The Swimming Equation: How to Think About Freestyle Swim Stroke Rate

A reader sent in a question recently about stroke rate. He noticed that his stroke rate had fallen after beginning the Swim Speed Workouts training program, resulting in fewer strokes per length. He was concerned about having a lower stroke rate because, in Swim Speed Secrets, swim coach Sheila Taormina fully explains the Swimming Equation, which is:

Strokes per Length x Stroke Rate = Seconds per Length

Sheila busts the myth that distance per stroke is the most important factor for swimmers, explaining that how far you travel per stroke is only half the equation that determines your speed in the water.

The reader expected to be taking more strokes per length as a result of a faster turnover.

Sheila replied:

“It’s fine that your stroke rate is slower. I think you are seeing what happens when you hold more water with each stroke. The equation (# of strokes x rate) is balanced/optimized uniquely for each swimmer. If you look at the rates and number of strokes comparisons in Ch. 7 of Swim Speed Secrets you will see how the equation varies by swimmer, even at the elite level.

Eventually, as the stroke becomes more natural you will find your rate gets faster due to better swim conditioning and also as you learn how the coordinate the core with the arms and legs. Always remember that rate improves based on the core moving past the arm/hand more quickly, never because the hand rushed and slipped through the water.”

You can read about stroke rate, distance per stroke, and the Swimming Equation in Sheila Taormina’s best-selling book Swim Speed Secrets.

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