Swim Smarter, Swim Faster: Five Easy Steps to Improve Your Lap Time

The goal of every swimmer is to shave seconds off their race times and continually get better.  While the goal is simple, achieving results is not. Most swimmers spend countless hours training inside and outside of the pool, but it’s tough to measure the key areas that ultimately affect one’s event time: length times, stroke count, stroke tempo, breakout time, average speed, distance per stroke, kick count and kick tempo.

Bennett Clark, a former collegiate All-American and captain of the University of California-Berkeley men’s swim team, has experienced dramatic results by utilizing a five step process to analyze his training sessions using the AvidaSports Telemetry System. Since he began training with the system, Clark has swam the sixth fastest split in the 100 meter freestyle in college history, as well as finishing in the top five at U.S. Nationals in both the 50 and 100 meter freestyle.

Clark is currently using the AvidaSports system to aid his training as he strives for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic swim team.

What is the AvidaSports Athletic Telemetry System?

It’s a digital tracking system that helps swimmers get faster by accelerating the  development of muscle memory, which increases performance by linking mindset and technique to results. Small wireless athletic telemetry (AT) devices worm by the swimmer allow them to hear real-time how they are performing each length allowing them to continually adjust their swim to what works best.

In addition, through an audio feed to the swimmer’s ear bud, Coaches can communicate with each swimmer while watching eight different performance metrics at one time on a laptop on the pool deck, allowing instantaneous feedback at any time during the training session. These feedback loops are the foundation of AT.  Swimmers who know the details of their performance during training can replicate their success far easier on race day.

How does Bennett Clark use the AvidaSports system to his advantage?

While many swimmers across the country are using the AvidaSports system in a variety of ways, Clark follows a simple five step process.

“Before AvidaSports, I only worked on technique and making tactical improvements, but I never had a way to know exactly how I was doing,” says Bennett Clark. “Now I have a process to track specific metrics, which makes me more accountable for my own success and motivates me to do better.”

Step 1: Set goals

Time is the ultimate measurement of a swimmer’s success, but understanding how you got there is important.

“One of the biggest benefits of using Avida’s product is that it lets you track tangible goals you would otherwise not be able to track,” says Clark. “I work with my coach to determine a goal for each workout. Usually we focus on my season long goals of improving my efficiency through reducing my stroke count by two full strokes and optimizing my tempo.”

Step 2: Set up equipment and sensors

Once goals have been set, it’s important to make sure you set up the AvidaSports equipment to track properly. Earbuds are customized to fit each swimmer; Velcro straps are used to fix comfortably ankle and wrist devises.  Make sure you wear all of the appropriate sensors and choose the audio feedback you want to listen to while training.  Bennett says that wearing the equipment is comfortable but it still takes a few sessions before he doesn’t even notice that he is wearing five microcomputers.

“During all of my workouts I wear an ear piece as well as sensors on each of my wrists and ankles and under my swim cap,” says Clark. “That way all of the data on my length time, stroke count, stroke tempo, breakout time, average speed, distance per stroke, kick count and kick tempo will be properly tracked for me to analyze with my coach.”

Step 3: Train

Go about training as you normally would . Your coach will be able to see all of your data while you swim and speak with you through the audio device to help you understand how to improve while you are swimming.

“I once swam a 50 meter freestyle in training, waited until I was fully recharged and then swam the 50 again,” Clark reminisces. “My coach and I saw I swam the exact same time, yet I felt like my body tightened up and I had much more difficulty swimming the second set. We noticed in the data that I took two extra full strokes in the second set. Even though I swam the same times, I was much less efficient the second time around. In my next workout, we took steps to focus on my stroke count and tempo, which helped improve my effectiveness in the long run.”

Step 4: Learn

Not only is there real-time feedback while in the pool, but the data is also stored within the system so swimmers and coaches have access to each individual workout over the course of the whole season, making it easy to track both short-term and long-term progress and trends in the underlying metrics. By working with your coaches, you can:

  • Lean muscle memory; every length has a specific meaning. Metrics to analyze each length increases your accountability, improving workout effectiveness.
  • Training history and trends are readily available. Streamed data and historical analysis for up to 100 swimmers can be used to help you continually improve, track goals and bench mark against your competition.
  • Captured data shows you the power and consequences changing your technique. The impact on performance is no longer based on just your coach’s “opinion” – both you and coaches have facts.
  • Replay “coaches calls” made during training to further consider what the coach was instructing during the training session.

Step 5: Be accountable

Once you and your coaches have a well rounded picture of your strengths and weaknesses, sit down together and create an improvement plan.

“The biggest piece of advice I can offer swimmers is to make sure you are communicating with your coach,” suggests Clark. “If you don’t set goals and create a measurable plan for improvement, then all of the data you have access to with AvidaSports is useless. Hold yourself accountable, stay on top of the data and measuring progress. You will be amazed at how much you improve.”

Swim smarter, swim faster

If you’re interested in learning more about how AvidaSports can help you improve your times year-over-year, check out the Swimmer’s Central for videos and stats from Bennett Clark and other swimmers who have seen their race times drop significantly by using AvidaSports. You can also keep up with all the latest AvidaSports news and product enhancements by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter (@Avidasports).

10 Foods That Unleash the Olympian in Every Swimmer

Swimming is an intense sport, so competitive swimmers need to make sure they fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition, in the right quantity, day-in and day-out. On race days, it’s also important to snack on energy foods between events and stay well-hydrated with water, not relying on energy or sport drinks alone. Dehydration has been proven to slow swimmers down.

What the body needs

There are plenty of good food choices for swimmers before a swim meet or practice. Ultimately, which ones work the best requires a little individual testing and varies from person to person. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating too much or consuming foods that are difficult to digest will hurt swim performance on race day or during training.

For starters, every swimmer should eat small and easily digestible snacks in between events, including: apples, bananas, raisins, power bars and pretzels. This builds stored fats in the liver that can quickly be used by the body a power sources during exertion.  Digestion itself uses water; so for the body to process quickly each snack should be accompanied by a cup or two of water.

Preparing your food

How the food is prepared is just as important on what foods you eat. Even healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can have their nutritional value completely destroyed if prepared using unhealthy techniques, like cooking with butter, grease or other foods high in saturated fats.

The night before a meet, it’s important to have a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates, like pasta, rice and beans. The morning of the meet, eat a light breakfast high in carbohydrates, like a whole grain bagel or whole grain toast and fruit two to three hours before the event.

10 power foods every swimmer should eat

The U.S. Olympic swim team features some of the greatest athletes in the world and some of the most decorated Olympians of all time. In order to achieve top performance, most athletes eat a diet high in antioxidants, which help them experience the best strength, endurance and disease resistance.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following 10 foods have very high antioxidant capacity and offer superior health benefits.

Beans: Pinto, red and kidney beans pack both antioxidants and protein, making them one of the most beneficial super foods to promote both energy and health. Add them to salads or rice dishes to turn them into a meal.

Unsweetened dark chocolate: Whoever said eating healthy couldn’t taste good? When eaten in moderation, one square of dark chocolate offers exceptional antioxidant power.

Red Delicious and Granny Smith Apples:  An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Eating one apple per day helps your body fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that seek to bond with other molecules to increase their stability. When free radicals bond to body tissues, it can speed up the aging process and cause long-term health complications. They have even been linked to some autoimmune diseases and the development of cancer. Antioxidants help keep free radicals from bonding.

Prunes: Prunes aren’t just for your grandparents bowel movements. They are super foods with the ability to destroy aging. Eat a half a cup a day. Prune recipes

Pomegranate juice: Good tasting and high in antioxidants, there’s plenty of reason to make pomegranate juice a regular drink of choice. Just make sure to dilute it 50:50 with water if it’s 100% pure to avoid getting a sugar rush and crashing.

Artichokes: Most people’s only exposure to artichokes is in spinach artichoke dip, but that’s not why artichokes made the list. When boiled or cooked in healthy recipes, artichokes are highly nutritious. Here are 22 little known artichoke recipes.

Pears: Pears contain an important fiber called pectin, which helps remove any harmful metals in the body through the bowels.

Pecans and walnuts: If you’re not allergic, these foods are high in many different vitamins and acids that promote high energy levels and balanced moods.

Bring on the berries: Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants. Throw them in the blender along with some yogurt and ice and you’ve got a delicious smoothie that adds energy back to your tired muscle cells. If you’re not into smoothies, add them to whole grain cereal or granola for breakfast.

Elderberries are another member of the berry family that packs a serious punch. They’ve been proven to help fight off colds and the flu, and have even been used as part of treatment plans for HIV and Epstein Barr patients. If you can’t find them at the grocery store, look for them as a dietary supplement in your local health food store.

Russet and sweet potatoes: Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating potatoes. Russet potatoes are antioxidant-rich and are the perfect baked side dish to add to your dinner. Just make sure you don’t go crazy loading it up with butter, cheese and sour cream.  Sweet potatoes are rich with beta carotene, which helps promote endurance.

You are what you eat

That saying is completely true, especially for competitive swimmers who exert themselves through long-distance physical exercise. It’s vital to eat a well balanced and nutritious diet to keep your body at its peak performance.

According to Scott Hedges, former swim coach, Cranbrook Schools in Birmingham, Mich., one of the biggest mistakes many swimmers make is thinking they can eat whatever they want.  He said good nutritional intake is a learned habit.

“Just because you haven’t gained weight doesn’t mean you can load up on fast food,” says Hedges. “Swimmers burn so many calories that it’s important to stay fueled with the right kinds of foods that give the body energy and not take it away.”

Whether you swim sprints or long distances, it’s important to keep nutrition top of mind. It’s the building block of training and achieving your goals in the pool.

For more information on how AvidaSports can help you reach your full potential in the pool, visit AvidaSports.com or like on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Workout Tips for Swimmers to Use Outside of the Pool

Training a Fish Out of the Water

For competitive swimmers to be on top of their game, it’s essential to train both inside and outside of the pool. Yet, many swimmers don’t fully understand the benefits of dry land training and focus on the wrong types of exercises. Or, even worse, they don’t train outside of the pool at all.

So how do swimmers avoid feeling like a fish out of water and get the most of their workouts on dry land? To dispel the myths and realities, Avidasports sat down with Scott Hedges, former swim coach at Cranbook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and Jason Dierking, assistant director of Olympic Sports
Performance at the University of Louisville.

What are the benefits of dry land workouts?

Dierking: “You can develop a lot more strength training on dry land than in the pool. Dry land is also a great place to create muscle balance by training muscle groups not commonly used in the repetitive movements of swimming in a pool. By training your less used muscles and creating a more balanced
body, it helps prevent injuries.”

Hedges: “I spent most of the dry land time with my teams focusing on strength and developing explosive power. You have to be quick and explosive during races and training on land can help build those skills quickly. Training outside of the pool is also a great way to build camaraderie amongst the team and
break up the monotony of two-a-day swims from time to time.”

How often should swimmers train outside of the pool?

Dierking: “I think the answer to that question depends on the time of year. At the collegiate level, during the off-season we typically train our swimmers three to four times a week outside of the pool. During those workouts, we focus more on cardiovascular and overall fitness. Once the swim season
begins, our dry land trainings go down to two or three times a week and we focus much more heavily on strength training since the swimmers are getting more cardio in the pool.”

Hedges: “At Cranbrook we would have eight practices per week. In addition we’d have another two to three dry land workouts sprinkled in, with Sunday being a full rest day. Typically each of our dry land workouts would be 45 minutes to 1.5 hours long.”

What muscle groups should swimmers isolate during dry land workouts?

Dierking: “Swimming is a total body sport; it’s hard to single out one muscle group. The power areas are leg and hips (gluts and quads) and the upper body region of chest, lats and shoulders. However, a lot of our attention in dry land training goes towards our swimmer’s core. The core is what transfers energy
and we want to make sure that there aren’t any energy leaks between the power areas of the upper and lower body.”

Hedges: “When working with younger swimmers, we typically tried to build overall strength. Many young swimmers aren’t fully developed and lack muscle mass at younger ages. The upper body and shoulders are typical injury areas for younger swimmers, so we’d work on building strength to prevent injury. We’d also work on leg strength for pushing off the walls and starting blocks as well as the core muscles (abs, back and obliques) to help swimmers pull through the water. You want to pull with your body and not your arms.”

How should dry land workouts differ for sprint swimmers vs. long distance swimmers?

Dierking: “For the most part, our workouts are the same, but there are slight differences. When weight training, distance swimmers should focus on doing more reps of a lower weight since they are trying to build consistency and muscle endurance. Sprint swimmers are the opposite. They should focus on
heavier loads with less reps to build their explosiveness and power.”

Hedges: “We’d basically follow the same model Jason mentioned, except not until swimmers reached the high school level. Once in high school, most of our swimmers followed the same training plan regardless of what events they swam. We never focused on lifting large amounts of weight. It was more
about creating proper technique. There were times when a sprinter might lift a higher weight with less reps, but it was rare more rare at the club level.”

What are some examples of strength training exercises that swimmers can do at home?

Dierking: “At Louisville we have our swimmers climb rope and do other rope exercises as well as pushups with various different grips. We also do a lot of single arm overhead presses with kettle bells. I love these exercises because they build strength while maintaining posture and freedom of movement.”

Hedges: “As I mentioned earlier, with younger swimmers we would work on building muscle development and overall strength. Bench press, lat pull downs and overhead extensions are great exercises. They isolate the upper body and are a great way to help build strength and muscle in swimmers who are still developing. My favorite land exercises are ones that force swimmers to work against their own body weight, like pushups. It helps them get strong and also promotes balance.”

What are some examples of cardio exercises swimmers can do at home?

Dierking: “There are a lot of great cardio exercises for swimmers. Running up hill, running stairs and biking are some of the obvious ones, but swimmers can also see a huge gain in cardiovascular fitness by swinging ropes, jumping rope (standard ropes or weighted ropes), boxing and also shadowboxing. All of these will accelerate their fitness outside of the pool.”

Hedges: “Typically we never did a lot of cardio training outside of the pool at the level I coached. “As long as we had adequate access to pool time, most of the cardio work happened there. However, if we were short on time in the pool, running was our most common exercise, both sprints and long distances.”

What precautions should swimmers take before their land workouts to help prevent injuries?

Dierking: “Injury prevention comes down to movement quality. We do a functional movement screen on each swimmer to identify any mobility issue that could cause injury and then we design their workout around their individual needs. For instance, if one of our swimmers has bad ankle mobility, advising them to do heavy squats could cause a serious injury. In addition, before each workout we put every swimmer through a warm up routine that includes stretches and movements that focus on hip, core and shoulder mobility and stability.”

Hedges: “Stretching has a huge impact on the effectiveness of a workout and it accelerates body recovery and overall flexibility. Always stretch both before and after every training session and stay properly hydrated.”

What are the most common mistakes swimmers make when training outside of the pool?

Dierking: “The most common mistake I see is poor technique and trying to lift too much weight when weight training. I can’t stress enough how important it is to not only train for strength but also for muscle balance. Swimmer should make sure they are training muscles they don’t commonly use to create a balanced body. Using improper technique and overloading with excessive weight does nothing besides put swimmers at risk for injury. There is no tangible benefit.”

Hedges: “I think it’s important for every swimmer to know and understand their own ability level before any land workout. Middle school swimmers don’t have the same abilities as high school swimmers and high school swimmers can’t handle the same workload as a collegiate swimmer.”

What is the best piece of advice you give swimmers about training on land vs. in the pool?

Dierking: “I tell our swimmers to prioritize quality and skill development in their workouts. Overly intense training outside of the pool only leads to poor practices in the pool and it stunts their total skill development. Sometimes less can be more, so it’s important that swimmers don’t get over anxious and
try to accelerate their fitness too quickly. Make sure to not over do it and allow proper time for rest and muscle recovery.”

Hedges: “It’s easy for athletes to work hard, but it’s challenging to justify the purpose and outcomes of each workout. Make sure you work with your coach to set clear goals and milestones and measure the progress you make towards achieving them each and every time you train.”

More about Jason Dierking and Scott Hedges

Jason Dierking is in his third year as an Assistant Director of Olympic Sports Performance at the University of Louisville. In this role, he works directly with men’s and women’s swimming/diving, men’s soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf, and cross country. Dierking comes to
Louisville from Indiana University, where he served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the four years. He also was a graduate assistant strength coach at IU from 1998-2001. During the summer of 2000, Dierking worked as the strength and conditioning intern at the Olympic Training
Center in Lake Placid, NY, where he helped train athletes that were preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Dierking earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in adult physical fitness from Eastern Kentucky University.

Scott Hedges is head of operations for Avidasports. Prior to joining Avidasports, he was the swim coach for the prestigious Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan from 1994-2009. While at Cranbrook, Scott led his swim teams to set new school records and numerous champions.

In addition to Scott’s experience at Cranbrook, he has been head swim coach at the Birmingham Athletic Club, the Hilltop Swim Club and was also a Birmingham Blue Dolphin’s assistant coach for two years. He was selected, by his peers, as the All-Area Coach of the Year in 2001, 2004, and 2008. Scott was also named Coach of the Year by Cranbrook’s Booster Club in 2004. He has been named Michigan’s Girls Swimming Coach of the Year, State Championship Meet Coach of the Year, and Zone Coach of the Year.

His teams consistently placed top in the state and finished each season with at least 90% of the team members setting personal bests.Under Scott’s leadership, Cranbrook swimmers achieved: All-American status (43 swimmers) and All-state honors (117 swimmers). Scott is a former collegiate All-American swimmer himself.