How Apple Watch and iPad improve national swim team’s performance

Australia’s national swim team uses Apple Watch, iPad and a combination of apps to improve performance, helping the team in the most-successful period in its history, Apple said Wednesday.

As if you needed another thing to make you feel bad about skipping the lap swim at the Y this morning.

Australia’s national swim team uses Apple Watch and iPad to improve performance

Using Apple Watch’s sensors and activity-tracking features, Swimming Australia’s coaches can more accurately capture a complete picture of their athletes’ overall health and performance, Cupertino noted.

And that’s all the more true when they add iPad and custom apps to the mix. Then they get real-time data and analysis, and a portable, powerful visual feedback tool they can share with swimmers.

The native Workout app on Apple Watch tracks both pool and open-water disciplines, serving a variety of elite swimmers. It surfaces useful swimming metrics the athletes can view during training sessions.

“Data is the key ingredient when it comes to designing performance outcomes for our athletes,” said Jess Corones, Swimming Australia’s performance solutions manager. “We have seen increased engagement from athletes wearing Apple Watch, which gives us more data points to inform analysis and make coaching decisions. iPad has become an essential coaching tool because it allows us to access athlete health data and race footage instantly from anywhere.”

Apple Watch allows marathon swimmer and bronze medallist, Kareena Lee, to accurately measure her distance, route and splits when swimming in the ocean.
Apple Watch allows marathon swimmer and bronze medallist, Kareena Lee, to accurately measure her distance, route and splits when swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Apple

How top swimmers track metrics on Apple Watch in the pool and the ocean

World record holder and gold medallist Zac Stubblety-Cook relies on Apple Watch for feedback throughout the day to better manage his training load and recovery.

“It’s important for me to access heart rate and activity data in real time so I can make quick adjustments and avoid overtraining,” Stubblety-Cook said. “Being able to accurately measure my heart rate in between sets has been a really valuable data point for me and my coach to understand how well I’m responding to training.”

Apple Watch uses a gyroscope and an accelerometer to count laps, track average lap pace and auto-detect stroke type to measure active kilojoule burn. Users set the pool length and Apple Watch automatically measures splits and auto sets.

For open water swims, Apple Watch uses the built-in GPS and accelerometer to accurately determine the swimmer’s route and distance.

New watchOS 9 swimming enhancements coming

Coming later this year, watchOS 9 will introduce new swimming enhancements, including kickboard detection as a stroke type for Pool Swim workouts, Apple said.

Using sensor fusion, Apple Watch will automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the stroke type in the workout summary, along with distance. Swimmers will also be able to track their efficiency with a SWOLF score, which is a stroke count combined with the number of seconds it takes to swim one length of the pool.

Before Apple Watch, marathon swimmer and bronze medallist, Kareena Lee, would have to guess how far she was swimming in the ocean.

“I started wearing Apple Watch to measure my distance, route and splits when I was swimming in the ocean,” Lee said. “There are no clocks or defined distances in the ocean and before Apple Watch, I was just guessing. Following an injury, my physiotherapist and coach used my Apple Watch data to monitor my training load to ensure it was consistent so I could keep training.”

iPad is a visual feedback tool for coaches to use when communicating with athletes in the pool.
iPad is a visual feedback tool for coaches to use when communicating with athletes in the pool.
Photo: Apple

iPad and custom app help coaches make decisions faster

Swimming Australia needed a versatile and portable method for providing quick feedback to athletes, so they developed the Locker app for iPad, Apple said.

Using it, performance analysts can play back race footage, analyze data and provide feedback to athletes in training and during competitions.

The Locker app stores race and training footage to help coaches analyze the athlete’s technique. Coaches can identify stroke and kick counts, number of breaths, splits and time off the blocks. With the data accessible at a glance, a coach can readily discuss it with swimmers.

“Most athletes are visual learners, and it’s incredibly powerful being able to show an athlete what we’re asking them to do while they’re engaged during a training session. Quick decision-making is crucial in the lead-up to big competitions to ensure we are maximizing the team’s performance,” Corones said.

That could come in handy when the team competes at the World Championships and in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.