Critical Swim Speed (CSS)

by Coach Gordon Gridley

How well do you perform swimming various distances?  Are you strictly a sprinter (50 - 100), but end up bonking after that?  Measuring the velocity at which your body can perform optimally without reaching the lactate threshold can help you understand (and improve on) how well you are able to hold a strong pace over longer distances.  Measuring your lactate threshold often involves a treadmill and a pin prick for getting a blood sample, or wearing some goofy mask which measures your air and co2 output.  Neither of these two options are desirable or adapted to swimmers.  That is where the CSS test comes in.  It is designed for swimmers to identify at which level, measured in terms of a 100 pace, your body is starting to go into a lactic threshold.  

Knowing your CSS pace will help you understand how well you are able to pace yourself over a long distance.  When you do a quality swim set, you should use your CSS time to help you establish a pace to increase your aerobic capacity.  Your CSS time should be roughly the base pace you should be able to hold for a mile.  It is NOT indicative of where you should be at for sprinting.  There are many different ways to measure your aerobic capcity and this is one of them.

Here are the current CSS levels for many South Davis Masters members.

When you train, you should stretch your capacity.  You should often put your limits to the test by performing a red mist workout.  

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