Friday, October 30, 2009

Velocity Meter/Video Swimming Technique Telemetry

In today’s world, telemetry is used in many business and sports applications to objectively measure performance.  For example, in auto racing, advances in telemetry are now widely used by crew chiefs to fine tune the handling or performance of a car using devices that output objective performance data.  Gone are the days where the crew chief puts his head under the roof of the car, to improve engine performance by simply listening to the sound of the engine.  

One sport that has lagged behind some of these advances has been competitive swimming, for obvious reasons.  Most of the real action occurs underwater, and until recently, equipment needed for underwater observation was not easy to use or convenient to acquire. Even from the side of the pool deck, many subtleties of the sport are not readily apparent to the observer.  Underwater video has dramatically revealed that even the technique of how one touches the wall, can mean the difference in winning Olympic gold.  Really only recently with web sites like YouTube, have main stream swimmers and coaches been able to view swimming from this new perspective.  But how many times can you look at another persons technique, and be confident you are able to replicate that in practice?  The real question is what does your technique look like, and what effective changes will really equate to improvement?  There are as many theories about that subject as video clips found on the web.  View any swimming discussion group and you know what I mean.

However, some of that has now changed, and access to crystal clear underwater images can only fix obvious flaws, because the subtle changes in velocity associated with changes in stroke technique is still somewhat subjective.  A device called a “Velocity Meter” can now be integrated and synchronized with underwater video, that adds a new layer of truth about swimming technique.  I have been personally using such a device for more than 20 years, and have thousands of files on individuals of every level and age.  And the truth, because of the sensitivity of the velocity telemetry, creates a transparent picture of swimming technique. Now portions of technique that accelerate or decelerate the body are now more clearly defined.  No matter what your level, this velocity telemetry (shown above with the red line) clearly point the way for improvement, because it is very specific to each individual.  Swimmers and coaches can now go to practice armed with the same information on what parts of a stroke need attention, and an effective training plan can be created.  Repeated testing over time also reveals if real change in technique in a positive manner is being accomplished.

The good news is this Velocity Meter/Video telemetry is now available to teams or individuals, and is reasonably priced. Since the Rome World Championships, a number of world ranked swimmers and two elite training centers have had this testing conducted, and are incorporating the findings into their training program.  More specific information about this telemetry and arrangements can be found at the following web address.