9 thoughts on “V = SL x SR (request for comments)”

  1. I think it’s apples to oranges. Imagine kayaking in white water – would you rather use a short paddle with 2 blades (low SL, high SR) or would you rig the boat more crew style (high SL, low SR)? You’d be nuts to pick the latter. One under appreciated fact to a faster turnover is the ability to balance, brace, and correct – you are more maneuverable which is is key in rough water.
    The idea of a faster turnover to ‘punch’ through chop I think is 50/50. By getting in position to ‘chop’ I think you are necessarily creating more surface area for resistance. You could argue the TI way and a stroke that maximize streamline penetrates chop better. So I think it’s a wash here.
    I do agree that TI makes less sense in rough water.

    1. Also, it is hard to tell how important streamlining is in real open water. It is a lot like bike aerodynamics comparing 0 degree yaw to a wider range of angles (say -20 to 20). In open water the streamline at 0 yaw is much less important unless there is no current or the current is coming from 12 o’clock. In fact, examine 2 positions. On your side in an elongated positions(TI) you essentially have your entire back SA exposed to current at yaw. But with faster stroke rate more time is spent flatter, with the surface area of your side at yaw. Side < surface area than back. So a long gliding stroke on the side could be detrimental in cross currents.

      1. @Sully That is also a very interesting point. I do think TI misunderstands the reason for side-swimming. It’s not about drag reduction, it’s about power and leverage. See this article by Gary Hall Sr. There’s also a great article by Bobby Patten titled “Fish Don’t Swim On Their Side, and Neither Should You,” but I can’t find a working link to it.

    2. personally, i tend to slow my SR down in rough water a wider catch will increase stability. breathing has to be precise, and at any time “optional”. a lower body position will help avoid getting beat up by surface disturbance… and i’m willing to “roll with it” if thats what the the situation dictates.
      don’t fight: surrender…. its a lot bigger than you.

      i think the flaw with the kayak analogy is this: WW kayaks are short and don’t track straight. yes they are easily maneuverable, but swimming in OW, the goal is to track straight (isn’t it?)

      another thing to consider is how the high/low SR relates to different body types. we are likely to find a solution to deal with conditions within our comfort zones, so, to use myself as an example: my OW SR will vary from 60 – 72 (that might be more of a range than some). in the rough, i am likely to be at the lower end of that range… but “rough” is itself non-descript…. rough with a tail wind is much different than rough with a cross wind, and the important thing is certainly to come to an agreement with the water; not fight it.

      1. @DB This is fantastic info – thanks. I guess it’s not surprising that there are different paths to success in the open water. Though, I couldn’t agree more that “the important thing is certainly to come to an agreement with the water; not fight it.” That's beautifully said.

        On second thought my idea of high SR "punching" through surface chop is probably the wrong image. To me it feels more like "floating above it." Almost as if on a cloud. As my data showed, my actual SR was pretty steady throughout TBMS; but my focus was certainly on maintaining SR rather than SL in the first couple (choppy) hours. And it seemed to work: I built a 5-minute lead on Tim Kennedy/Chris Burke relay by the time we rounded Pinellas Point. After 24 miles, they were still 5 minutes behind.

        It makes sense that this approach would feel natural to me – I’m 5-7 (at best) and built like a whitewater kayak, not a crew boat. My issue is with the dogmatic way Terry sometimes writes. The TI stroke seems to work best for people who are – surprise – built like Terry (tall & lanky).

    3. @Sully That’s a very interesting analogy!

      I agree that balance is the main benefit of a high SR in rough water. Chop is unpredictable and will hit you at random points in your stroke cycle. With a faster turnover there’s less time between the moment of being knocked off-balance by chop, and re-balancing yourself with the catch.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “getting in position to ‘chop’…[creates] more surface area for resistance.” I don’t see why high SR necessarily means a less streamlined position.

  2. I’m not very effective in choppy water. I notice myself being unable to keep up with some of my swim buddies who are usually slower than I am.

    When I get anxious, my natural instinct is to slow down and glide a little to calm myself. When I do that, I can feel the waves knocking me around. I don’t think you can fault my TI training for that–I think it’s a combination of inexperience and temperament.

    My (excellent) coach is a TI coach. Her advice is pretty much exactly what you’re saying: I should speed up my stroke rate and let my catch slip a little if I get too tired.

    I think the disconnect has more to do with dogmatic language than actual disagreement.

    If you consider that a large part of TL’s audience are triathletes who are used to being able to get faster by simply pushing harder on the bike or the run, it makes sense that puts so much emphasis on a long, relaxed stroke. Someone like that will really benefit from relaxing and learning not to fight the water.

    The higher stroke rate/shorter stroke technique for dealing with chop seems like more of an intermediate skill. (And, like you said, it may not apply to all body types. I’m 5’7″ with a small frame, if that means anything.)

    1. Katie, thanks for the comment. I actually buy into most of TI’s general philosophy, and I incorporate many of its lessons in my own training. I think you’ve been reading this blog long enough by now to see that I’m very much in favor of being “mindful” in training, and not fighting the water.

      The main disagreement is on a relatively esoteric point about adapting the freestyle stroke to open water. Terry says that the “open water stroke” should be even longer than the pool stroke, while I think there are clear advantages to a “punchier” OW stroke. It’s an esoteric point, but an important one to me because I’m an OW swimmer.

      The other aspect of the disagreement is about applying “one size fits all” technique recommendations (e.g., catch-up style stroke) to both novice and advanced swimmers. I think it’s poor coaching. Would TL have Janet Evans do a catch-up stroke?

      I’m planning to write a post summarizing these issues at some point… I probably wouldn’t/shouldn’t keep hammering on this, except I got a bit riled up by Terry’s reply to my original post.

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