Collecting the Item and certain of its powers (though uncertain of how it assisted them), they moved on toward seminars and sessions and demonstrations involving some of the most accomplished and beautiful swimmers… EVER.
Upon their return, they gifted me with the Item. And just like the reluctant heroes in children stories, video games, and adventure swims, I was skeptical and yet intrigued. The Finis Tempo Trainer Pro was heralded to help you maintain a set stroke rate or pace. It would simply remind you (by beeping) to keep up with it, either at a consistent rate per minute or for a set interval. You simply put it in your swim cap and go.
I held the Item up, channeling my inner Link. Could this magical item truly help me improve my stroke turnover rate like it said it did? Could it really? Could I… Level Up?
I wanted to improve my turnover rate, which resides somewhere in the low 50s for several reasons, but mostly because it seemed like if my arms moved around a bit faster, but still just as relaxed as ever, my body would generate more heat, and that seemed like a good benefit to swimming in cold water.
Back at the Pool at the End of the World, I decided to give the Tempo Pro a try for 300 yards. I opted for 58 strokes per minute and placed it in my cap just over my ear.
That was a mistake.
The beeping was so loud I was convinced that everybody in the pool could hear it. It was so irritating; I felt myself trapped in some sort of torture chamber. My nerves were wearing down, coming very close to my Irish fuse…
What fresh hell is this?! I demanded. It was all a trick, all along! It was not a good Item! My friends had unwittingly passed along some evil device!
I stuck it out for the 300 yards, insulting the Tempo Pro the entire time.
I began an acronym:
F = Fresh Hell
S = Suffering
When I finished the 300, I realized that I didn’t mind the concept, and I seemed able to swim at 58 spm… it was just that the beeping was torturous.
Recalling all the RPGs I’ve ever played and how awkwardly the hero is with his brand new Items while he figures out all of their possibilities and benefits, I decided I would try it again. This time, I put the counter in the back of my cap, where it would have to travel through all of my hair and my Germanic skull before getting to my over-sized brain.
With the beeping softer, I found swimming with the Tempo Pro much less irritating. The beep now actually seemed to be almost cheering me on. It wasn’t going Beep, Beep, Beep. Rather, I imagined it was saying, “Reach! Reach! Reach!” I was actually quite happy to reach forward at every command. I have found that using it as a tool from time to time at least keeps me thinking about my turnover rate, which isn’t something I would otherwise know how to improve.
I am not certain as to the best application of the strokes per minute feature, but I have adopted the same approach for it that I use for any swim aid:
1. Have a realistic goal in mind (i.e. 52 spm to 58 spm)
2. Use your Item sparingly (don’t let it become a crutch)
3. Chase the feeling once the Item is gone (focus on the effect and mimic it on your own)
I regulate the Tempo Pro’s use for specific distances or times. I like to use it best after I’ve been working particularly hard so that I can make sure that a long set of easy isn’t too easy. I use it for the first 200 yards of every mile during a long pool set, just to keep myself thinking about my turnover rate. I did use the Tempo Pro for an entire 3,000 yard workout once – just to see what it was like. Believe it or not, my imagination does drown it out over time and negate its usefulness as a reminder. The important thing to remember about any swim aid is that it is a tool. It is helping you, but you still have to do the work. There is not a single thing out there that will make you a better, faster, more accomplished and amazing swimmer – you have to do that.
I am excited to use the Item in an open water setting (although, probably not an adventure swim or children’s story or video game). I noticed that I was pretty well able to keep tempo for 25 yards, but then I hit the wall. Literally. And the turns always afford me a break. I’ve decided to reserve judgment on my official Level Up until after I’ve had a chance to really prove my stroke rate capabilities in open water.
And that’s all I have to say about that.