SwimAnalyzer 1.0: Race Modelling and Analysis for Coaches!

Isn’t it funny, how sometimes the greatest ideas stem from what are seemingly innocuous conversations at the time? This happened to myself and my coaching colleague Benoit this time last year, when a conversation on pool deck with Guennadi Touretski, led to a discussion around the idea of race modelling. The surprising thing about race modelling is, although we know it’s an incredibly important aspect for competition and training, there is no commercially available program to do this. Crazy, right? That’s what we thought. And it’s a similar story for race analysis systems themselves; these comprehensive programs are generally reserved for large institutions and sports federations that have the finances and resources to build custom-designed software programs utilising the latest technology – that are  usually also not commercially available and/or are too expensive for smaller institutions and club programs. So here was a perfect opportunity for us to develop something valuable for the swimming community, we had a great vision, and we were on a mission…

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Fast forward to a year later, and we have now developed the SwimAnalyzer 1.0 race model application for iPad, available on the iTunes Store. How did we get there? Many more conversations, brainstorms, belief in our vision, trust in our product, and dedication to making the project a success, knowing that it would fulfil a need amongst our peers in the swimming community. As a coach and a scientist, both Benoit and I really wanted to make a difference for the coaches at the sub-elite and development levels, those coaches so keen to learn, to implement scientific practises in training and competition, and improve their athlete’s performances, in order to reach that next level. But that’s not to say that the app is not applicable for elite programs too! SwimAnalyzer1.0 is simple to operate, easy to understand, and could be used and implemented by coaches (and athletes, assistants, mums, dads etc) of all levels. And, with the app translated into 7 different languages and counting, it can also be used by coaches of many nationalities across the world. Mission accomplished!

Essentially, SwimAnalyzer1.0 is comprised of 3 components: the race model generator, the race analysis program, and the training tables. Below is a brief summary of each of the components which (hopefully!) addresses all the important points, to enable you to start using the app right away.

The Race Model Generator

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The race model generator is of course the most popular part of the app, but it is also the most important as it underpins the use of the other two components. Generating a race model is easy; simply enter your swimmer’s event, distance, and goal time, and – voilà! – you are provided with a model of how to swim the event. Numerous race goals may be created for each athlete and stored in the app, to be implemented at the right time in the season. The information provided by the app includes start time, split times, segment times, lap times, average velocities, stroke rate and stroke count ranges, and distance per stroke range. So how are the models generated? From a database of real competition results, compiled from national and international competitions from 2010 to the present, ranging from age group to elite performances, up to a distance of 200m, and for all strokes excluding individual medley (NB: upgrades will be made to include these events as soon as sufficient data is available). The race models are generated according to the pattern of how the event is swum as calculated from the real data, to a sensitivity of 1s. Thus, the more data that becomes available and can be added to our database, the more sensitive and accurate the model will be in future. Win win!

The Race Analysis Program

image008Now that we have our shiny new goal, we want to implement it at the next competition, right? But how do you determine if your athlete achieves the goal? Well, by performing a simple race analysis! The race analysis component utilises the camera of your iPad to film the event in real time, while you press a button on the screen to record the splits when prompted by the app. Simple! And the results are almost instantaneous, providing you first with the video of the event to replay with your athlete, as well as a graphical representation of their swim velocity versus the model, and a comparison of the actual race data versus the race model. Once you have recorded a number of races in the same event, you can compare analyses within and between athletes, find the strengths and weaknesses, and if you wish, create your own model from this data. We are aware that recording splits in real time is not 100% accurate and requires some practice of the user, thus we have made it possible to adjust the data and add official times and other parameters that become available post-race. This allows the most accurate data to be recorded and stored in the app for future reference and comparison. The beauty of this app is that it gives coaches and athletes immediate access to race footage and race data sufficient to plan for successive events, and modify and create new goals and strategies as needed, at any given competition. Not to mention it’s applicability in training for those stand-up time trials!

The Training Tables

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And last but not least…the training tool that will help your swimmer reach their competition goal! Let’s face it, what good is a race goal and a fancy model if you actually have no idea how to train to achieve them? Not much! The purpose of the training table is to link the competition goal to daily training sessions by placing the focus on swimming technique and developing swimming efficiency across the spectrum of training zones. Individual training efficiency tables can be created for each swimmer’s events by simply entering the goal time, and all prognostic training speeds are then calculated from this. The training zones used in the tables are based on the definition of Madsen (2007), and adapted using real training data to increase the range and specificity of the training times. As these tables are designed to increase the mechanical components of the swimming technique, stroke count ranges are the key component and have been calculated based on the swimming square of Legrand (2001). Thus, during training, the focus may be placed on swimming time, stroke efficiency, or the interrelationship between both, for repetition distances from 50m to 800m. And the real value of the training efficiency tables? The ability to individualise training for every swimmer based on their own goals, whilst still performing the same session! And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing that during each session you are actively working to achieve your swimmers’ race goals! *Sigh*

Hopefully this introduction to the SwimAnalyzer1.0 application has inspired you to take your training and competition preparation to the next level. Obviously we love it and are passionate about using and developing this great practical tool, but don’t just take our word for it – try it yourself! And when you do, here are some tips on its use. Happy training!

5 Top Tips for Using the SwimAnalyzer1.0 application:

  1. Use stepping stones rather than boulders. Create the ultimate goal, and then break it down using milestone goals along the way that monitor progress, validate the process, and keep swimmer’s motivation high. This is also applicable to the training tables; create multiple tables within the macrocycle that match the current race goal.
  2. Practise makes perfect! The more you use and practise with the race analysis program, the more accurate your analyses will be. So, get clicking!
  3. Bring it to pool deck. Use the race analysis data to identify the weaknesses in your swimmer’s technique and race strategy, and bring these to the pool. Address them in training, perhaps with the aid of the training efficiency tables, and turn these weaknesses into strengths that will achieve the race goal.
  4. Practical tip: Enter all goal times for the race model generator and the training efficiency tables in seconds, not minutes. (Eg. 1:46.0 is entered as 106.0).
  5. Practical tip: The SwimAnalyzer1.0 application is currently available for download on iPad, and can only be found on the App Store whilst searching on an iPad (i.e. it won’t be shown on iPhone or Mac computers).
  6. Bonus tip: If you would like an Excel-based printable version of the Training Tables (for Windows) then please download here!

Feel free to share your stories, your goals, your wins and successes – we would love to hear about them!

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