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Test Set: Heart Rate Recovery & Memory

June 12, 2024

Windsor Athletic Club (West Windsor Township, New Jersey)


I have been doing Dave Salo's "Pulse Plot" test set (see this earlier post for a deeper description) going back to 2010. While I do it at all phases of my training, I particularly like to do it within about a week to 10 days of a big taper meet. Today marks eight days ahead of the start of the USMS Short Course Yards national championships and I had the opportunity to do this in a 25 yard pool, something I haven't trained much in since moving to London last year.


I was all kitted out with technology today, believing myself to be ready to do and track this set:

  • Sunnto 5 Peak watch set in open water mode worn on my right wrist, as that seems to have the clearest heart rate measurement on the watch face

  • Oura ring as secondary measure of heart-rate (to compare against the Sunnto) work on my left index finger

  • Finis Smart Goggles to capture my times

  • And then an old iPhone in a waterproof case which I was going to use to record my heartrate data as the set progressed


The technology almost worked perfectly ... except that the iPhone died during my 1500 standard warmup. I was faced with a dilemma. I had the time and interest in doing the 8 x 100 on 3:00 test set, but I typically have a diving board and pencil on deck to capture my heart rate at 0:10, 0:30 and 1:00 after each 100. My plan was to just type that data into an email on the iPhone ...


I considered just bagging the set and doing something differrent, not convinced I could remember the sequence of 24 heart rate readings (e.g., 3 readings after each 100).


But, I really wanted to do this ... so I did and then, after each 100, metronimically repeated the sequence of HR readings over and over again. As soon as I finished the set, I quickly dried my hands, ran/walked into the locker room, immediately typed these into an email on my current iPhone and then did my cool-down sets.


The resulting chart, when compared to approximately the same time period ahead of 2012 USMS Nationals and 2023 Canadian Nationals produced a graph unlike I've ever had before:

Typically, the variation is like seen between the red and the blue lines, with the slopes roughly similar ... but this result showed:

  • I maintained a much lower heart rate throughout the entire set, almost independent of speed. That should bode well for my longer races.

  • On the other hand, I couldn't quite achieve the peak speed that I had done earlier.


As I'd like to swim fast, my takeaway is that I need to rest more ... so that's what I'm going to do!


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