So I did a 2000m TT with the Garmin 910XT on my wrist. What did it tell me?
Sweet FA if I look at the graphs on the Garmin Connect website. The scale on their graph is rather unhelpful – I either swim at 0 mins/100m or 2mins/100m. The Garmin website has a way to go on this.
They do however provide useful data tables which show you your “Average Pace” and “Average Strokes” (per length), although they also do their best to hide this useful data with a whole lot of useless data like “SWOLF”, “Efficiency” and “Total Strokes”. But if you scroll across, you’ll find the very useful “Average Strokes” tucked on the end.
You can also see a breakdown of times for each length: 55.4, 1:02.6, 58.4, 56.8 etc. Which doesn’t mean much, until you export it into Excel and display it:
The red line is my time in seconds per lap (the dotted red line is the average). The green bars are the number of strokes per lap (again, the dotted green is the average).
Looking at the dotted lines, you can see that my pace increases throughout the time trial, and the faster I go, the more strokes I take. That makes sense. I was swimming steadily, building speed as got closer to the finish. I was definitely increasing my stroke rate towards the end.
What doesn’t make sense however, is the solid red line, showing how long each lap takes. According to this, I swim every second 50m 10 seconds faster? What the?!?
OK, so now I’m wondering if it has a little trouble telling when I’ve touched the wall. Maybe I turn to a different side at each end and that throws the readings out? Maybe there’s a downstream current in the pool? Maybe the pool is on a slope? (HAHA)
I was swimming using the pool clock – I’m pretty sure I was swimming the first 400m on 1:55s. By averaging each score based on the scores next to it, I get a better graph, but I’m not going to do this for every swim!
I’m curious, how wonky is the auto-lap feature? I thought I was doing the same touch technique (open turn) at each end, but maybe not? I did a swim with a second watch (one watch on each wrist – clumsy!) and MANUALLY clicked each lap. Unfortunately, on the 2nd lap I hit the “Stop” button instead of the “Lap” button. 40 laps later I realised I’d been wasting my time! That certainly made me appreciate the auto-lap feature of the 910XT!
I guess I’m a bit disappointed with the swim features of the Garmin 910XT. I was expecting these new swim measurements would tell me something about my swimming; give me something tangible to work on. Like perhaps my strokes per length are too low/high, or my stroke rate declines as I get tired, that I’m over-gliding or under-gliding.
When I got the speedo for my bike, I could look at my speed and know that faster was better. When I got the power meter I knew that more watts were better. I’m not sure what the 910XT gives me. I don’t know what a 22.7 stroke average means. Is it good or bad? When I swim with a rashie on my average changes to 24.0. Can I learn something from that?
Perhaps it’s just that the Garmin Connect website doesn’t offer any analytical features. It doesn’t for run or bike either – I export the data for these activities into WKO+ and Strava to analyse them. But neither WKO+ nor Strava help with swimming data right now. Apparently Training Peaks does.
I think there’s a real opportunity for someone to position themselves as the ‘Swim Data Expert’, much like Joe Friel and Hunter Allen have done with bike power. People are starting to capture this swim data but don’t know what to do with it. Someone can advise us that Lance swims at 20 strokes per 50m so we all should (much like the 90 cadence mantra).
And with the 910XT accelerometer on my wrist, there must be a tonne of other data they can capture and report on:
- the acceleration of my arm during the pull phase,
- the length of time during a stroke spent in a glide position,
- the speed of my arm during recovery,
- the length of my stroke,
- sideways forces during the catch, etc.
Surely someone with a good knowledge of stroke mechanics can pull this data apart and provide some good stroke analysis. Swimming is such a technical sport – everyone needs technical guidance!
And what else is coming? I imagine that heart rate via the watch strap, power via ‘power paddles’, and leg power via ‘power flippers’ are all in the works. Combine these features with auto-generated training programs like www.swimplan.com, add a waterproof iPad propped up at the end of your lane telling you your next set, and we’ll all be smiling!
And, for $20 extra, switch the front camera on and your online coach can watch your technique in real-time and give you some feedback on it. I don’t know if there’s an app for that yet, but you know it’s coming!