April 29, 2013
Keeping track of your stroke count is a great way to keep track of your improvement. Many people have inefficient strokes that require a lot of energy but don't give them the speed they would expect from working so hard. So by making small improvements in stroke efficiency, you can bring your stroke count down, conserving a lot of energy and making you go faster with less work.
To test and improve your stroke efficiency, try this drill: swim a 50 free and count your strokes, going as fast as you can with as few strokes as you can. Add the stroke count to the time you go. This is your Russian Number. For instance, if you take 40 strokes and go 30 seconds, your number is 70. 40 is a pretty high number. A good range (ie one indicating pretty good efficiency) is between 18 and 24. There are dozens of changes you can make to bring down the stroke count, depending on where your weaknesses lie, like kicking more, rotating from the hips instead of the shoulders, pulling with greater leverage, raising your arm out front, streamlining tighter, etc, etc.
Over time you want to see both the stroke count and time go down. Don't get discouraged if the stroke count goes down and the time goes up. That's simply your head thinking more about stroke than speed and your body adjusting to the changes.