For many years tempo training beepers have been used by many elite programs. However due to the high cost per swimmer ($50+), they failed to gain much ground with most age group swim programs. It can just be hard to find enough uses for them. But now free phone apps and swimming headsets can change all of that and greatly expand on the overall uses you can find for a metronome on your pool deck. Quality headsets provide coaches the ability to talk to all of the swimmers in their group at the same time. Swimmers can hear as much as a whisper from their coach and this means that social distancing will force tons of swim teams to switch to headsets. With quality headsets, swimmers can hear their coach when they flip turn, or dive from the blocks. Each coach can have a different channel for their group in the same pool. Coaches can correct every stroke for every swimmer with endless possibilities for technique and effort correction non-stop. And you can finally use tempo metronomes with no added cost per swimmer. The use of tempo training with headsets is perhaps one of the best ways to justify the cost of headsets. At a cost of about $100 per swimmer, it can be difficult for some teams to justify. But with Tempo Trainers costing $60 each, this adds to offsetting the costs of switching your team over to swimmer headsets.
Free metronome apps such as The Metronome by Soundbrenner can be used by swim coaches now. With a swim headset system on all your swimmers, this means you can hold your phone up to your coach microphone and a tempo beeper at any moment during your set. Unlike a beeper that fits under the swim cap and is constant, using your phone and headsets means you can take that tempo away or add it as you see fit. When a beeper is placed under the swim cap, you only have 1 tempo for that particular swim length. To turn it off so swimmers can focus on a different tempo or a different stroke, or drill, they have to stop and remove the beeper. If you want to switch between 2 tempos, all swimmers have to stop, remove the beeper, change the tempo, and start over. This is a big waste of time and reduces the value of tempo trainers for group training.
When phone apps are combined with swim headsets such as the ONEfocus, you get some of the same benefits as ‘under the cap’ beepers. This can include helping swimmers fix breathing problems such as delaying their stroke when they breath. You can focus on ways to train race pace such as 1.2 second stroke rates. You can correct stroke timing such training the proper glide rate for breast stroke. However, there are some things that you can do with a headset and phone app that you can’t do with normal tempo beepers:
- Interval intensity training. While it is common to train with ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ alternations during any swim set, it is difficult to gauge what is ‘easy’ and what is ‘fast’ or ‘all out’. Instead of ‘easy’, Dave Salo argued that swimmers should swim ‘2nd gear’ to maintain a reasonable heartrate during ‘recovery’ phases of a set. But that is a hard concept to train swimmers in the middle of a hard set and they swim far too slow. With a phone app and headsets, you can switch tempos for all swimmers at the same time. You can set a ‘2nd gear’ tempo for a recovery phase and then without ‘missing a beat’ you can switch to a race pace tempo.
- When you feed the tempo through a headset, all the swimmers will be on the exact same tempo and should be in sync with each other. This allows you to quickly see who is falling off the pace or ignoring the tempo.
- You get ‘Effort on Demand’ in the middle of a session without the time delay of adding a beeper under the cap. Now you can add ‘all out’ or ‘race pace’ tempo during a constant swim or after a quick 15 sec rest interval.
- You can build tempo to simulate the increased effort required for a 200 yard race. You can increase the tempo every 50 yards or every 75 or 100 to condition your swimmers to dig deeper as they get to the end of a 200 race.
- Sometimes the hardest thing to train is for swimmers to have the cardio conditioning to hold their time and their breathing tempo over a long period of time. You can add the tempo from the start of a long swim or require it during the end of a long swim.
- You can also train swimmers to hold a consistent tempo over time to ensure their stroke rate doesn’t waiver during their breath as they tire.
- Many swimmers get so accustomed to breathing every 2 strokes that they end up with serious imbalances that are hard to correct. Long term swimming with a tempo trainer while they breath every 3 strokes can slowly rebuild their strokes.
The use a metronome can transform your training workouts. But for team practices this can waste time and add confusion. With team headsets and a metronome app on your phone, the uses are endless for any coach.