A tempo trainer is a small yellow swimming device. You can clip it to your goggles or pop it under your swim had. It makes a beep that you can hear while swimming to help you with various aspects of your swim strokes. It typically costs about £30 and is a really handy device to help with intelligent swimming.

It has 3 modes

Mode 1: Tempo or stroke rate in seconds e.g. 1.10 seconds per stroke

Mode 2:  Pace:  Set the device to beep every 30 seconds to help with swimming a length or lap at a particular speed and time.

Mode 3:  Stroke Rate or strokes per minute. E.g. 60 strokes per minute

How to use the modes

Mode 2 is useful to help swimmers learn pacing as it’s common to go off too fast. It can also help to slow swimmer down for an endurance set, or to attempt to keep a particular speed and pace. If you want to swim 1.40 for 100metres in a 25 metre pool you set the pacer to beep every 25 seconds as you touch the wall.

However, mode 2 doesn’t give a swimmer any feedback about the efficiency of their stroke in the moment. Also I find that the pacer makes me feel under pressure and then my stroke falls apart and I get slower.

Mode 1 is the most useful mode to help with intelligent swimming. Combined with counting strokes per length (SPL) it helps a swimmer to monitor stroke efficiency in the moment, length to length, rather than having to stop and look at a watch or a clock.

Simply put mode 1 is seconds and combined with counting strokes per length you get an indication of efficiency.

You can’t argue with the maths:

With the tempo trainer set to 1.10 seconds per stroke and a swimmer takes 18 strokes per length this is 18 x 1.1 = 19.8 sec per length.

If a swimmer gets tired and strokes per length go up to 19 at the same tempo this means a swimmer has got slower and less efficient. Equally if a swimmer works on their technique and SPL decreases at the same tempo the maths show they’ve got faster and more efficient.

Standardise your push offs

To help with comparing your numbers from each length and each session it’s useful to get into the habit of using the same push off every length. This is how we do it with a tempo trainer.

  • On Beep #0 you push off the wall.
  • On Beep #1 you are streamlined and gliding
  • On Beep #2 you begin your first underwater stroke
  • On Beep #3 your recovering hand has entered the water this is stroke count #1.

Example Sets

Set 1:  10 x 50 at the same tempo e.g. 1.15. Rest 10 beeps in between reps. Count SPL (strokes per length). Can you maintain a constant SPL throughout the 10 reps? If they increase this is a sign your stroke has deteriorated over the set.

Set 2: 10 x 50 at slowing tempo e.g. start at 1.15 and slow tempo by 0.01 each 50 finishing at 1.25. Maintaining the same SPL at a slower tempo will result in a slower speed, so can you figure out how to reduce SPL as tempo slows. Swimming at slower tempos is a great way to improve efficiency, balance and feel for the water.

Set 3: 10 x 50 at a tempo that gets faster. E.g. start at 1.15 and speed up the tempo by 0.01 each 50 finishing at 1.05. Can you maintain your SPL as tempo gets faster?