How to keep track of your swim progress

If you want to make progress in your swim you have to measure that progress regularly, says swim coach Andrew Sheaff. Here are his three simple metrics to make sure you're moving in the right direction

Male swimmer checking smart watch before while standing at poolside

‘What gets measured gets managed.’ It’s an old business quote that applies to most areas of life, and certainly your triathlon swimming.


Because if you want to make progress you have to measure that progress on a daily basis. Doing so ensures that you’re on the right track, you stay on the right track, or you get back on the right track if you something goes wrong.

Imagine setting a goal in any area of life where you got zero feedback about how well you were doing for six months. That’s what happens if you only use your races to determine how well you’re performing.

But here are three simple metrics that you can keep track of each day to make sure your performances are moving in the right direction. 

Keep track of your swim speed

How does that relate to how fast you were supposed to swim or you expected to swim? If you expect to swim faster over time, you need to know how fast you’re swimming today and tomorow.

I won’t say too much here because the importance of measuring speed speaks for itself. Keep track of your fast work, keep track of your slow work, and everything in between. You want to see progress.

Measure your stroke count

While most triathletes keep track of their speeds to some extent, very few triathletes keep track of how few strokes they take on a lap-to-lap basis. Stroke count is a measure of efficiency – the fewer strokes you need per lap, the more efficient each stroke is.

While you want to improve your stroke count over time, it’s more useful as a day-to-day check on how well you’re swimming.

If you notice your stroke counts are creeping up over the course of a week or within a practice, that’s a great indicator that your technique is getting sloppy and it’s time to get it back in check. Counting your strokes makes you aware of what’s happening. 

Pay attention to your swim effort 

While most triathletes are aware of how much effort their exerting, they’re not using that information as effectively as they could. Most workouts aren’t maximal efforts, so your performance (speed and stroke count), relative to your effort is important to know.

If you exerted less effort for an aerobic set and did the same times, that’s definitely progress, even though you weren’t objectively faster. Likewise, if you exerted the same effort and went faster, that’s a big win as well.

Pay attention to how hard a given set is compared to what you’ve done in the past. Especially in the endurance sports where being keenly aware of managing effort is critical for success – it’s a metric you should keep track of every day.

Write your swim progress down

You don’t need an extensive journal, just a couple notes about the big keys. What was the main set? How fast did you swim? How many strokes were you taking? How hard was it? It takes 2-3mins of your time.

Doing so tends to commit your training to memory and creates a record for when your memory fails you. You can use your log to look back on your progress, as well as decide where to direct your training next.


Top image: Getty Images