Monday, January 26, 2015

So much Data...what does it mean?!?

I belong to a triathlon team and our goal is to mentor and guide new women in the sport of triathlon, in fact that is a topic for another blog!  I mention it because today in our private group there was a lot of talk of swim information and what it all means.  These new fancy watches record all this data but what does it really mean to the normal athlete? Well apparently not much, there was a lot of debate and confusion so I thought I would break down some of the swim stats you are seeing from Garmin and what they all mean to me.

See below from my most recent pool swim:
SUMMARY Section:
Distance: Pretty self explanatory, the total meters or yards that you swam in your work out.
Pool Length: Again, this is set by you on the Garmin. You have 25/50 and then you can set custom length. 
Time: This is the elapsed time of your work out
Average pace: This calculates the average time it takes you to swim 100 meters over the course of your work out.
Calories: I never really use this to guide me but it gives you ball park what you burned.

TIMING Section:
Time: Is your total work out time
Elapsed Time: If you tend to pause your clock while working out for breaks, etc this will be MORE than the time section because it is calculating the overall total time. 
Average Pace: Again this is your average 100m time pace
Best Pace: This is the fastest 100m pace of your work out. (I think my watch got confused for this workout)

SWIMMING Dynamics (this is where things get tricky):
Total Strokes: How many strokes did you take in the entire work out? This will be affected if you are doing drills that don't involve strokes with your watch arm.
Average Strokes: This is the average of how many strokes it took you to go one pool length. 
Average Stroke Rate: This is breaking down how many strokes do you take in one minute, depending on how long it takes you do a pool length this number should be higher than your average stroke per pool length. 
Max Stroke Rate: The largest number of strokes that you took in one minute during the work out
SWOLF: The time in seconds plus the strokes it takes you to complete one pool length.  Ideally you want this score as low as possible. 

Now the real question is: What does all this mean to me?
Well as a swimmer you want to be as efficient as possible, gliding in the water with each stroke. Ideally you want to take as few strokes as possible while still moving quickly on each pool length thus having a low SWOLF.  The two values really work together to ascertain your over all swim health because a very low stroke count but a very long time to reach the other side will not be over all efficient.  Same with a high stroke count but low time to cross the pool, you are expending a lot of energy.  You need to find the sweet spot that results in a lower SWOLF.  

Your body composition may also affect these numbers so it is important as with all work outs NOT to compare yourself with others, if someone has longer arms they may have less strokes or if you are doing drills your numbers will be thrown off. If you want to compare work to compare your own workouts to see your development over time but keep in mind certain drills will affect these numbers. Also, try to limit your push and glide off the wall because this will really throw off your stroke numbers, there are no walls in an open water swim!

Did this clear things up? Still have questions? Leave a comment!

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