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How To Win With Feedback Part VI- Video

Many swimmers are shocked to see themselves swim.

Most swimmer have a general sense of what ‘good’ swimming should look like, and they assume they look EXACTLY like a great swimmer.

Reality can be quite the surprise.

Simply seeing yourself swim can instantly change how you swim.

As a coach, I’ve had many experiences where I was working with a swimmer to create change and all of my attempts were falling short.

Then I simply showed the swimmer a video of their swimming and was rewarded with instant change.

Words were useless. An image was everything.

One of the biggest challenges of swimming, and sports in general, is that we aren’t able to see what we’re doing. Considering how much we rely on vision for every other aspect of our lives, adding that tool to your feedback arsenal is going to be extremely helpful.

Beyond providing a different type of feedback, the great aspect of video is that it’s objective. You can judge what you look like and you don’t have to rely on someone else’s opinion.

Most swimmers are going to be their harshest critic, so seeing yourself swim is often all the motivation you’ll need to create the necessary change.

Video is a POWERFUL form of feedback.

How do you get video?

While there are expensive underwater filming systems designed for swimming, as well as options for underwater cameras typically designed for scuba diving and related activities, these are largely unnecessary.

The typical swimmer now has access to a phenomenal piece of camera technology known as the smartphone.

If you want to film yourself over the water, simply use your phone to take the video.

If you have a willing partner or coach, simply have them film your swimming from a couple different angles, preferably while you’re swimming at different speeds.

If you get really into it, it can be valuable to see what you’re swimming looks like when you’re getting tired, as this will tend to exaggerate any mistakes you’re making.

If you’re able, it’d be best to get video when you DON’T know you’re being filmed.

Swimmers tend to be on their best behavior when they know they’re being filmed, and that might create a false impression about how you’re actually moving through the water the majority of the time.

Of course, this is going to be a little more difficult to orchestrate, but if you have a willing coach, it’s very doable.

You could also ask the lifeguard at the pool to film you. While they may be a little surprised by your request, I expect you’ll almost always get cooperation.

If a friend or lifeguard isn’t available to help, you can simple prop your phone somewhere that has a clear view of your swimming.

While any angle would be great, getting more than one would be even better. Fortunately, almost every current phone is water resistant, so a little splash isn’t going to cause much of a problem.

If you are concerned about getting it wet at all, simply place it in a Ziploc bag and that should take care of any potential issues.

If you only have video taken above the water, that can be a huge help.

It will let you know about your body position, your breathing, your arm recoveries, your entries, your rhythm, and your alignment.

While you can see obvious problems like a crazy arm recovery, you’ll be able to see much more subtle aspects of your swimming. You might be able to tell that you’re swimming really tense, or that you seem to working a little too hard.

While these aren’t movement ‘errors’ in that there’s a limb in the wrong position, they are opportunities to use less energy and to swim faster.

These are observations that you’d never figure out yourself, and it would be very difficult for someone else to explain exactly what you’re doing wrong. Video to the rescue!

The great aspect of overwater video is that you’re observing actions that will be much easier to fix.

Changing your breathing, your body position, your arm recoveries, and your rhythm are all relatively straightforward.

When you see the issue, the solution is pretty evident. Further, it’s not particularly difficult to alter these actions, and subsequent video review can help to inform you whether you’ve been successful or not.

If you’re a little more adventurous, and you have the tools to do so, you can consider underwater filming for a more complete understanding of what you look like when you swim.

Underwater footage will allow you to see what you’re doing during your arm pulls and during your kicking.

This can definitely be valuable information, particularly as even a coach will have difficulty knowing what is happening while they’re watching from land.

With underwater video, keep in mind that there is a lot more nuance in the actions that are creating propulsion.

The movements are subtle, and it may be difficult to know exactly what’s going on. Outside of some obvious mistakes, distinguishing error from effective action is tough. Beyond understanding what you’re seeing, keep in mind that these changes are more difficult to implement.

While body position and overwater actions are relatively easy to change, and they feel like we expect they should feel, this is often not the case with underwater actions.

The water can be very misleading, and often what you think you’re doing and what you are doing are two very different things!

That being said, simply watching what you’re doing is often enough to facilitate change.

Even if you’re not sure of the specifics of what effective swimming looks like, you probably have a general understanding of what 'looks right', and simply watching your swimming will help you improve your underwater actions.

If you’re not sure what good swimming looks like underwater, simply go on Youtube and search for swimming footage.

You’ll be able to find race footage of world class swimmers executing their skills with precision.

Simply compare what you’re doing to what they’re doing, looking for the obvious differences.

Then, simply try to move in a way that reduces those differences, using further video review to confirm the accuracy of your changes.

How should you get underwater footage?

You’ll need a camera that has can be used underwater, and you’ll need a partner willing to film for you. As far as camera options you can certainly purchase an underwater camera, and there are inexpensive ones available.

You don’t need anything fancy.

If you don’t want to purchase a camera, your phone will usually suffice. The latest models are often water resistant up to 6 meters underwater, which is much deeper than you’d ever need to use.

If you don’t want to risk exposing an unprotected phone, you can use a Ziploc bag or a disposable waterproof case for extra protection.

Once you have a camera ready to go, all you need is a friend to film for you.

All they need to do is stand on the side of the pool and pop the phone 6 inches underwater so that there is a clear view of you swimming.

While they could certainly get into the pool to film, it’s largely unnecessary. Once you’ve secured the help of a camera assistant, you might as well get footage from multiple angles, and there are three that you’d want to get.

You’d want a head on view, and then views from both sides of the body. It’s best to get to do a few run-throughs just in case something is wrong with the footage.

It may seem like this is a bit of extra work, and it is. However, the impact of video is that powerful.

Simply seeing yourself swim will improve your swimming, even if no one adds any commentary.

The image of what you see will be burned in your brain, and that alone can provide all the motivation and guidance you need to improve.

That's what GREAT feedback does.

Faster. Easier. Better.


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