Author Archives: mstephens

Getting to 10,000 Hours – Becoming a Swimming Expert

Perhaps some of you have read the great Malcom Gladwell book, “Outliers”. One of the pieces that Gladwell touches on is that successful people put in the work. They aren’t suddenly successful overnight, but rather they commit many hours to their sport, profession or skill. According to Gladwell the 10,000 hour mark seems to be the point at which a person becomes an expert in their ways.

So for the swimming world, how long does 10,000 hours take? Let’s follow through the life of a typical dedicated swimmer and see how the math adds up over time:

    Age 6: Joined year-round swim clubYoung age-group swimmers are limited in their practices and workout schedule. So from age 6-9 we will assume 1.5 hour workouts 3 times a week. The season is around 44 weeks long for these swimmers, totaling 198 hours per year.

    In the 3-year span from age 6-9, the swimmer has totaled 594 hours

    Age 9: Moved up to a new training group

    As swimmers develop they move up within the club to faster and more dedicated groups. So from age 9-12 we will assume 2 hour workouts 4 times a week. In a 44 week swim season the annual total is 352 hours.

    In the 3-year span from age 9-12, the swimmer has totaled 1,056 hours
    Running Total (6-12): 1,650 hours

    Age 12: Moved up to a new training group

    Moving to another new group means more pool time. From age 12-15 we assume 6 x 2 hour workouts per week. The season is also extended to 46 weeks, totaling 552 swimming hours per year.

    In the 3-year span from age 12-15, the swimmer has totaled 1,656 hours
    Running Total (6-15): 3,306 hours

    Age 15 and Beyond: Senior Level

    Around age 15 swimmers usually decide that swimming is right for them. The typical week of swimming includes 5 normal 2 hour sessions every afternoon, 3 morning swims (1.5 hours each), and 1 long 3.5 hour Saturday practice. This total is 18 hours per week, which equals 828 hours annually for a 46 week season.

    Cumulative Total at age 18: 5,790 hours
    Cumulative Total at age 21: 8,274 hours
    Cumulative Total at age 23 years, 1 month and 1 day: 10,000 hours

    That is over 17 years of swimming!

I know my math is littered with assumptions. I haven’t considered swim meets, taper workouts, holiday training, or injuries. However, the data is still interesting to see and you should get the idea that it takes a lot of time in the pool to be successful. For example, if you miss just 10 minutes for each practice, then it will take you nearly 1.5 years longer to hit 10,000 hours!

It should also be noted that just because you are putting in the hours doesn’t mean that you are actually reaping the benefits. Swimming long sets with poor technique will only make you an expert in poor technique.

So is Gladwell right about the 10,000 hours? Maybe, but I know a lot of good swimmers (and Olympians) that started swimming at age 12 or 17 and nowhere near 10,000 hours. What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

- Mark


Suggested Sets with the Turnmaster Pro

We introduced the Turnmaster Pro last fall, and have seen the versatile piece of pool equipment become an overnight success. Teams in Australia, Europe, and the US are putting in the Turnmaster Pro to maximize their pool space and improve their turn training.

Here are just a few Turnmaster Pro sets that coaches have told us about:

  • Set the Turnmaster Pro at 15m or 12.5m
    • Run timed sprint sets from the blocks
  • 4 x 200’s IM
    • Put the Turnmaster Pro at mid-pool, creating  4 ‘lengths’ of each stroke
    • Only allowed 1 stroke for Fly and Breast per length
    • Only allowed 2 strokes for Back and Free per length
    • Maintain good speed & distance underwater
  • Set the Turnmaster Pro at 7.5m
    • Roll through continuous back and forth turns
    • Hit 5 perfect turns in a row before stopping
  • 50 yard IM’s!
    • Set the Turnmaster at mid-pool
    • Little kids don’t need to do a 25 Fly
  • 5 x 300’s @ 5 or 6 minutes

Set the Turnmaster at 15 meters

  • Take the 400m age-group record and divide by 4
  • Then multiply by 3 to get the goal 300 time
  • Swimmers must stay below the record goal time
  • 19 turns each 300
  • Works the core

Legendary coach Jack Simon did the last set with the C.S. national team distance camp only he made them stay below world record pace. They were doubled over the next day. That is how you practice turns!



Swimming Pool Etiquette – Do you Pee in the Pool?

Okay, so many of us have done it, but does that make it right? Peeing in the pool is seemingly disgusting yet overwhelmingly satisfying at the same time.


  • Feels good
  • If you are in the middle of a workout and you don’t have time to get out during the main set and use the restroom
  • There is chlorine in the water and urine is sterile anyway
  • Helps heat up the pool on a cold day


  • You were always told to urinate into a toilet
  • Your fellow lane mates might find it a bit disturbing
  • Unless you are really skilled, you usually have to stop swimming in order to “go”

So what are your thoughts? Take the poll below to let us know how you feel about the situation:

- Mark


New Swimsense Firmware (v1.0.1.5) Released

Working closely with our partner SportSense, we are pleased to release a new update for the Swimsense watch.  This update (and any future update) is compatible with all Swimsense devices. So even if you bought you device 3 months ago, you will always have the latest and greatest features. Simply connect your watch to your MAC or PC and launch the Swimense Bridge application. You will automatically be prompted to update your Swimsense with the new firmware.

Here is a breakdown of the new updates in v1.0.1.5:

  • Continuous Save

Never lose your workout information. Even if the battery dies during your swim, the device will auto-save your data.

  • Improved Stroke Rate Calculation

Our previous Stroke Rate calculation included the time that you spent pushing off the wall, before you started stroking. By eliminating this ‘non-stroking’ time, we can calculate a more accurate Stroke Rate.

  • 24 Hour Clock

You now have the option to set the watch clock for AM/PM or 24 hour

  • Miscellaneous Features & Bug Fixes
    • Fixed random buzzer bug that occurred when clearing watch
    • Adjusted ready-to-swim display to properly read as ‘meters’ when device is configured to meters
    • Fixed issue where watch does not save weight setting when set in KG
    • Removed the charge symbol from the battery icon after disconnecting the device from a USB wall charger
    • Removed the rest time from the Interval History display
    • Made it so you can now increment your Age and Weight configurations by units of 1 rather than by units of 5

We are also scheduled to release another firmware update soon which will improve the battery life of the Swimsense. Today the watch supports 4 hours of swimming use and 20 hours of non-swimming use on a single charge. Our intent with the new update is to double these hours.

Keep tuned to the FINIS Blog where you can learn about other new Swimsense updates like how to export data or integrate with TrainingPeaks.

- Mark


The Development behind the New Zoomers Gold

We have alluded to it earlier and it’s time to unveil the Zoomers Gold! The new short-blade fin goes well beyond a simple color change as we have improved the overall comfort and performance. For a better understanding of the improvements, here is a quick story from the product development perspective…

Over the past several years, we have listened to swimmers and coaches from around the world about their training fins. We have also sought out podiatrists (foot doctors), design engineers, and even physics professors to help us better understand the mechanics of the foot as a swimmer kicks. We found that the original Zoomers already work extremely well in the water, with the main drawback being comfort against the foot.

So we set down a path to make the Zoomers more comfortable without sacrificing the overall performance and function of the fin. Now this is not an easy task since the hardness of the rubber is very delicate. If we make the fin too soft in some areas then it essentially becomes a floppy sock with no propulsion. We essentially had to start from scratch, building and testing new prototypes to determine not only the correct durometer (fancy word for ‘hardness’) to use, but also the correct placement.

I won’t go into the specifics of the formula we ended up with (hey we got to protect ourselves somehow right). But I can generally say that the area around the foot is the softest it has ever been, while the blade maintains a stiffness that is ideal for all training levels. The ‘magic’ occurs as the swimmer kicks and the leg power is seamlessly transferred to the blade tips, creating a fluid and natural propulsion through the water.

In sum, the new Zoomers Gold maintains the high-performance functionality that you would expect from the Zoomers short-blade training fins, but it has been altered to also provide superior comfort. Simply touching the surface of the new fin will put any foot-blister concerns to rest. And the best part is that the Zoomers Gold is ideal for all levels of swimming, from beginner to elite. Grab yourself a pair today!



Coaching Tips that Help you Visualize and Improve your Technique

We all learn differently.  Whether it is algebra, paying taxes, or swimming, we all grasp concepts in a different way. Therefore much like teachers, swim coaches need to educate their “students” in a variety of ways.

A coach may say to you during a workout, “Augment your angle of rotation so that you can lengthen your stroke cadence”. Now you may understand what he/she is trying to say, but for most of us the statement simply seems like a foreign language.

A better and more visual way to express the same thing would be to say “When you reach for an item on the top shelf do you stand flat footed and raise your arm up? No! You get on your tip toes, twist your body, stretch your shoulder, and find the couple of inches you need to grab the item. Now do the same thing in the water. Rotate your core and REACH on every stroke. Get that extra few inches every time!”

Do you get the concept now?
Here are some other “visual” cues that coaches use for their swimmers:

  • “Kick in a Bucket”
    Creates a nice tight flutter or dolphin kick that is in-line with the body. Larger amplitude kicks will produce unnecessary drag.
  • “Pretend there is a big barrel lying on its side in front of you in the water. It is resting about 6 inches below the water surface. As you approach the barrel, wrap your arm around that barrel and pull it under and past your body.”
    Reinforces a high-elbow catch and pull for the Freestyle stroke.
  • “A dolphin doesn’t just wag their tale up and down; they use their entire body to propel through the water. Start your dolphin kick at the chest and feel the undulation movement all the way down your body.”
    Helps swimmers kick from the chest and core during butterfly kick, rather than with the knees.
  • “Pretend your spine is rigid pole. Rotate your body around the pole as you swim Freestyle and Backstroke. Keep the head still, and if you need to breathe, rotate the head with the body.”
    Promotes a flat back and good rotation in Free and Back (snorkel recommended here). Also helps swimmers understand how their head should move when they breathe in Freestyle.

Now it’s your turn. Have you come across any other cool tips to pass on?



Swimsense Page-by-Page Help

We are pleased to introduce a new feature to the online Swimsense Training Log. The Page-by-Page help discreetly adds pull-tabs to each page, giving users instant “help” access.

After you log into your Swimsense training log account, look towards the right side of the screen to see two new tabs. Clicking on one of the tabs reveals new content about the page. Clicking outside of the tab will close it without affecting the current page.

  • The HELP tab goes through some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) about the page you are currently viewing.
  • The TIP tab gives some general advice about how to navigate and interpret the current page. The TIP will also point out any new features that we may have implemented on that page.

Both the HELP and TIP tabs may have multiple FAQ’s or tips associated with each, so be sure to click to the next arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the pulled tab to see more content. If you still need more information, then click the “Need More Help?” link in the bottom right-hand corner to be taken directly to our Support Center portal.

Overall, the new tabs will help you better navigate and understand your Swimsense Training Log. Whenever you get “stuck”, pull one of the tabs to reveal a helpful reminder. Be sure to check the HELP and TIP tabs often as we will regularly update the content with any new features, FAQ’s, walk-through videos, etc.



Hey I Just Swam a Mile!

As swimmers, we are always looking for that practice where you get out at the end exhausted yet overwhelming satisfied with the work you just did. Some of the best practices we have are usually the most grueling, but they are also the same practices that we are eager to brag about later. Even the most humble of swimmers can be heard boasting about a difficult set they completed. Why? Because we are proud of our efforts; we stretched the limits of our bodies and walked away from the pool a better swimmer.

The following is a great set for any swimmer to brag about later. It is a mile swim broken down in such a way where you can push yourself, not lose count, and not get bored. At the end, you will be able to say with 100% satisfaction “Hey I just swam a mile!”

1 Mile (short course yards) = 66 lengths of the pool

  • 275 yds (11 lengths)
  • 250 yds (10 lengths)
  • 225 yds (9 lengths)
  • 200 yds (8 lengths)
  • 175 yds (7 lengths)
  • 150 yds (6 lengths)
  • 125 yds (5 lengths)
  • 100 yds (4 lengths)
  • 75 yds (3 lengths)
  • 50 yds (2 lengths)
  • 25 yds (1 lengths)

More advanced swimmers can repeat the set for multiple miles, or you can even throw in different strokes or equipment to make the mile even more versatile. Perhaps you can even do one whole mile kicking? That would certainly be cool to Facebook your friends about.

Now head to the pool and create some bragging material!



Working the Legs with Tombstone Kicking

Sometimes people underestimate the importance of kicking. A strong kick while swimming raises the body position so that you are riding on top of the water. Also, strong kicks off the start and turns can be the difference between making your goal time or not. The swimmer that combines a consistent kick while swimming will surely outlast the swimmer that only pulls with their arms and drags the legs. Distribute the work load across your entire body (core, arms, and legs), and you will be swimming more efficiently.

Despite these facts, many swimmers and coaches tend to ignore the legs while training, but I am a firm believer of having at least 1 good kick set for every practice. Yes a kick-set is slower so you don’t get as much “yardage” in, but if you keep the intensity up, it will be well worth the time. As an extreme example, we throw in Tombstone kicking at least once a week…

Tombstone Kicking – Killing your Legs

Take your standard kickboard and before you push off the wall, set it vertical in the water. Grab the board on each side, and have it so half of the board is out of the water and the other half is below the surface. The board should be perpendicular to the water surface. When it is time to go, push off with the board in this vertical position and start kicking HARD!

The board will create a tremendous drag effect. Think of it as anti-streamline. Put your head down and keep grabbing the side of the board while you kick. Try not to let the board fall forward, but rather keep it perfectly vertical. Drive the legs for 12 ½ yards (halfway) and then drop the board down to a normal horizontal kicking position for the rest of the 25. Repeat the sequence on the way back:

10 x 50’s Kick @ 1:20

12 ½  Tombstone – HARD

12 ½  Normal – Moderate

12 ½  Tombstone – HARD

12 ½  Normal – Moderate

The effects of Tombstone kicking are instantaneous. In order for you to go anywhere, you must drive the legs hard. The drill works for all kick types (flutter, dolphin, breaststroke), and will create some tired legs. It is also pretty fun and breaks up the monotony of “normal” training. Although you may not have put in a lot of yardage, Tombstone kicking is high-quality and intense yardage that you will certainly not forget.



As Championship Season Dawns, Don’t Lose Focus

As we enter February, many college and club teams around the United States will be starting to get ready for their championship meet season. Goals have been set, the meet schedule is planned, the start of taper is only a week or two away (if it hasn’t started already), and the tech suits have been ordered. Everything seems to be in place to end the season with success, so the most important thing now is to NOT LOSE FOCUS. Coaches and swimmers have trained hard all season long. They made it through the “out-of-shape” fall practices, and the grueling holiday training. So now, more than ever, coaches and swimmers should continue to train at a high level.

If you are still training hard, be sure to bring the same high intensity levels to practice every day. Get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to where you want to go. You will not magically be a better swimmer if you continue to train at the same level every day.

Or if you have started to taper, it is even more important for you to concentrate on the “small stuff” such as a holding a tight streamline. The stroke details get a bit more magnified, and the swimming gets faster. If you have a set during taper where the coach wants you to “go all out”, then really go for it! Try and see if you can go a best time. I’m certain the whole practice won’t be fast.

You may have put in the work, but the season isn’t quite over yet. There still is a bit more work yet to be done. Recognize this fact and don’t lose your focus. Good luck!

- Mark