Kaisa Sali and SmartPaddle: Start of the competition season

/ / SmartPaddle technology

Trainesense started consulting Kaisa Sali on her swimming in December 2017. See earlier blog discussing the start of the co-operation and her own blog “Me as a swimmer”.

Getting ready for first competitions

In March we met with Kaisa in her training camp in Mallorca. We summarised the achievements and learnings from the three-month period of co-operation.

Finnish national triathlon team in Mallorca (Mika Luoto, Henrik Goetsch, Kaisa Sali, Darby Thomas, Riku Rimpelä)

Kaisa spent the winter training in Italy. SmartPaddle was used record her swimming performance bi-weekly. Kaisa herself did a quick analysis on the deck and every now and then the progress was reviewed over a Skype meeting. In march we had all in all 11 sessions recorded. This provided good visibility on the adaptation to the changes in her swimming.

Kaisa’s own feeling was positive as the regular measurements had helped her to stay focused on the technical items she was working on. “The load of training for triathlete is huge. Because of that skill discipline like swimming easily suffers. The feeling on water on the worst days is really bad. It has been really helpful for me to see from the measurement that the stroke is quite the same. It is only the feeling that is different.”

In the beginning we focused on getting the right muscles activated. It took time to see any visible change in the stroke parameters. However, Kaisa’s feeling on the swimming and understanding on what she is doing in water improved all the time. Therefore we kept on focusing on the same development items and finetuned the drills and memory rules she was using to find the correct muscles to use in the water.

During March we started to see concrete evidence on the development also in data. The best practices in Mallorca were really positive. Data was looking good, and she was doing the best sets she has ever done. In her training diary she wrote, “Very good 3,5k swim today, totally surprised how good it felt although the upper body is really stiff after all the hard bike sessions this week. I did set the beeper to 1.20/100m and if felt really nice and relaxed whole time. Just easier than Ironman pace. Did the last 300m even faster and it felt still strong and relaxed.

One of the best strokes in Mallorca

In the end of the camp we concluded that now it is time to stop with the technique trials and focus on ensuring that by June Kaisa will be able to recreate the same performance in each of the practice … and in this way also in the competitions.

Observations from the start of the competition period

Summary view on the key parameters monitored during the spring (%fwd – percentage of forward propulsion, speed – hand speed during the power phase)

Kaisa raced in Ironman 70.3 Monterey (1st) and The Championship by the Challenge Family at Samorin (5th). Results have been good, but as the training load has been high the rankings have not been the key focus. The main thing from the swimming perspective is that she has been more confident on her swimming than ever before.

In the measurements the training load is visible. The quality of execution has been dropping from the best numbers in March. However, the good thing is that the best strokes are even better than they were in March. The focus has been on getting more of the best strokes out of the system. And finding the drills and practices that enforce her body to do that.

One clear observation from this period is that in her case the breathing is a dominant factor. She has learned to rhythm her swimming with breathing and hands. The drills are focusing on maintaining the focus on the most essential: shoulders and the core.
Another observation is the importance of the quality in execution of the dryland exercises. For example, 2cm difference in the shoulder posture makes huge difference in stroke force profile. Therefore it is essential to teach the body in the dryland to do the exactly correct movement.
For me the challenge is to find the right balance between working hard and relaxing in the water. You just cannot over-think while you are swimming hard. The right muscles should activate automatically, the breathing should be natural and you should just concentrate on doing the distance as fast as you can!

It has also been visible that there is a challenge on transferring the newly learned skills to competitions. There is a mental model on how she starts and executes the races. Now that she is capable of doing more, this model needs to be changed to get the potential into use. To facilitate this, she will be competing in a few of the open water competitions during the summer.
I have learned to be one of the girls in the backend and now I should find the confidence to start hard and be ready to fight for my life to stay in one of the front-end packs. In this season’s races my start has been a bit lazy and then I have ended up swimming alone in between some packs without the draft advantage. Now it is time to change this.

The next step will be in August. Then it will be time to fix the competition strategy for main competition. In order to support this, SmartPaddle will be used to collect data on longer distance swims.

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