Swimming Australia uses Apple Watch to improve performance in the pool


Smartwatches are wonderful things. They’ve given so many of us access to data about our fitness that we wouldn’t otherwise know, playing, to some extent, being active by integrating targets and tracking information into a small device that found on our wrist.

While most of us use a smartwatch to count the number of steps we take, track our heart rate and overwrite previous times during a 5km bike ride, for example, it’s easy to forget that it is this same technology that is often used by Olympic level athletes. Yes, you can practically call yourself an athlete if you use a smartwatch, I’ll leave it for a minute or two.

Australia’s national swimming team, The Dolphins, use Apple Watch, iPad and a combination of apps to boost their performance. Apple believes this helped propel the team through its most successful period in history.

It’s not often we write about a case study, but it’s pretty cool. You usually think of the sports/fitness technology used at the Olympic level as complex and high-tech, far more technical and expensive than what we mere mortals have access to, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Inside an Apple Watch is an array of sensors and activity tracking features, and it’s what coaches at Swimming Australia have used to more accurately capture a full picture of their athletes‘ overall health and performance.

If you use an Apple Watch, you can assume you probably have an iPhone. And any owner of more than one Apple product will tell you that the company’s walled garden works exceptionally well. So trainers also use an iPad that provides real-time sensor technology data and analytics through the Apple Watch Workout app to apps on the tablet. Swimming Australia has actually created its own app, Locker, which coaches use to read race footage and analyze the data to report back. Video of running and training footage is stored in the Locker app, and the athlete’s technique is analyzed to help coaches identify their number of strokes and kicks, number of breaths, splits and time off the blocks.

Image: Apple

Apple Watch uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to count laps, track average lap pace, and automatically detect race type to measure active kilojoule consumption. Users set the pool length and Apple Watch automatically measures auto splits and sets. For open water swims, Apple Watch uses the built-in GPS and accelerometer to accurately determine the swimmer’s route and distance.

WatchOS 9 will introduce new swimming enhancements, including the addition of plank detection as a stroke type for pool swim workouts.

Apple’s argument for this is that using sensor fusion, Apple Watch will automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the type of stroke in the workout summary along with the distance covered. Swimmers will also be able to track their efficiency with a SWOLF score (a number of strokes combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool).

It blows us away every day with what our everyday technology is now capable of.

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