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Top 5 Most Common Errors in Racing

Mar 20, 2014  - Delano Ducheck

You may have seen Ken Olson at key Canadian National or Provincial meets, like a movie director on set with multiple cameras, filming and analyzing races.    The brain behind RaceTek Systems Inc., Ken has analyzed over 30,000 races, and 90,000 Underwater Technique analysis (underwater video analysis he pioneered), making him the perfect candidate for the subject of our article.  And it doesn’t hurt that he was a successful Provincial, National and International coach in Canadian Swimming before starting his company.

Just to give you an idea of what Ken does at RaceTek, Video Race Analysis (VRA): He comes to a meet, sets up cameras in key vantage points around the pool then films your race.  He takes the film and analyzes it with a program that spits out data that you didn’t even know existed:

  • Start Index (15m), Turn Index (15m), Finish Index (5m)
  • Race Segment Velocities (meters/second)
  • Clean Swim Values: Distance per Stroke (DPS, m) Stroke Rates (SR, cycles/minute) and Stroke Cycle Time (SCT, sec)
  • Swim Efficiency Index (SI = V x DPS). 

And you thought there was only finish time and splits!  

After the race, a RaceTek Technician can meet with you and analyze your race backed by hard data. No guess work here.  Common mistakes become glaringly clear when there are numbers to back them up.   The numbers don’t lie.

Before we start the list of the 5 most common mistakes, it’s important to note that Ken likes to focus on technique at RACE SPEED!   He’s not filming you doing slow drills in perfect 80 degree water.  He films your race and sees where you can gain more speed.

Because, let’s face it, there’s no extra points for looking good if you’re not touching the wall first. 

So, with out further delay….

The Top 5 Most Common Race Errors

#5):  SLOWING OF MOMENTUM:   Ken lumps all “bad moments” in the stroke as slowing of momentum.  As you swim, there might be moments in the stroke where your body position is taking away from the momentum of the stroke.  For example, if your head position is out of place, there will be a negative consequence further down the line, such as your hips being out of line causing more resistance and slowing your momentum.

The Fix:  After your Underwater Video Analysis you’ll see your stroke from different angles and will be able to pinpoint the weak moments in your stroke.  Work with coaches to fix areas of weakness one at a time, starting slow and working to full speed over time.

#4): PROPULSIVE PHASE:  During the propulsive phase (the phase of the arms that moves you forward) there is a tendency to pull with the small weaker muscles (triceps , biceps, shoulder) instead of the larger stronger muscles (core, back, lats & chest) which results in a lower DPS (distance per stroke).   Not to mention possibility of injury with repeated use of weaker muscles during training. 

The Fix:  Work on identifying the core muscles that power each stroke.  A coach can help by providing isometric resistance through the full range of the stroke. 

#3) CATCH PHASE:  I’m sure you’ve heard your coach say, “keep your elbows high”, but there is hard data that shows pulling before anchoring the catch causes a “push up” effect instead of a “push back and forward” effect.  The catch phase of any stroke is a critical balance between timing and pull to gain full forward momentum.

The Fix: Work on your catch position on deck with a partner.  When you move into the water slow it down and take more time to setup the catch so the forearm is in position before you pull.  Work slowly at first and build to faster speed.

#2) STREAMLINE POSITION DURING STROKE:  This is not the streamline position off the wall, but how linear your stroke is from movement to movement.   The swimmer who can move through the water with as little resistance will not only save energy but increase their distance per stroke.  Since water is 800 times denser than air, imagine how a misaligned body part will slow your stroke.

The Fix: Focus your eyes straight down to the bottom of the pool and kick close to the surface in small profile.  Breathe as tight as possible with no sideways head movement or excessive up and down movement. Imagine you are a submarine shape and cannot flex off-line.

And the #1 most common RACE ERROR is….

#1) LOST SPEED AT BREAKOUT DURING STARTS AND TURNS:  Since a dive or turn is the fastest you’ll be moving the water, it’s vital to learn how to maintain that speed.  It’s a combination of streamline, dolphin kicks, and timing to maximize the speed and maintain it through the stroke.  Once you’ve lost the speed off the wall you can’t get it back. 

The Fix:  Practice Starts and Turns every day since they make up a huge portion of your race.  Dolphin kick fast and furious for distance and speed, and work on finding the sweet moment on the breakout where you’ve maximized your momentum.  Work on a breakout strategy.