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Determine swimming ability and technique with 20 minute test

Highly effective swimming is considered to be roughly 70 percent technique and only 30 percent conditioning. "A person may have a high fitness level for a variety of sports, but if he lacks effective swimming technique, he will be unable to swim very far or very fast," says master swimming coach, Emmett Hines.

In his book, Fitness Swimming, Hines suggests that individuals test their fitness level before beginning any program with a T-20 Swim. "The idea is to see how far you can swim in 20 minutes," Hines says. "The T-20 swim is an excellent practical indicator of swimming ability and is an ideal way to assess both technique and conditioning levels at the same time."

  1. Swim any stroke or combination of strokes as far as possible in 20 minutes. You must count your laps. Strive for an even pace throughout the swim. Do not speed up in the last two minutes of the swim. During the swim, if you need to stop and rest for short periods, you may do so. The clock keeps ticking, however, and these rest periods are part of your elapsed time.
  2. At the end of the swim, finish the lap you are on when 20:00 ticks by. Note your elapsed time when you complete that lap. This means you will have an elapsed time that is a bit over 20:00. (For example, near the end of the swim, you arrive at the wall and the pace clock shows that you have been swimming for 19:40. You need to swim one more lap. When you complete that lap, the clock shows 20:30. Now you are finished.)
  3. Upon completing the swim, take your immediate heart rate (IHR) reading. Once you complete your swim, record the number of yards (or meters) you swam, your IHR after the swim, and the elapsed time of the swim. Once you have recorded the information, swim or tread water easily for at least five minutes in order to cool down.

After the exercise, swimmers should look up and record their T-20 cruise pace or the average pace per 100 yards (or meters) during the swim. This will show the fastest pace that an individual can swim for an extended time, while indicating combined swimming fitness and ability levels.

This is an excerpt from Fitness Swimming.