If you’ve been on our classes page you’ll see that we offer several CSS development swim sessions weekly. Have you ever wondered what these sessions are all about?  If so, you can learn about CSS training in this post. You’ll see that CSS training is about swimming at very specific paces and this is done by using a gadget called a tempo trainer. What’s special about this little device is that you can set it to very precise pacing. In mode 2 you can set to the nearest second and in mode 1 to 1/100th of a second! This might seem extreme but imagine doing intervals on a 25m pace that isn’t a whole number AND with real time feedback. This type of pacing is similar to the laser technology Eliud Kipchoge used to break the 2 hour marathon barrier last month.

There was a recent post on the Swim Smooth blog about the importance of pacing during racing and training.  In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt:

Lasers & Tempo Trainers: What Can We Learn From Eliud Kipchoge’s Stunning Sub 2 Hr Marathon?

“#Nohumanislimited is the motto of Kenyan born Eliud Kipchoge, who most definitely pushed himself to the limit to become the first man in history to run a sub 2 hour marathon. In Vienna, on October 12th, 2019, the 34 year old completed the marathon in a jaw dropping time of 1hr 59mins 40.2s, smashing the 2 hour barrier! But what was the key to his stunning achievement?

Exercise Physiologist Dr Michael Joyner first predicted that a sub 2 hour marathon was possible in his 1991 research paper. Using statistical models he anticipated that it was possible to complete a marathon in 1hr 57mins 58s in perfect conditions. For over 25 years, long distance athletes edged ever closer to this 2 hour mark, with Eliud’s first direct attempt in 2018 setting 2hr 01min 39s, but until October 12, 2019 no one had achieved a sub 2 hour time.

But what can we learn from Eliud’s stunning performance to maximise our own personal sporting endeavours – including your own swimming?

The one thing we would highlight was how incredibly well *paced* his run was. With every km (but the last) set between 2mins 48s and 2mins 52s. His run was so well paced that he had a little left in the tank to complete the final km in 2mins 40s and complete the final 400m in 65s! 

With all his experience, discipline and talent, we have no doubt that Eliud has excellent pace judgement in his own right but just to make absolutely sure of perfect pacing, you might have noticed that the electric pace vehicle shone a laser on the road to set a precise running speed:


This laser set an exact pace of 1:59:50 to follow (giving him 10 seconds spare in case he stumbled on the run-in to the finish).

Pacing isn’t “sexy” like a cool pair of running shoes or a fancy swim-skin but the fact is that every world record in any distance event has been set using even pacing or a slight negative split, where the second half is run slightly quicker than the first. If you want your best times in training or in races then you too should aim for precise pacing – it’s absolutely essential.

So good pacing is important but what can you use as a guide if you don’t have a budget running into millions giving you laser guiding technology? Actually in pool swimming it’s really easy to achieve the same thing as the lasers gave Eliud – significantly easier than in running, cycling or almost any other endurance sport…”  

The Answer is the Tempo Trainer!

Back to this programable little device that sits under your cap. Because it can be set to 1/100th of a second, you can really fine tune your pace. Let’s say you currently swim 1500m in 30:00 (i.e. 2:00/100m pace). However, your goal is to be able to swim 1500m in 28:50 (1:54/100m pace). Each week you can tweak your pace very slightly and practice until you can hold it.  For example, you could go from a setting of 30 seconds per 25m (2:00 / 100m pace) to 29.75 seconds per 25m (1:59 / 100m pace).  You will barely feel the quarter of a second difference in pace per 25m but having the tempo trainer beep at that precise time provides you with real time feedback. While you are swimming you will know if you are on your target pace or ahead / behind it. And remember, you are more likely to be successful in achieving a goal pace with even pacing vs going out too quickly and falling off. The tempo trainer serves to both govern your speed as well as motivate you to stay on pace.

Using a tempo trainer and working on developing your CSS pace is one way to improve your swim speed. If you would like to learn more about how to optimize your swim training, I’ll be speaking at Tri-It Multisport @ 1703 10th Ave SW on Sunday November 23rd. This free talk is from 2-3pm. Stop by to listen in or ask any questions!

~Coach Mary