Swim Analysis Using a GoPro

by Pool Builders on 12-09-2014 in Articles

So I have been swimming for triathlon now for about 4 years. I have adjusted my swim to use a more relaxed effort like Total Immersion Swimming prescribes. I took a master swim class for a few weeks and the coach said things like "you are over rotating" and "kick more." I adjusted to what she said and saw my times get better. I took off from swimming during a couple of moves and trying to find a pool. I did not swim very much in 2012 and 2013. I did compete in 2014 and felt like my swim times were okay, but not spectacular. I began this offseason trying to improve my swim along with a more difficult offseason plan for running and biking in preparation for my first Ultra/Ironman distance race in October 2015.

My swim times have been improving greatly over the last few weeks. I had gone from a hard effort 100 being about 1:45 to a hard effort being about 1:35. I was using a training method of the other 4 strokes, kick practice, and trying to use the skills of Total Immersion Swimming. I thought I was on track, but I wanted to see for sure, so I contacted a friend who had a GoPro camera that could be submerged. Have you seen these cameras? They are incredible and can provide video footage underwater, above water, and through rough terrain. I read some about video with a GoPro for swimming on another blog and found out you need to have a weight to it, otherwise it will float. I began to look around my house to try and see what I had to use as a weight and that I could configure to the base of the waterproof camera case. I finally found a metal piece that went to a wood lathe I have. It has a hole in the middle of the piece. I was able to take two zip ties and run them up through the middle of the hole, around the base of the camera case and the secure them. I now had a compact weight system to place the camera on the bottom of the pool.

I went to the pool and started with some above water filming to see what my stroke looked like from above. I did not have a way on the first day of filming to view my video while at the pool and so I did not get to view it until I got back to my office. After the above water filming of about 200 yards I took the camera down below the water. In some information I had read, I did not want to place the camera at the base of the wall because I was not as interested in my turns at the wall. I set up the camera about 10-15 feet from the wall and placed it on the black line. I estimated what the angle of the camera would need to be to view me swimming. I hit the record button and then headed back to the wall to begin the swim. According to my program I was to swim 2x800 yard swims which would give me plenty of footage to watch. I tried to concentrate on my form to make sure the filming was good. In my form I concentrate on a few things: 1) clean rotation of the hips 2) keep my head down so my legs stay close to the surface 3) stay relaxed 4) direct my arm at a steep angle as it comes into the water for the pull phase of the swim 5) try to keep my elbow bent slightly as I pull through the stroke under water to maximize the surface area of my arm 6) have a strong kick of which I thought I needed more of a kick because that is what you always hear. That's enough to think about in a stroke don't you think.

I could not wait to get back to my office to view the video. My times had been pretty good for the 800 averaging about 1:48 per 100 at 70% effort on the 1st and about 1:42 per 100 on the 2nd with an 80% effort. As I viewed the above water filming, I looked decent with a high elbow and a good rotation. However, I noticed that I seemed to be over rotating a bit and facing my head toward the ceiling as I breathed. I seem to be smooth as I entered the water and did not make a big splash. I had another swimmer beside me in the water that splashed a lot. I then went to view the underwater camera. Wow, was I surprised at how terrible I looked under water with my stroke. I was all over the place. My legs, of which I thought needed a bigger kick, were separating and kicking some 2 feet outside my body. You are supposed to be streamlined through the swim and I certainly was not. I always thought I was kicking from my hips like the swimmers say to do, but I was kicking from my knees even to the point of bending my knee at a 45 degree angle. I noticed that I was almost rotating to my back to breath, over rotating by a massive amount. I was not aerodynamic and certainly was blocking myself from faster times as I was exposing my chest to the water. I was definitely breathing toward the ceiling. While I thought I had a very minimal body turn and minimal kick, the video revealed these were two false assumptions. I was bit discouraged until I thought to myself... "This is why you view film!" "If I can swim as fast as I was swimming with that form, how much faster with less energy could I swim with a better form." I also noticed that when I would bring my arms through the water I was bringing them underneath my body and across my body instead of out to the side with a bent elbow, especially on the side that I breathed to. I attributed this to the over rotation of my torso and hips.

I viewed some YouTube videos of issues in freestyle swimming and how to have a better form. I noticed a few things that needed to change from the video:
1) I needed less body rotation and must turn my head more to breath
2) My hips and legs were below the water too much and I need to face more downward with my head to get my body aligned
3) must breath to the side more and not to the ceiling
4) I must calm my kick down, (I was excited to see that I had plenty of kick)
5) I must make sure to not bring my arms across my body, but rather swim to the side
6) most importantly, I must become more streamlined

I set out on my next workout to correct some of these ills. Recently I had won a few swim devices to help with your swim form. I won FINIS flippers, agility hand paddles, front middle snorkel, streamline kick board, goggles, and a swim cap.More on that win in a later post. I took the flippers, the front middle snorkel, and the streamline kick board to try and help with feeling the streamline. I also worked on minimizing my kick and staying streamline. I brought the GoPro again, but this time I make sure I had the wi-fi setup on it that could communicate with my iPhone which was in a plastic bag so I could view the video instantly. This is the only way to go to improve your swim immediately. I noticed that when I swam with a better form, with a better kick, with making sure I did not enter my hand too soon into the water to pull, and I breathed to the side my times were better. Concentrating on all these items is tough. After just one practice with these results and with trying to learn a new form I swam a 1:29 100 yard swim!!! Yes, I am on the way to a better swim because of using the GoPro for analyzing my swim. If you can borrow or rent one, do it today to work yourself out of a bad habit in your swimming and get a better form. Now, I wonder how long I can keep it before the owner of the camera starts missing it!

I will update you soon on my further progress in my swimming.

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