just to give you an idea on splits, I have a page in here, and this is not a lot of what we’ve done, but it just gives some examples.  Because we’ve worked on pacing so much we ask the kids to be very precise in the meet and our general goal is to have the last 3 25’s in the 100 race virtually the same, without a lot, you know with reasonable drop off from the first 25.  And we get as much as we can of the 25 splits in the 200 races.  So the first example is with this girl breaststroker, Lindsey.  She swam in a meet, she was 12 and she went 15.6, 17.3, 18.3 and 19 flat and clearly it wasn’t a good race.  She got caught up in racing somebody next to her and when she came back after that I had my hands over her splits and I said, “How were your splits, can you tell me?”  And she said, “Uh, I don’t think they were very good.”  And I said, “What do you mean they weren’t very good?”  And she said, “Well, I worked too hard on the second lap and I got tired on the last lap,” which was exactly right and very smart and so we talked about it and she did a better job in the finals with a lot more control early and had a better time.


And then the girl 100 freestyler she is a lot better now, but this is kind of the things we want to achieve and this Heather the backstroker, this was a great race for a 12 year old girl, because we worked a lot on saving legs, control, control stroke rate and build into the third turn, and be the best swimmer in the last lap.  And this is a great example of that, how her splits were right on and they really are not too far off of the first lap split and her stroke rates are really consistent.  So that was I think a great swim for an age group swimmer.  In the 200 back she also had a good swim, although not quite as good pacing.


And Kim Vandabrooke is a girl, one of our better swimmers, and she swam the 200 fly at short course juniors and did a 1:58.9, which is a great swim, the best swim of her career.  We talked a lot about that being in control early and setting the third 25 pace is the pace you will hold for the rest of the race, and so we get into on the third 25 at 15 low, then we got to be at 15 lows, and so she goes 12.6 comfortable, 14.5 comfortable, 15.2, and she doesn’t build until the last 3 25’s and she goes 15.3, 15.4 and then when she starts building she can hold her splits and go 15.3, 15.3, 15.3.


And Scott Metcalfe in the 100 back at the high school championship meet, same thing with him.  Before we got the aqua pacer and when he was the last mature swimmer, two or three years ago, his race strategy was all out and try to hold on, and I would get his splits and I would get a stroke rate and I would say, “Scott, this is not the best way to swim the race.”  And he would say, “If I go out slower I can’t get going.”  We went through that for a year and as he is learning how to do this better, now he swims a great 100 back race and his splits for the last 3 25’s were 12.9, 13 flat, and 12.9 in a stroke rate that is very consistent and that was dramatically different for him two years ago.  So he has come a long way with that and that is generally it.


Otherwise, unless you have questions about our program I would be happy to talk about what we do, how we train, and what we emphasize and any other questions about the pacer.  I’d be happy to talk about that because I have time.  Yes, question, with the pacer?  We’ll do other stuff like we will do 200’s, I just didn’t put it in here, because we don’t do a lot of that.  We might swim like 5 300’s on a stroke rate and just tell them to stay on the stroke rate and just get comfortable doing that, but we don’t do a 2000.  We don’t do a lot of that stuff.  We do more regular swimming, like we do 400’s or 200’s so we will do 7000 or 8000 in a workout.  But maybe the last 1000 with this is more specific, so I probably could get into that more and may next year do more long things, but to this point I’ve used it more specifically for like broken stuff and race pace stuff.  You can do it with anything.  I know that there are distance people that use this that have great success.


(Question) No, because they really can’t handle that. I’ll tell you the best story on that was when I had my junior group, which is 7th and 8th grade girls and I wrote two sets, and this was a little challenge to their ability to handle this.  We were going to do very simple 4 25s breaststroke pull and I wanted them to just get speed on the stroke rate, so I set it at a 60 stroke rate, which is just hyper speed.  So we go 4 25’s like that and then I set 2 at 4 25s backstroke at a 38 stroke rate because we’d worked on those kids getting better with the stroke rate and backstroke.  So I said, “O.K., this is what we are doing.”  I had on the board set 1 and set 2 and I walked through and I showed them how to change the set, “You just hold one button and push another button down.  Everybody clear?”  So, we did 4 25s breaststroke pull and they were just boom, boom, boom, fast pulling, stand on it.  I told them to change their set, and so they did.


And then this one girl Hope was to my right, and I was watching this other backstroker, and Hope was very lazy about her stroke rate- she was going 32’s and 31’s before, so I’m asking her to go 38.  She was complaining about going 38 last week so I’m watching this other girl come in at the second 25 and getting her split, and stroke rate and she looks good. I’m talking about her stroke and then Hope comes in and her face is beat red and she is like hyperventilating, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” I didn’t see her swim, but I said, “Hope, you can do this, you have to do this. We worked on it, don’t be lazy about it.”  I said, “Stop being a baby.”  So they are going on the 30, so she pushes off and I watched.  She pushes off and she kind of floats out and then she just starts spinning her arms and her arms are barely getting past her ears and she is going like this and I said, “What the heck is she doing?” And she got about half way and she just stopped and floated and then she got her breath and did it again.  She ran into the wall and I started laughing and then I got her stroke rate and it was sixty. So when she came back in I was playing with her and I said, “Hope, you have to stay on that, that’s what we’re supposed to train at.”  She said, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard, I can’t.”  And I said, “Did you change the set to set two?” She said, “I think I did?” And I said, “Let me rephase it Hope.”  And it was on set one and just to give you an example, they don’t do a great job at it all the time, especially the younger kids.  But I have poor sets because if you do this with 10 or 12 or 15 kids it’s just too much, it is barely enough to manage one set for 16 kids and have all day.  And I’m out writing on the board to have them understand it, but if you only have a few kids you can do that but I think that’s overkill a little bit.  You can put a couple of sets in there.  I often put two sets for the high school kids and they handle that O.K. but for the younger kids, just to put it in their ear and push the button I’m asking a lot.


(Question) Not at all, everybody is different, oh yeah, absolutely.  I mean it’s like if you’re my only swimmer I’ve got to figure out what is exactly right for you to train at, and then everybody is different.  That is why I keep all this data and all these logs for every kid, where they should be at in every stroke, given the rest interval, given the stroke count per lap, and all that stuff.  You’ve got to keep it all and a good way to do it is get one of those stroke rate watches and watch them swim a couple of aggressive sets just checking.  Check the stroke rate if they do certain sets, 50’s, 25’s you know certain rests and just see where they are and then you know and you have a basis to set the pacer for that kid. But every kid is different, I mean I can go through every kid in my workout and say on a set 42, 41, you’re 38, you know you’re 45 and, like Justin trains at 40 and we have a girl that trains at 45 now, so everybody is different.


(Question) No, we have in my group, I have around 14 kids, so I wanted enough for everybody in my group because I’m the one that uses it mostly.  But we have 50 plus kids in the senior group and they really don’t use it and there is nothing I can do about that because I can’t coach 50 kids on that.

(Question) You know realistically I just couldn’t do that, because when I use it with a kid then I have to keep data on that kid and I have to know and I can’t do that for 50 kids.


(Question) No, not every day, probably two, three days a week.  It is a fairly big deal when you set it and do it. I mean you are asking for something really good, you’re not just swimming a set.  I mean, when you go through all this work, you want results.  But that is where I think if you have a smaller senior group, then maybe you can use it with everybody, but I don’t even recommend that I think you should use this with the top kids and make kids work hard to want to get in to train with this. That is where I would use it as a motivational thing and I think it does work, so, yes.


(Question)  They are based on two things.  They are based on my confirming and their being honest.  And I confirm enough that they, well integrity is pretty important and we talk a lot about that and if they did a set and they lied to me; well, first if they lied to me in any capacity, in any way, our relationship is pretty much is severed.  So, I mean anything, like if they lied about a warm down.  So, they already know kind of the parameters of how we exist and what our relationship is so they wouldn’t do that anyway, especially on something important.  But I check also, with a watch, you can check.  So if we are doing 10 100’s I’ll check somebody’s third 25 because that is probably the most realistic one and I’ll check stroke rates and with that watch you can check two or three kids swimming on one lap.  So I’ll know how kids are doing on a set and when I ask them it is more for confirmation, not for I have no idea how you did.  But even if I did, they should be honest; that is part of having good character and they should know that if they didn’t do it, that is just honest feedback.


(Question) No, no, no, I don’t use it for those kids.  My junior kids were 12 and 13 and 14 and they can do that.  The thing is when you’re swimming and there is a beep for the split at the 25 and the beep happens here and then you turn, you know you’re not on the beep, you’re behind the split.  So even if they don’t know what the number is I just say, “Were you on the split or not?” And they’ll say, “No.”  And if they are coming into the wall on 25’s and then I say, “Were you on a split?” And they’ll say, “No, I missed it.”  Then I’ll say, “How far?” And they’ll say, “About that much I was out.”  So they know that, I mean that is a no, and a stroke rate they can feel it.  I wouldn’t be naive enough to not check and trust them completely, not that I don’t, but like you said they may not know that well, so I check and know.


(Question) How many what?  How many hours, days, months, years, to put something in here?  Once you put it in this, there is no time.  If I had a set from last year that I never use, it’s still in here until you delete it.


(Question) That is part of the organizational thing. When I do, I didn’t write on there, but I have to write the number on the pacer.  These are labeled and when you write the sets in your book, if you’re going to do it you have to write the numbers.  So I write it in my book and I’ll write the kids numbers 16, 15, 14 and then when I put it on the board I have to write the number on the white board and put it up and 16, and I give them their number and they look at it and they look at number 16 and that is their set, so that is how they know.


(Question) Well, you can use it for anything you want but you just have separate data.  For that, it’s just like an apples for apples thing.  If you are doing splits and things, I mean you can do stroke rates in any pool, but if you’re doing splits and intervals and things then its different for that pool, like it’s different for long course and it is different for short course.


(Question) No, I mean I have to be honest; we use it more for short course.  We are a better short course team and we don’t train that much long course, which is probably our deficiency. We used it long course for about 6 weeks in the summer and I use it more for 50’s or broken 100’s, like one set we did with the girl butterflyers is 4 50’s on the 45 and trying to hold 36 or 35 or something, so we would do that, but I have a lot more data short course than long course, and I don’t do any stroke counts long course.  I don’t know, I can’t count, like for the short course I can count regularly, I mean 13 strokes is not going to take a lot of my time. But they can count a long course lap and I don’t know if I trust the kids to keep an accurate count, so I haven’t done that.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but I haven’t done it.


(Question) Yeah a little bit.  No, it doesn’t bother them, it just gets a little annoying because we use it a lot.  But it’s not bad, you just move it a little bit away from your ear and it’s not really a big deal.


(Question) No, you could.  I think you could do it with anything, you can do it in dryland stuff, you can do your homework with it, I think you can do anything with it.  I mean it takes so much time to do what I do and keep the data, I just can’t overload and do other things with it.


(Question) I don’t know maybe an extra half an hour or fifteen minutes before practice.  You have to, number one you have to think of the set, I mean exactly what’s right, and you have to be right about it.  You have to write on the white board and then you have to program the sets into the pacer and it takes time.  But I think it is time well spent and it is worth it to see.  You know, what I wanted to do was film some sets and have it visually be able to see kids with these and I think it would have maybe been clearer.  But I think it’s so valuable that I don’t hesitate to do it.


(Question) Maybe somebody in here knows, but the first time they said no, and then the officials later said there is nothing that says that they are illegal, so I don’t really know.  I think the rule has to do with, in my opinion, propulsion, and this is not propulsive.  So I don’t know, maybe somebody else knows.  I know there are coaches that use them a lot more than I do, in meets.  Steve Morsilli and his kids use them a lot in meets.


(Question) No, it is more the coach’s long process than the swimmers.  You know seriously, I believe, and this is just being honest, but I’m disappointed that more people aren’t interested in it, because of all the paddles and fins and all the stuff you can buy and the gimmicky things.  This is not a gimmicky thing, I mean it’s legitimate, and you can use it for 12 year olds or 18 year olds.  And I think colleges should be using this, in my opinion, because I think the guys would be motivated to do this.  So, I’m disappointed that more people aren’t interested in it and I think it has to do with it’s different.  They don’t understand it and it is hard to use, so the coach has to spend a lot of time like I did reading through the manual and getting comfortable with it, learning about your swimmer’s strokes, splits, and where they should be.  Once you do that, it’s easy for the kid in a second.  I can take a new swimmer that has never seen this before, I’ll watch them swim a set, I’ll check where I think he should be, and I’ll say, “Here is what I’m going to do.”  I’ll write on the board and say,  “I’d like you to try to do this as a stroke rate in these splits, put it in your ear and push this button and stay on it.”  And they go, “Wow.”


(Question) You mean like for a race, are you talking about for a meet?  I don’t, it is whatever you want to do, I just make it even.  I don’t do the 14.5, 15 flat, 15.5, you’ll be spending a lot of time if you’re doing that.  I had this guy going 10 100’s on the 1:10 and he’d go 102’s, 1:01 and you know he would be up and down and he would go up fast and he would be slow and I just set it for 15 flat for 4 25’s and 00’s and he went 00’s on every one.  So, even if you do, and I don’t care if we do something like that, if he is plus or minus a little bit, but he know where 15 flat is and he knows where 30 flat is at the 50 and he knows where 45 is to be on pace to double up.  And so he starts kind of evening out his pace to do that, and that is just a simple way to do it.  I wouldn’t get that complex in a set unless it was like I was doing some race, you know taper thing.  But for regular sets I don’t do that, and so it is just simple, you just simply do that


(Question) I would say with a hand full of kids yeah we do that.  For example, Kristen Lewis is a girl that we have that went to UCLA and has done very well.  She swam with us for like 6 months but I coached her in high school.  So we knew her and she was 2:01 in the 200 Fly and she went to UCLA and went 2:02.  She is really into this stuff now, so we talked about stroke rates, so for her for example at the beginning of the summer I felt that she needed to increase her stroke rate in the butterfly from 50 to 52 and be able to hold that because she would be going 48 or 49 when she got tired.  So we said we are going to train at 52 and when we are doing the long course stuff, I said we want to go 35 flats.  And with 50-meter butterflys, we did 3 on the 50 and held 52 stroke rate.  And then what we did in the summer was we went from that to on the 50 and then we went 3 on the 45 holding the 35 flat and 52 stroke rate.  When she could do that then I said O.K. now we are going to go 4.  And then we went 4 on the 45, which was the best set she did.  It was great at 52 stroke rate so that is an example with a mature kid that is what you do.  You can’t do that with 15 kids, it is hard, but with the top kids like with Justin the freestyler, I tell him we are building a stroke rate from 39 to 41. Generally, they have a sense of what they should be working on, and on a daily basis we would talk about that.  That’s it.  Yes, I appreciate that.  Thanks.



Handout from Ron Heidary


Using the Aquapacer for Age Group Swimmers


General Benefits for a Swim Program


It will elevate the Quality of training.

It will make swimmers more knowledgeable about their pacing and stroke rates.

It can make coaches more knowledgeable about their swimmers’ stroke rates and pacing.

Swimmers will work harder using the pacers. They typically push harder to stay on the pace and the stroke rates you set.

Swimmers will be more motivated. They feel special or important when a pacer set is written for them. You can reward the hardest working kids with this type of training and others will want to be a part of it.

If used properly, it can truly change your program.

It sends a positive message to your team, that you will do anything to help your kids improve.


Coaches’ Caveats

You must be very knowledgeable about your swimmer’s strokes, ability and training to create the appropriate sets.

While using the pacer in Free, Fly and Breast, I would consider incorporating a stroke count (for short course) per lap so swimmers don’t shorten their strokes to stay on the stroke rate.

Coaches need to keep accurate data on the parameters for each pacer set (including stroke rates, stroke count, splits and intervals) and how the swimmers did in each category.

Make the sets doable but challenging. Creating a set that is too difficult will leave the swimmer with a sense of failure and feeling frustrated. When swimmers make or better the pacer set, they feel they have “beaten the pacer”. As one of our swimmers would say when I regularly asked him how he did on a difficult pacer set, “I kicked its ass!”


How it works:


The machine itself is like a mini computer with a readout face. The coach programs the desired set in the main unit then sends the set into the pacer. Sixteen sets can be programmed into the main unit and four sets can be programmed into each pacer. The swimmer then puts the pacer under his or her goggle strap and starts the set by pushing a button on the pacer.


Variables of set swimming and how we use them:


Splits: Splits can be set for any distance i.e. 25’5, 50’5 etc.


Stroke Count: In most cases we establish an optimal stroke count for Freestyle, Breaststroke and Butterfly. In Backstroke, swimmers usually don’t slip water but we watch to make sure their pull pattern is correct.


Stroke Rate: The stroke rate can be set as cycles per second or cycles per minute. The stroke rate can change whenever the split is changed.


Interval: Set the interval for what you want to achieve. The rest needs to be reasonable for a swimmer to achieve the objective of the set. Obviously, the more rest given, the more Quality is expected.


Stroke Quality: Coaches know what swimmers are working on and how well they are “holding their stroke” given the difficulty of a set. It may be counterproductive for a swimmer to hold a stroke rate and develop inefficient tendencies.


How they work together:


Stroke Rate VS. Stroke Count VS. Split VS. Interval


Specific Benefits and Uses With Sample Sets

Can teach/force kids to build their stroke rate (when appropriate)

Can teach/force kids to slow down their stroke rate (when appropriate)


When utilized with a stroke count, it can make swimmers increase their distance per stroke. The following is a simple example.

Set of 10 x 50 Free with Junior Group to increase DPS

Set stroke rate at 36 with a split of 16.5 =33.0 and an interval of 45.0. The set is normally easy until I made them take no more than 15 strokes per lap. At first they stayed on the stroke rate but took 15 to 16 strokes and we had to start the set over. Then they held 14-15 strokes and their stroke rate fell to 32-33 and we had to start the set over. They finally did the set properly with 15 strokes per lap and a 36-stroke rate. They looked great but were extremely tired. The next day they asked if they could use the pacers again!


Sets can be programmed for any interval and with any split to the hundredth, so swimmers don’t have to worry about reading the pace clock.

10×100 Free @ 1:08 (split at 14.25 per 25 = 57.00) .16×50 Breast @: 45 (split at 18.50 per 25 = 37.00)


Sets can be programmed with specific splits with little rest for broken swims.

500 Free pace: 20×25 @ 17.50 with a split of 13.80

100 Fly broken: 4×25 @ 17.0 with a split of 13.75.

200 Fly broken: 8×25 @ 19.0 with a split of 15.25

100 Back broken: 4×25 @ 18.0 with a split of 14.50


Long Distance swims with any combination of stroke rates, splits and stroke counts can easily be programmed:

.2000 Free with splits of 15.75 per 25 and no stroke rate

.2000 Free with stroke rate (ex 44) and no splits (can add stroke count) .1000 Back with a stroke rate (example 38) and no split

.1000 Back with a split (example 16.5) and no stroke rate.


Sets can be programmed to descend splits and/or increase the stroke rate.

5×100 Free at 1:30, each 100 programmed as follows:

LapSR   Split

1  38                       15.3

2  39                       15.1

3  40                       15.0

4  41                       14.6  = 1:00


Can use to increase kick speed (Fly kick underwater or Breast kick underwater streamline or with a board)

8×25 @ :30 Fly kick uw @ 140 SR, split 16.0

10×25 @ 30 Breast kick @ 55 SR, split 18.5


Can use with fast kicking AND speed swimming in 25’s:

25 Backs working underwater Fly kick then sprinting Backstroke: 10×25 @ :25 as follows [6.0 @ 140 SR (fly kick) + 8.0 @ 44 SR (Back swim) = 14.0 split

4×25 Fly @ 25 (broken 100 for 12 yr old girls) 5.0 @ 130 SR (kick uw) + 9.5 @ 55 SR (Fly swim) = 14.5 split


Can use for drills such as One-Arm Backstroke ex: 10×25 @ 34 SR, sp=17.0, int=25.0.


Can use for pulling with paddles in Freestyle or Backstroke to build strength and stroke rate.


Can use for Breaststroke Pull Downs

.Use 0 for the SR, 3.0 beep, 2.0 beep, 1.5 beep



Establish Set Priorities

Tell the swimmers what you want from the set.

Set Split by 25 Stroke Rate Stroke Count Priority Objective
10×100 Free


14.0=56.0 39 13 Stay on stroke rate AND stroke count – don’t worry about the split. Work on aggressive distance per stroke
10×100 Free


14.0=56.0 39 13 Stay on stroke count and split Swim long and strong – don’t worry about rate
10×75 Breast


17.5 35 6 Stay on stroke rate and stroke count – don’t worry about split Work on distance per stroke
40×25 Back

@ :20

14.5 42 N/A Stay ahead of stroke rate Get comfortable with stroke rate
8×25 Fly

@ :18

15.0 50 9 Beat split, stay on stroke count Stay long and fast – don’t worry about the stroke rate.


Do everything perfect… not easy!

If you create a challenging set and you make the rest interval reasonable, you should demand that they follow through on all the variables.


Set Interval Split By 25 Stroke Rate Stroke Count Comment
10×100 Free 1:20 14.0=56.0 39 13 Must do ALL to swim a perfect set.
40×25 Back :25 14.5 42 N/A Beat split and stay above stroke rate.
8×25 Fly :18 15.0 50 9 Hold stroke count do not drop below the stroke rate and beat split.


Sample Sets with and without the Aquapacer.


Set Without Aquapacer With Aquapacer
2000 Free Watch clock, try to keep even pace Set stroke rate for even pace

Set stroke rate to build each 500

Set splits @25’s for even race

Set splits @25’s to build

5×200 Back Try to even pace or negative split, try to maintain desired stroke rate. Set splits @ 50’s with even pace and steady stroke rate.

Set splits at 50;s to negative split and increase the stroke rate the last 100.

20×25 Free

(speed work)

Go on :15 or :20, check splits Go on :17, set the stroke rate for the 500 meet pace i.e 42, set split at meet pace i.e. 13.5, and add a stroke count of 13 or 14.
6×25 Free

(speed work)

Coach needs to check splits and SR Set interval @ :30, the stoke rate for the 50 pace i.e. 55, add a stroke count and set the split at 13.25.
4×25 Fly

(broken 100)

Coach sets off, gets splits Set the interval for 3.0 seconds rest, example: Split 13.75, interval 16.75, set the stroke rate at 55
8×25 Fly Kick UW

(speed kicking)

Try to keep kick speed up, check splits. Set interval for 30, the stroke rate fro 130-140, the split at 16.0. Swimmer must stay on the stroke rate all the way into the wall.


Set Development With the Aquapacer for a Mid-Distance High School Freestyler.

The swimmer’s specialty is the 100, 200 & 500 Free.  Following is an example of his improvement over a four-year period.

Year 100 Free 200 Free 500 Free
Freshman Times 50.8 1:50.+ 5:00+
Senior Times 45.87 139.71 4:30.67


The goal over the last four years has been to lengthen his stoke and make it as efficient as possible.

Our specific objective over the last two years has been to build his stoke rate while maintaining his stroke length and efficiency.  We have used the Aquapacer extensively to accomplish this.  Our gal was to train at 13 strokes per lap, build the stroke rate into the low 40’s and maintain good splits.  We did the set below on a regular basis.

The hardest part is the 13 stroke per lap at the stroke rate, not the splits.  If I let him go all out he could hold at least 3 seconds faster per 100.

Following is an example of how he progressed over a 6-month period.

Base Set: 5×100 Free @1:20

Week Interval Split by 25 Stroke Rate Stroke Count Comment
Month 1 1:20 14.0=56.0 38 14 Establish a doable set
Month 2 1:20 14.0=56.0 38 13 Pne less stroke per lap – hard
Month 3 1:20 13.75=55.0 39 13 Increase stroke rate a little
Month 4 1:15 13.75=55.0 39 13 Decrease the interval
Month 5 1:15 13.75=55.0 40 13 Increase stroke rate a little
Month 6 1:10 13.50=54.0 40 13 Decrease the interval


Other Set ideas

Chase the 25 with the pacer:  The coach determines a 25 split and stroke rate for up to a 200 or beyond for either continuous swims of broke by 25’s or 50’s on an interval.


Chase the 25 to the 200, 300 or 400 (continuous)

Swimmer Stroke SR SC Split Start at Inc by Swim to Time set Swam


Fly 50 9 15.25 50 25 200 2:02 2:01
Nick Fly 50 10 15.75 50 25 200 2:06 2:05
McCall Fly 49 10 15.75 50 25 200 2:06 2:07
Sarah Free 44 17 16.0 100 50 200 4:16 4:14
Spohie Free 40 15 16.0 100 50 400 4:16 4:16
Scott M Back 38 15.0 50 50 400 3:00 3:00
Scott L Back 38 15.0 50 50 300 3:06 3:05

Chase the 25 on an interval: How many can you make?

(must hold all set criteria)


Stroke SR SC Split Interval Made Comment
Justin Fly 48 9 14.5 17.0 13 Good
Kristen Fly 50 10 15.0 18.0 12 Good
McCall Fly 48 10 15.0 18.0 12 Good
Amy Fly 48 10 15.5 18.0 8 Ok
Sophie Free 40 15 14.5 18.0 9 Ok


Chase the 25 to the 150 (continuous) should be a fast 200 pace.


Stroke SR SC Split Start at Inc by Swim to 100 Time 200 Time
Justin Free 40 13 13.0 75 25 150 52.0 1:44
Quinn Free 38 13 13.0 75 25 150 52.0 1:44
Nick Free 40 14 13.5 75 25 150 54.0 1:48
Sophie Free 40 15 15.0 75 25 150 1:00 2:00
Scott M Back 40 14.0 75 25 150 56.0 1:56

Used with our Backstrokers during their races at a long course meet – it worked great!


Sets for Scott Metcalf leading up to State Meet, Feb 2000

Broke Pacific Record (15-16 Boys 200 Back) with 1:49.33

27-Mar-00          Back     Swim    100 Pace          3x[8×25} @ :25 SR 44 Sp 14.0                Hard Set

14-Mar-00          Back     Pull       distance            20×25 w pad @ 25 SR 38, Sp 14.0          good paddle set

09-Mar-00          Back     Swim    100 pace           2x[3×25] @ 25, SR 45, Sp 13.5               best 100 pace set

23-Feb-00          Back     Swim    200 pace           20×25 @ :25 SR 40, Sp 14.0                  good set

23-Feb-00          Back     Swim    200 pace           8×25 @ :20 Sp 14.0 SR 40                     best 200 pace set

22-Feb-00          Back     Swim    200 pace           3×50 @ 35 av 14=28.0 SR 40                 good set

20-Feb-00          Back     Pull       200 pace           8×25 w pad @ 20 SR 36 Sp 13.5 best paddle set

16-Feb-00          Back     Swim    200 pace           4×100 Bk @ 1:015 av 1:00                     best FPSO set

25-Jan-00          Back     Swim    200 pace           200 Bk for time SR 40+ each lap swam 1:56

28-Jan-00          Back     Swim    distance            4x[10×25] @ :20 SR 40 Sp 14.5              good set

11-Jan-00          Back     Pull       distance            40×50 @ :45 w pad SR 36/37 Sp 30        held pace

23-Dec-99         Back     Pull       distance            50×25 w pad @ 25 SR 37                       good set

23-Dec-99         Back     Pull       distance            50×25 w pad @ 20 SR 35                       good set


Objectives         Maintain perfect stroke through all sets

                        Maintain stroke rate through fatigue


                        Things he was working on every day:

                                    Not dropping chin when left arm recovers

                                    Not relaxing wrist on recovery – breaks his wrist on entry

                                    Rotate more to right side

                                    Deeper catch on left arm

                                    Work kicks off each wall


Strategy for 200 Back at State Meet

            Be controlled going out with SR and legs for the first three laps

            Be mentally tough on the middle 75, talk to yourself off each wall

            Work through the last 50

            Goal: Stroke rates above 42 and no split over 14.0


            Split      SR

1          12.6      45

2          13.5      43

3          13.6      43

4          13.9      43

5          14.0      43

6          14.2      43

7          13.8      43

8          13.7      44


Scott’s Improvement from 13 to 16

Age 13              1:58.55

Age 14              1:58.43

Age 15 (March)*1:52.45

Age 16              1:49.33

*began using Aquapacer January of that year.


Pacing examples for 100s & 200s

We always get 25 splits on the 100 races and usually get 25 splits on the 200 races – sometime 50s.  Swimmers should understand at each stage of the race where their stroke rate should be, how aggressive their leg drive should be, and what their precise breathing pattern is.


Our kids check in with us before and after every race to go over their swims.


Pacing examples from the Age Group Championship Meet


Lindsay Schonborn (12) 100 Breast

Trials 1:10.17 Bad Swim

15.6      17.3      18.3      19.0

Finals 1:09.69 Good Swim

15.3      17.8      18.2      18.2

After her trails swim, without seeing her splits, I asked what she did wrong and she told me she pushed too hard on the 2nd lap then got tired.


Sarah Heath (14) 100 Free: 54.54

12.5      13.9      14.1      13.9

Best unshaven time


Heather White (12) 100 Back: 1:01.50

14.9      15.8      15.6      15.6

49         46         47         47

Perfect swim.


Heather White (12) 200 Back: 2:10.21

14.9      15.7      16.2      16.4      16.6      16.7      16.9      16.8

44         43         40         41         41         41         41         41

Her splits weren’t great (it was only her 3rd time swimming the event) but her stroke rate was good.


Kim Vandenberg: 200 Fly (1:58.9) at 2000 Short Course JR’s in Alaska

12.6      14.5      15.2      15.3      15.4      15.3      15.3      15.3


Scott Metcalf: 100 Back(50.3) at High School Section Championship

1st Lap 2nd Lap 3rd Lap 4th Lap
SR Split SR Split SR Split SR
11.6 49 12.9 46 13.0 46 12.9 46


From USA Swimming


Per Minute

Seconds per cycle Seconds per Stroke Fr-Bk USA Swimming Conversion Chart Cycles per Minute Seconds per Cycle Seconds per Stroke Fr-Bk
20 3.00 1.50 51 1.18 0.59
21 2.86 1.43 52 1.15 0.58
22 2.73 1.36 53 1.13 0.57
23 2.61 1.30 54 1.11 0.56
24 2.50 1.25 55 1.09 0.55
25 2.40 1.20 56 1.07 0.54
26 2.31 1.15 57 1.05 0.53
27 2.22 1.11 58 1.03 0.52
28 2.14 1.07 59 1.02 0.51
29 2.07 1.03 60 1.00 0.50
30 2.00 1.00 61 0.98 0.49
31 1.94 0.97 62 0.97 0.48
32 1.88 0.94 63 0.95 0.48
33 1.82 0.91 64 0.94 0.47
34 1.76 0.88 65 0.92 0.46
35 1.71 0.86 66 0.91 0.45
36 1.67 0.83 67 0.90 0.45
37 1.62 0.81 68 0.88 0.44
38 1.58 0.79 69 0.87 0.43
39 1.54 0.77 70 0.86 0.43
40 1.50 0.75 71 0.85 0.42
41 1.46 0.73 72 0.83 0.42
42 1.43 0.71 73 0.82 0.41
43 1.40 0.70 74 0.81 0.41
44 1.36 0.68 75 0.80 0.40
45 1.33 0.67 76 0.79 0.39
46 1.30 0.65 77 0.78 0.39
47 1.28 0.64 78 0.77 0.38
48 1.25 0.63 79 0.76 0.38
49 1.22 0.61 80 0.75 0.38
50 1.20 0.60 81 0.74 0.37




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