As all my athletes know, I love technology. I think it’s a great way to not only track and quantify your workouts, but it’s also a way to easily hold athletes accountable. Using Trainingpeaks, which is an online training journal, I’m able to program athlete’s workouts, which in turn each athlete can use whatever tech they have at their disposal – powermeters, heart rate monitors, gps watches, or even just a smartphone! – to upload their completed workout into the journal, which I can then review.
I bring this up after the post I refereed to on Sunday which discusses the pros vs cons of using technology.
One of the gadgets I use frequently is the Swimsense Watch by Finis.
Now, I will admit the watch is dated. I’m not sure when exactly it came out, but they haven’t really done an update on it (hardware wise) from what I can tell. They’ve updated the software on it, but again it’s a pretty old looking and feeling watch. If you are looking for something newer, you can check out the Garmin Swim which costs about the same (and I’m hoping Santa brings me one), or the Garmin 910 if you want a full triathlon watch with the swim feature.
Back to the Finis. Like I said, the watch is dated, with a small and hard to read screen (crap, or maybe I’m just getting old!). I really only use the watch in the pool as a stop watch. Once you hit start, you can complete your entire workout, hit finish and be done. The watch will automatically calculate your intervals and rest periods, which is pretty sweet.
The magic of the Finis (and other swim watches), really happens post workout once you download the info. Now, although I do use TrainingPeaks for all the training logs, I use Finis’ Streamline Log to analyze swim workouts.
Let’s take a look at one of my easier recovery swims from last week.
Workout: 1250 yards, broken up with 200 yard repeats after a warm up.
Now, you’ll see I said I did 1250 but the log is only looking at 1175. The missing 75 yards comes from 3 x 25 yards I did kicking. The watch uses accelerometers, just like those in your smartphone which tells it which side is facing up, to measure distance. Now, because I’m not moving my arms during those kicking sessions the watch thinks I’m stopped on a wall; it’s one of the downsides of it. Really the only downside as far as software goes.
If you see above there’s a button that says “Export”, this allows you to easily transfer the date to traininglogs, including trainingpeaks.
You can see it’s pretty straightforward; pace, laps, stroke count and type. It also lets you drill into the workout a bit more. Here’s a look at one of my 200 intervals I did where I varied the pace starting off with long glides, and finishing with fact arms.
This is where the watch really is useful in analyzing your swim habits, and what you need to work on.
Now let me explain a little of what your looking at, vs. what the interval called for. The watch considers a lap as a length of the pool, or 25 yards. So lap 1 & 2 would be a 50, lap 1, 2, 3 & 4 would be 100.
The interval went like this broken up by 50:
1st 50 – long slow glide breathing every 3rd stroke.
2nd 50 – middle cadence, breathing every 3rd stroke.
3rd 50 – fast cadence, breathing every 3rd stroke
4th 50 – fast cadence, breathing 5th stroke
Knowing how I swam, you can say that I swim the fastest by doing long slow glides which is right. Every swim I do, my fastest times always come from the long glides. I was a distance swimmer in high school, and have always been a triathlete so being conservative has always been my thing.
Now, this is good to know, because being a conservative and long swimmer is my strength, it’s my weakness I need to train! So my most painful workouts come from having to do really short and fast cadence sets.
This bottom chart is the “SWOLF”, or swim golf score that basically combines your stroke count and lap time. The goal is to have the lowest SWOLF score, indicating an
efficient swim. Which again for me, you can see that my fastest times are when my cadence is lower.
This is an great test to do when swimming 500 or 1000 yards. You can either just swim at race pace and figure out when your form breaks, or alternate pacing every 100 and see where your most efficient. Both can provide great detail on your strengths and weaknesses.
So as you can see, technology can be really helpful in identifying areas you can work on. This is true in and out of the pool, as having a power meter and GPS can be great for cycling and running respectively.
I’m a big fan of the swim watch. You might not need to purchase one if you have a friend or coach that has one and you can use to do some testing with! I think having the data above, and being able to test and analyze the data every 3-4 weeks would be ideal!