SWOLF and swimming efficiency

SWOLF and swimming efficiency

Follow-up posts:

Swim golf – or SWOLF – is an interesting drill, intended to measure efficiency in swimming. It’s important to understand how to use it correctly. Here’s the drill:

  1. Swim one length of the pool
  2. Count the number of strokes you take
  3. Get your time (in seconds)
  4. Take the sum of (2) and (3). That is your SWOLF score.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4, trying different combinations of stroke rate, stroke length, and effort. Which combinations produce the lowest score?

 


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Please note:

  • “Number of strokes” means total number of hand entries – left and right combined. It is not the number of stroke cycles – as the Swimsense uses in its SWOLF calculation. H2oustonSwims and TI get it right; About.com gets it wrong. FINIS gets it right on its website but wrong on the Swimsense.
  • “One length of the pool” means one length of a 50-meter pool, starting from the wall. No long streamlines – that’s cheating. This doesn’t mean you can’t do SWOLF in a short-course pool.


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Promontory Point in the 1940s

Promontory Point in the 1940s

A recent post at Open Water Chicago alerted me to an incredible collection of photos at the Indiana University Digital Library, taken by Charles Cushman between 1938 and 1969.

Of particular interest are the numerous shots he took at Chicago’s Promontory Point in the early 1940s. Through Cushman’s keen eye, we can see the Point was a special place even back then, when its great trees were mere saplings.

But Cushman was apparently drawn less to the landscape and water features of the Point than to the… human features. Specifically, women in bathing attire. The Point just happened to be an unusually rich source of subjects.

Here’s a sampling of Cushman’s work, with his original captions. The entire collection is available here.

Very Important Announcement

Very Important Announcement

This summer I will attempt something truly audacious… groundbreaking… unprecedented… game-changing.

I will attempt to (ahem…) cross the English Channel. Not once, not twice or even thrice. Ten times. Consecutively. 210 miles without stopping.

Needless to say, this has never been achieved by a swimmer. Which is not to say I’ll be swimming. Indeed, I’ll be doing everything possible in order to not swim. Actually swimming 210 miles would be far too difficult.

I will be aided in my quest by several important tools:

1. A monofin. I’m thinking the Competitor model from FINIS looks pretty sweet.

2. Paddles. But not just any old paddles. Special paddles. My usual training paddles (Strokemakers) are sometimes mocked as “dinnerplates,” which frankly hurts my feelings. So I’m taking it one step further. I will be using actual dinnerplates as paddles. Fine china, in fact. I’m happy to count Lenox among the proud sponsors of my “swim.”

3. A drysuit. Because I don’t want any part of my body to actually touch the water. Did you know, the English Channel is apparently cold!…

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Fat vs. Fast

Fat vs. Fast

There’s an old saying about cold-water marathon swimming:

Either be fat, or be fast.

Is it oversimplified? Probably. Crass? Definitely. But there’s a kernel of truth worth examining. Thin swimmers have made it across the English Channel, but they’re usually fast. Slow swimmers have made it across the Channel, but they’re usually… carrying a healthy layer of bioprene.

The common factor: Core temperature must be preserved. Either generate heat, or retain it. Fast swimmers are good at generating heat. Fat swimmers are good at retaining it.

In the English Channel (from what I gather), it’s considered prudent for non-overweight swimmers to put on some weight, even if they’re “fast.” A Channel attempt is expensive and, unless your name is Petar Stoychev, just getting across is the main priority. Bioprene increases the probability of success.

But at what cost? How much does the extra weight slow you down? Swimming is a gravity-less activity, so obviously it matters less than in running or uphill cycling. Further, the flotational benefits of fat may improve your body position in the water.…

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Marathon Swimmers Forum after 20 days

Marathon Swimmers Forum after 20 days

Since its beta launch March 7 and its public launch March 12, the Marathon Swimmers Forum has attracted 230 registered members (and many more who benefit from its content anonymously), and over 23,000 page-views.

It’s already a remarkable community – vibrant, diverse, and global. The Forum brings together some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable marathon swimmers in the world, and puts them in the same “virtual” room with swimmers who may be attempting their first 10K swim.

The quality of the content is astonishing, and has exceeded even my own high expectations. As for quantity, well… no interpretation is necessary:

marathon swimmers forum stats
Forum Participation Statistics: March 6 - March 27

A Tale of Two Posts

The Forum recently benefited from “mentions” by two of the world’s best-known open-water swimming promoters: Steven Munatones, founder of Open Water Source and the Daily News of Open Water Swimming; and Paul Ellercamp, founder of Oceanswims in Australia. We appreciate their help in getting the word out.

Steve and Paul’s respective posts are an interesting study in contrasts. Donal and I provided no “press release” verbiage, aside from our initial blog posts, so their choice of words is their own.…

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A business idea: Super Swedes

A business idea: Super Swedes

These are swedish goggles:

swedish goggles

Swedes are only goggle I’ve worn since 1992, and are among the most iconic swim gear ever. Their sleek, minimalist esthetic transcends both time and nationality. Their simple construction renders them both disposable and indestructible. Here’s an interesting history of swedes (the goggles, not the people) from Malmsten AB.

So popular are swedes among competitive swimmers that Speedo was forced to offer Speedo-branded swedes (with original Malmsten lenses, naturally) so their sponsored athletes could wear swedes at the Olympics without being in breach of contract!

Swedes’ functional minimalism cuts both ways, though. They’re cheap goggles. The lenses scratch easily. The latex straps rarely last through more than a month of regular chlorine exposure (I opt for an after-market bungee strap).

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s this:

blueseventy carbon fiber goggles
Blueseventy carbonRZR goggles

The ultimate in superfluous luxury. Carbon-fiber frames? Anti-scratch polycarbonate lenses? It can be yours for $100 – same price, incidentally, as 25 pairs of swedes. There’s an appealing sort of geek cachet to goggles made from the same material as an airplane fuselage.…

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Watch and Learn

Watch and Learn

Chris Derks is a pretty OK swimmer — course-record holder and four-time winner of the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, 2004 MIMS champion, competitor in numerous pro races, and owner of an 8:32 English Channel crossing in 2001.

Yesterday Chris posted a video of his English Channel swim to the Marathon Swimmers Forum. It’s a quirky video – 30 minutes long, with random cuts to other races, and ending in the middle of a conversation (apparently Chris plans to upload the rest separately) – but I enjoyed it quite a lot. Chris is one of the best in the business, and it’s a rare treat to see him in action. Also, I dig his taste in music.

Check it out:

A few of my favorite parts:

  • 0:35 – Cool postcard shot of the marathon swimmer and… is that a battleship?!
  • 0:50-3:37 – Interview with Chris. Background & motivations. “I still want to race against kids who are half my age, and beat them…beat them hard.”
  • 3:38-5:47 – Nearly indecipherable interview with his coach.


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