Su­per Sen­sors


Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENTS - BY CLAIRE DUN­CAN

Have you ever en­vied a pro­fes­sional triath­lete’s re­sources to per­fect their swimming? With main­stream un­der­wa­ter cam­era tech­nol­ogy, you can film your­self swimming and have your stroke as­sessed by a pro­fes­sional. I had my stroke video an­a­lyzed by biome­chan­ics spe­cial­ist and per­for­mance con­sul­tant Alisa Boulanger, owner of IFS Per­for­mance. Hav­ing a skilled set of eyes look at my data helped to iden­tify the causes of in­ef­fi­cient strokes.

Why should triath­letes get a stroke anal­y­sis

Most triath­letes don’t spend hours in the pool ev­ery­day with a coach who knows their stroke and can cor­rect it as they swim. “Stroke anal­y­sis ses­sions are an easy way to get qual­ity ad­vice im­me­di­ately so you can start work­ing on cor­rec­tions dur­ing your next swim work­out. Even small changes will lead to a smoother feel and faster times in the wa­ter,” says Boulanger. Vis­ual learn­ers will ben­e­fit from be­ing able to see their stroke on cam­era. It will help to un­der­stand past feed­back from coaches and ap­ply what you’ve learned next time you’re in the wa­ter. A cleaner stroke can pre­vent in­jury and re­sults in a longer ath­letic life.

Ideally, video­tap­ing will in­clude out-of-wa­ter and un­der­wa­ter footage. Be­fore the ses­sion, coaches should re­view ath­letic history in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous sport par­tic­i­pa­tion and past in­juries. Learn­ing an ath­lete’s back­ground is es­sen­tial to un­der­stand­ing their stroke and help­ing them achieve their goals.

Timeline for im­prove­ment

Most ath­letes need be­tween three and six ses­sions to see no­tice­able im­prove­ments in per­for­mance. These ses­sions should ideally be a few weeks apart, en­sur­ing there is enough time to prac­tice drills and es­tab­lish new norms. Chang­ing move­ments in the wa­ter re­quires build­ing new habits. It takes com­mit­ment and will be dif­fi­cult be­fore it be­comes nat­u­ral. Ath­letes should fo­cus on slow­ing down, pay­ing at­ten­tion to their bod­ies and prac­tis­ing the drills pro­vided dur­ing the ses­sions re­peat­edly. A fol­low-up ses­sion will help en­sure that progress is be­ing made.

The av­er­age rate for a ses­sion is about $150 per hour.

How to make a swim video

The out-of-wa­ter and un­der­wa­ter videos each pro­vide es­sen­tial view­points of the swim­mer’s stroke. While film­ing on land, Boulanger ex­presses the im­por­tance of get­ting footage of the ath­lete swimming from mul­ti­ple van­tage points in­clud­ing to­wards and away from the cam­era. This will yield in­for­ma­tion on the swim­mer’s bal­ance and agility in the wa­ter. It will also help to pick up on com­mon faults. For ex­am­ple, Boulanger no­ticed an un­nec­es­sary flick of the hand dur­ing my stroke re­cov­ery phase.

For un­der­wa­ter videos, a side view pro­vides the op­ti­mal per­spec­tive of body align­ment and arm cy­cle. This view shows the swim­mer’s catch strength and dis­tance per stroke range. The un­der­wa­ter front view re­veals sta­bil­ity in the wa­ter and arm po­si­tion­ing. Specif­i­cally, it shows cen­tre-line cross­ing and tip­ping in the wa­ter.

As for cam­eras, a reg­u­lar lens is ideal for pool spa­ces that are clear and bright. In lim­ited space, use a fish-eye lens. The wider an­gle range can cap­ture more stroke cy­cles in the frame.

Com­mon swim ad­just­ments for triath­letes

Most triath­letes need to im­prove their bal­ance and agility in the wa­ter. To work on this, prac­tice side swimming by keep­ing the arm and shoul­der po­si­tion sta­tion­ary for an en­tire length, es­pe­cially when tak­ing a breath. To work on bal­ance, prac­tice swimming slowly and main­tain­ing proper co-or­di­na­tion in the wa­ter. Im­prov­ing your scull will make your catch stronger and this will dra­mat­i­cally im­prove your swimming speed. Sculling ex­er­cises are the best way strengthen your fore­arm mus­cles.

Boulanger’s favourite drill

A pop­u­lar swim drill called “golf” will help mea­sure stroke ef­fi­ciency. Swim 50 m and count your strokes, not­ing the time it took to com­plete the in­ter­val. Add the two num­bers to­gether. For ex­am­ple, 60 sec­onds with 60 strokes would give you a score of 120. As your score goes down, your stroke gets more ef­fi­cient – it’s an ef­fec­tive drill for mea­sur­ing progress. Top swim­mers achieve scores “un­der par” (72) for this drill.

Break­ing it down

Con­sid­er­ing the high cost of bikes and other equip­ment, a stroke anal­y­sis ses­sion av­er­ag­ing $150 per hour is a rea­son­able in­vest­ment and one of the best you can make for your suc­cess in the sport.

Video anal­y­sis dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion with Swimming Canada’s High Per­for­mance Cen­tre On­tario

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