Swim Workout: Testing Overview

The word “test” is one that often conjures up bad images for all of us.  You might ask, why would I want to add tests to my hobby?  We’d offer a few reasons for it.  First, these tests are not that important in the grand scheme of things.  If you swim a fast or a slow 100, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t mean that much.  Second, a good bit of why we as endurance athletes participate in our sports is to push ourselves and to improve.  Tests allow you to push yourself and to take stock in where you’re at.  As one of Coach Jason’s peers likes to point out — “You wouldn’t try to build a house without a tape measure. Why would you try to train without measuring anything?”  As part of the measurement process, we are offering you the chance to test the single biggest predictor of athletic performance — your critical pace.

Critical Pace

The meaning of critical pace for swimming and running and critical power for cycling is something that exercise physiologists take quite seriously.  By the term, they (and consequently we here) mean the highest level of exercise that you can maintain for an extended time without notable changes within your body.  It is a steady state for your exercising muscles, so long as you stay below it.  Go above critical pace/power and your body will start to tap into forms of energy that are limited and you’ll have to stop or slow down after not too long.  The faster your critical pace, the more you can do for an extended period of time.  For a triathlete, that is precisely the goal of our swim training.  To add to the beauty of critical pace based measurements, they can be field tested by yourself with minimal equipment.  This allow you to easily test your critical swim pace now and in the future.  That is the goal of our tests.

You might also wonder why we’re recording 3 separate distances (100, 200, & a longer distance in the 2nd test session).  At the core of the critical pace model is determining your longer duration fitness without having you test that whole distance.  With 3 data points, it’s possible to plot the individuals’ pace duration curve and determine their critical pace with great accuracy, hence why we set up the tests as we do.

Testing Notes:

  1. Test in the pool in which you normally swim.  While there is not huge variation from pool to pool, do what you can to make sure the test data is as similar to your normal swimming routine as possible.
  2. Record your splits for the 100 & 200 for the shorter test day and the longer time trial on the longer test day.  These are the data points that you need for critical pace calculations.
  3. Once you finish your tests, you have two choices to get your critical pace value and your training zones.  You can send your info to Coach Jason of Dig It Triathlon, or you can calculate it yourself.  That later step is going to take some software or excel programming.  Easiest option apart from emailing Jason is to download RaceDay Apollo training software, which has a 30 day free trial.  You can then calculate it yourself.

As always if you have any questions, please let us know in the comments sections below.  Jason or I will be more than willing to answer them as quickly as we can.



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