Australia’s national swim team, The Dolphins, has been using Apple Watches and iPads – along with a combination of apps – to improve its performance outcomes during its most successful period in history after the recent Commonwealth Games.
As Jess Corones, Swimming Australia’s performance solutions manager says: “Data is the key ingredient when it comes to designing performance outcomes for our athletes. We have seen increased engagement from athletes wearing Apple Watch, which gives us more data points to inform analysis and make coaching decisions. iPad has become an essential coaching tool because it allows us to access athlete health data and race footage instantly from anywhere.”
Jess says that when the Apple Watch is paired with iPads and custom apps, this range of technology has delivered real-time data and analysis, plus visual feedback so the coaches can use this when communicating with athletes in the pool. The native Workout app on Apple Watch tracks both pool and open water disciplines, and it surfaces swimming metrics which the athletes can view during training sessions.
Technology will play a key role in the team’s preparation as they look forward to next year where they’ll compete at the World Championships and in Paris in 2024. As Jess adds: “Ultimately, this technology gives us the tools to design performance programs that help our athletes swim faster in the pool so they can win more medals.”
Australia’s elite swimmers are tracking their metrics in the pool and the ocean with the Apple Watch
World record holder and gold medallist swimmer, Zac Stubblety-Cook, says he relies on his Apple Watch for instantaneous feedback throughout the day to better manage his training load and recovery to ensure he arrives at competitions in peak performance.
“As an elite athlete, it’s important for me to access heart rate and activity data in real time so I can make quick adjustments and avoid overtraining,” says Zac. “Being able to accurately measure my heart rate in between sets has been a really valuable data point for me and my coach to understand how well I’m responding to training.”
The Apple Watch uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to count laps, track average lap pace, and auto-detect stroke type to measure active kilojoule burn. Users set the pool length and their Apple Watch automatically measures splits and auto sets. For open water swims, the Apple Watch uses the built-in GPS and accelerometer to determine the swimmer’s route and distance.
Watch OS 9 will be out later this year
Coming later this year, the watchOS 9 will introduce new swimming enhancements including the addition of kickboard detection as a stroke type for Pool Swim workouts. Using sensor fusion, this Apple Watch will automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the stroke type in the workout summary, along with distance swam. Swimmers will also be able to track their efficiency with a SWOLF score — a stroke count combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool.
“Ultimately, this technology gives us the tools to design performance programs that help our athletes swim faster in the pool so they can win more medals,” adds Jess.
Before she used her Apple Watch, marathon swimmer and bronze medallist, Kareena Lee, would have to guess how far she was swimming in the ocean. “I started wearing an Apple Watch to measure my distance, route, and splits when I was swimming in the ocean,” says Kareena. “There are no clocks or defined distances in the ocean and before Apple Watch, I was just guessing. Following an injury, my physiotherapist and coach used my Apple Watch data to monitor my training load to ensure it was consistent so I could keep training.”
Para-swimming athlete, gold medallist and world record holder, Katja Dedekind, says she loves wearing Apple Watch because it gives her and her coach a complete picture of her overall activity. Katja is visually impaired, so she rides her bike to and from the pool because she can’t drive. It’s important that exercise out of the pool, such as bike rides, is also captured in the Workout app because it contributes to her training load.
“Being able to strap something on my wrist that is unobtrusive and tracks my sleep, activity, and heart rate variability has been incredibly handy,” says Katja. “It takes all the guesswork out of training preparation and is far more accurate than inputting data manually. In the lead-up to Birmingham, it played a huge role in my preparation as it allowed the performance team to remotely monitor my health and fitness to ensure I tapered off my training at the optimum time.”
The iPad is also helping Swimming Australia’s performance team make coaching decisions
Swimming Australia needed a versatile and portable method for providing quick feedback to athletes, so they developed the Locker app for iPad. Performance analysts can play back race footage, analyse data, and provide feedback to athletes in training and competition environments.
Video of both race and training footage is stored in the Locker app, and the athlete’s technique is analysed to help coaches identify their stroke and kick counts, number of breaths, splits, and time off the blocks. All the data is accessible to the coach at a glance so they can have conversations with their athletes, wherever they are.
As Jess says: “Most athletes are visual learners, and it’s incredibly powerful being able to show an athlete what we’re asking them to do while they’re engaged during a training session. Quick decision-making is crucial in the lead-up to big competitions to ensure we are maximising the team’s performance.”
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