How do I time myself?

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    I have a question for those masters/self training swimmers out there.

    What is the best device to purchase to time myself for USRPT? I’ve looked at reviews for some watches and have also considered a tempo trainer. What have you found helpful? I’m only doing 50s and 25s.

    "Most people have the will to win. Few have the will to prepare to win."


    I use a sportcount “finger chrono”. Works well for me.

    Gary P

    I use a Speedo SD55137. Got it off Amazon, although it’s not currently available there. I did find one on ebay out of England:

    I like this over the tempo-timer because you can program different intervals for the swim and recovery cycles. I’ve only had it 3 months, but I’m very pleased so far. It’s much better than trying to use the facility’s pace clock, especially for 25’s. Even though the local pool has high-brightness digital display pace clocks at both ends of the pool, rarely are the two in exact sync. Once oxygen deprivation started kicking in, I was always fumbling with he mental math of adjusting touch time targets and start intervals.

    There are a couple limitations, however. First, You can only set the intervals to whole seconds. You have to estimate fractions of seconds. For example, if I’m trying to swim 14.5’s for 25’s, I set it for 15 seconds and expect to touch a bit before the alarm goes off. At best, you can probably estimate quarter-second intervals. Secondly, the vibration generator isn’t terribly strong. If it goes just as you’re touching the wall with a hard driving stroke, it’s hard to feel. I set it up to both beep and vibrate to double my chances of getting the proper notification. Also, at the end of an interval, the alarm beeps and vibrates twice. I tend to hold the touch for a moment, waiting to feel the second vibration and/or hear the second beep. I have developed a pretty good mental idea of how long that wait should be. If it’s too short, I know I touched too late.

    There’s also an anomaly in the operation that I had to work around. You can set from 1 to 10 intervals in a cylce. Then you can choose one of three options to do at the end of a cycle; stop, count time up, or repeat. For USPRT, the obvious idea is to set two intervals (swim, rest), and choose repeat. However, at the end of a cycle, the vibration and/or beep continues until you hit a button or until ~ 10 seconds before the end of the next interval. It’s kind of annoying, and it takes away the ability for the “pause at touch, wait to hear/feel the second alarm” method described above because you don’t know how many beeps past the original one you are. Also, this watch has just a regular watch battery so I suspect extended vibration periods would drain it fairly quickly.

    I work around this issue by programming the first interval for 1 second, the second interval for the desired target swim time, and the third for the desired rest period minus one second. For example, if I’m doing 75’s at :52 pace, I set the intervals for :01, :52, and :19. Since the the time at the end of the cycle to the next alarm is less than ten seconds,the extended alarm is eliminated. As a mater of fact, since it’s less than two seconds, its just a short blip, then one second later comes the more pronounced double beep/buzz to start.


    I’m currently using an old iPod Touch with a waterproof case and an app called Seconds. It’s an interval timer so I can set the swim intervals and the rest intervals separately. It will allow programming of the warm up interval, a cool down interval, as well as a preparation interval of 10 seconds if you need it. It displays nice big digits and lets me know what interval I’m on. For 50’s it’s ideal since I only need one timer, so I prop it up against the starting blocks. I can’t stand wearing watches when I swim, and I don’t like the idea of having to quickly pull my arm up to see the time; with the timer right at the pool deck just inches from the wall, I can see it instantly.

    For 25’s, it gets a little trickier. I need two of them (iPod Touches 4th gens are cheap on eBay though), one on each end. And they need to be synced. When doing multiple 25 sets, it’s best just to program my entire workout with the timers, including the rests, and sync them just once before I swim. I’ll program in, say, 5 minutes rest between sets so if I can’t get the proper volume in on one set, the rest may be more like 10 minutes. If I do get all the volume in, 5 minutes rest is usually enough anyway. This way it saves me from having to get out of the pool and re-sync the timers.

    One negative is that it can only use whole seconds. However, it’s not hard to judge half seconds with the timer. Again, a waterproof case is mandatory. Even small drops of water getting on the screen will activate the touch screen and may stop the timer. One idea is to use an iPad with a much larger screen and put the iPad farther out, away from spray. I’ve done this and it works quite well. You could get all techie and project the timer on a wall, etc.

    Seconds app link here.

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