Adventures in video analysis

by Evan Morrison. 12 March 2011.

A coach recently alerted me to a couple non-canonical things I’m doing with my freestyle technique. Of course, I had no clue I was doing these things. It occurred to me that it’s been years since I’d seen my stroke on video. Actually, probably about 15 years - at least as far back as high school. What else am I doing that I’m unaware of?

Having multiple underwater cameras positioned at different angles is ideal, but can be expensive to set up. On the theory that something is better than nothing, I bought a Canon PowerShot, which shoots HD video. Then, it was just a matter of propping it up at the end of my lane and pressing the shutter button.

I was mostly interested in looking at my freestyle (unlike some, I have no plans to swim around Manhattan doing butterfly). As long as I had the camera set up, though, I figured I’d check out my other strokes. Accordingly, I did a set of {100 free, 200 IM, 100 free, 200 IM, 100 free}. The 100’s free I descended to threshold effort (not all-out), and for the 200’s IM I tried to swim the 2nd faster than the 1st. I took about a minute rest between each swim.

For now, here are the videos of the three descended 100’s freestyle:

On the first, I hit about 1:11 with a stroke rate of 55-60 per minute.

Two notes:

On the next swim, I hit 1:05 with a stroke rate of 65-70.

On the last (threshold effort, but still controlled), I hit 1:01 with a stroke rate of 75-80.

The two issues my coach raised re: my technique were: (1) a tendency to “swing” my left arm around (rather than high-elbow recovery), especially at higher levels of effort; and (2) a thumb-first entry with my right hand. Issue #1 is definitely noticeable on the third video.

Issue #2 (thumb-first entry) is a bit more subtle. Just for kicks, I decided to do one more 100 - this time with paddles & buoy. I aimed to hit the same time as #3, but with the effort of #2. I came pretty close: 1:00 with a stroke rate of 67-70.

Watch my right arm - with paddles, it’s much easier to see the thumb-first entry!

Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. I’ve put a lot of effort recently into making myself as efficient as possible in the water, and I think it’s paying off.

Hey Sully - how does this compare to what you remember from my time with the Sharks?

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Posted in: technique Tags: video


On 2011-03-12 14:02:40, Sully said:
Actually - much different to my untrained eye. I remember a couple things. First, you had a very asymmetric stroke - which looks much more balanced now. Your right arm used to recover in a more rainbow manner (hand tracing the arc of a rainbow), but now the elbow looks higher and more relaxed. Second, you seem to be swimming at more ease an relaxed. Even your easy swimming pace looked more like the threshold pace you show here. Also, I do vaguely recall you having a flatter left arm, but it's been a while. I'd actually be very interested to see a side view from under water - I seem to remember a certain 5K swim with you next to me the entire time, which I can recall pretty vividly. I'll post some vids Monday of me swimming some 100s, too. The pull video is still listed as private. Where are the IMs?!

On 2011-03-12 14:15:16, Evan said:
That's great info, and basically corresponds to my "blind" perception of the changes I've tried to make (as I said, I haven't seen video of my stroke in years). Re: flat left arm - that's the "swinging" I described. A higher elbow will "drag" the arm above the body rather than swinging around the body. Pull video should be fixed now - let me know if not. I'll send them IMs to you privately. Too embarrassed to post them here :-)

On 2011-03-12 17:46:37, Adam B said:
Looking sharp, man! Are you breathing on both sides when you get down to threshold? (I'll admit to not knowing what threshold means.) Would working on maintaining bi-lateral breathing as you increase your pace help with the swinging? I'll admit to having unorthodox breathing patterns...and I can't breath to the left at all once I get down to about 200 pace.

On 2011-03-13 11:24:39, Evan said:
Thanks, Adam! I breathe bilaterally at aerobic pace, but at threshold I'm usually right-only. I don't get enough oxygen breathing every 3, and I'm slightly more comfortable breathing right, so the result is that I breathe every 2 to the right. I think you're right that this is related to the swinging - perhaps insufficient body rotation to the left after a breath. "Threshold" technically is the exercise intensity at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. In practical terms, it's the pace I'd hold for a swim between a mile and 5K. There's a good article (geared towards runners, but still useful) here.

On 2011-03-13 15:38:29, Bo Martin said:
Your stroke looks more even now. Like Sully said your right arm has definitely changed. But recovery is not everything. It's what goes on underneath that really matters. (Janet Evans for Example) Here is a link to the underwater filming we did last year. You must have been gone the day we did it. The 1st part of the videos is above water and the second part is underwater. Norm bought a $100 underwater camera off ebay and we hooked it up to a dvd recorder. It was on a tripod and I turned it as the swimmer went by. I think it was this one He made a better waterproof case with a tripod attachment out of PVC

On 2011-03-14 19:34:12, Evan said:
Thanks for the comment, Bo! Recovery isn't everything, but I think in my case the asymmetries were related to other stroke flaws, which is why I've tried to make some changes. I actually wasn't in attendance on the underwater filming day. Bad decision on my part.