Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fishing Around For Better Swimming Technique Analysis?

Unfortunately, there appears to be more longitudinal research data available regarding the swimming proficiencies of various fish species than long term data following large numbers of randomized human swimmers.” This is a quote from a January blog post on The Athlete Village web site titled “Improved Swimming Performance Utilizing Video Analysis” by Coach Abigail. Having been involved in swimming for many years, and especially in swimming research, unfortunately, this is one of the most insightful statements about the sport of swimming you will find on any web site. Because until very recently, the ease of capturing digital video into a computer, and the advent of video web sites, where this medium could be shared to the masses, was not an easy task. Until recently, swimming stroke technique analysis has always been a bit of an art form. It was reserved for those that seemed to possess a special insightful visual power of observation, driven by a unique vocabulary of terms and catch phrases that almost made it mystical in nature. While we mere mortals often deferred to these people for information, these soothsayers still exist in our sport, using that same belief system and are now imparting their beliefs all over the internet.

In keeping with Coach Abigail’s statement about fish research, it made me think, that every now and then, even I get a new rod and reel, and change the line, but does it mean that I will catch more fish? And so all over the web, many have jumped on the underwater video analysis band wagon or the DVD of the latest greatest swimmer is now on sale. Swimming traditionally has always been a bit of a copy cat sport, that many have capitalized on, but unfortunately whether your looking from the surface or underwater, it’s still virtually the same basic belief system being used that has surrounded stroke technique assessment. Using subjective terms, do all those basic analogies we always hear, actually happen when we swim through the water? Can someone actually just visualize the phases of the swimming stroke that really generate the most propulsive force, and at that moment, know exactly how fast I am really going? Can even a swimmer in the water actually “feel” when maximum velocity is achieved during a stroke cycle? Well, for the most part, you probably can by recycling that same belief system and applying it with underwater video. That’s because up until now, objectively measuring swimming proficiency or technique was really hard to do, took a lot of work, and typically required a laboratory environment.

Freestyle Velocity Meter/Video Telemetry from TeamTermin Sports Performance on Vimeo.

So, with all that said, how about checking out my new rod and reel! It’s called Velocity Meter/Video Telemetry, and is a cross between underwater digital video, combined with high speed velocity telemetry. We refer to it as “Hybrid Video”, because it captures underwater digital video that streams directly into the computer, and at the same time, high speed instantaneous velocity telemetry also streams into the computer, where both signals are synchronized into one file for immediate playback. When I play back the file, I can see exactly where and in what phase of the stroke cycle create propulsive velocity, and the phases that don't produce anything. Front, back or somewhere in between and by the way, after almost 20 years of collecting this type of telemetry, every swimmer is really different. It takes 1000 data points of velocity telemetry a second, to actually reveal the very subtle velocity excursions positive or negative, during one stroke cycle. And with fluctuations in velocity of more than 40 per cent, sometimes in less than three tenths of a second, really makes me wonder if that belief system with just regular vision, above or below the surface, can really sense all this variance in velocity. Best of all, it is also very portable, and has been gaining popularity on many pool decks, around the world, so no need for that laboratory anymore!

Is your swimming technique ready for a new rod and reel? If so, the only thing we promise, is that you will never look at your swimming, quite the same way ever again!