Setting Tomorrow’s Pace


Original article by Matt Welsh, OAM

When people picture swimming training the images that come to mind usually include steam coming off the water before an early morning session, drink bottles lined up at the end of each lane, coaches walking back and forth watching the swimmers, and of course, you always need a pace clock.

Pace clocks are synonymous with swimming training. 

The coaches like pace clocks because they keep the practice session running on time and ensures that all the swimmers are spaced evenly rather that leaving at random times.

The swimmers like pace clocks as they give instant feedback on their progress and sometimes can even help count how many laps or repeats they have done.

Pace clock from Keifer at Wheeling, WV, The Lindsey School.

But pace clocks are so much more than that. Interval training is a vital part of improving your swimming fitness and efficiency. Getting the work/rest interval right is so important to the success of any session. Whether you want high intensity workouts with a longer recovery or you want to focus more on technique but keep the session moving along, the right time cycle ensures that you get the most from any session. Pearson’s Law states, “That which is measured improves”.

Although continuously swimming laps can be of some benefit, it can also be very boring. Interval training can not only help with fitness, but can also increase mental stimulation by breaking up the session. And even just keeping on the time cycle can keep your mind active and more focused.

Learning to use a pace clock to know when to leave, work out your lap times and how much rest you have should be part of any young swimmer’s development. Up until now almost all pace clocks have been the old analogue style, usually with two opposing hands so you can choose to leave on the ‘black top’ or the ‘red top’. While this type of pace clock has served us well for a long time more and more pools are now choosing a digital pace clock for many reasons.

The first reason is that the digital clocks are far more accurate. Now that might seem obvious and maybe not that important, as really, how different can they be?

But most swimmers will know when two pace clocks at either end of the pool are not synchronized it can be very difficult to know just when to leave.

Some digital pace clocks can even be synchronized remotely so you’re always
on time.

The digital pace clocks are also much easier to read. When a swimmer first looks up to the clock to see their time, they need to see the hand and where it is on the clock – which seems easy but with water in their face it can often take a second or two to get a good picture of their result.

With a digital pace clock the first view is precise, and instantly gives them the feedback on how good their swim was and how much rest they have before they need to leave again.

Analogue pace clocks are designed to be viewed from directly in front but often are viewed from multiple angles either from lane one to lane eight or from one end of the pool to the other. This change in angle can sometimes make it difficult to get an accurate reading. Digital pace clocks have a much larger viewing angle and show the same time no matter where you are in the pool.

Digital pace clocks are also more versatile. They not only can show seconds, but also minutes and even hours. And when linked in with a timing system can even show a swimmer’s exact time from the coaches stop watch.

Often, when a group of swimmers leave on ‘the black top’ there will usually be a spread of a couple of seconds. Some will leave early and others a little late. However, when a digital pace clock is used the swimmers usually all leave on the correct time, meaning that the time they see when they return is an accurate one.

Some pace clocks can even be linked to a speaker giving the swimmers an audible indication of when to leave, making their pace even more reliable and more accurate.

Digital Pace Clocks :
  • Are more accurate
  • Can be synchronized with ease
  • Are easier to read
  • Have a greater viewing angle
  • Can sometimes be linked to a speaker or timing system

Pace clocks are one of the best pieces of equipment at the pool. 

They can help your improvement like none other. Analogue clocks have been an integral part of swimming training for years and now digital pace clocks with their versatility, accuracy and added functionality are moving interval training to the next level.

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Insert YOUR comments in the box at the bottom of this -- and all the other pages. Questions. Insights. re-writes, whatever.

Swim, water polo and SKWIM coach in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Also the webmaster for the International Swim Coaches Association.

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