What the Duce is SWOLF?

As I stated in the previous posts, I have attempted fitness goals in the past with variable degrees of success. However, to achieve my current goal I am trying a few different approaches to training. One of those is the use of data. My previous goals normally involved the bare minimum of data collection; I would simply record if I worked out and the reps/sets completed — maybe. This time is different, I have a new toy, the Garmin Vivoactive HR, that I am going to take advantage of to collect exponentially more data. Its been great thus far; I have collected data on calories burned, pace, etc but one thing that caught my eye after my first pool workout with the Garmin was the SWOLF score. “What the duce is SWOLF?” I asked. I had never heard of SWOLF and I had no idea what it meant, but I thought it was something I may need to understand if I want to get faster in the pool. So, I did some research and below is a culmination of what I have learned about SWOLF and how it might be able to help you.

  • SWOLF means swimming golf, which at first did not help my understanding, but it is called that because the lower your SWOLF score is the more likely you are swimming “more efficiently,” similar to how a lower score in golf means you are doing better.
  • “More efficiently?” Yes — to an extent. SWOLF is calculated by adding the strokes needed and time taken (in seconds) to swim a given pool length. So if it takes 30 seconds and 20 strokes to swim 50 meters then your SWOLF will be 50. Therefore, to lower your SWOLF one of those numbers will have to decrease meaning you will have to swim faster or with fewer strokes. While this can be considered an efficiency calculation, there are far more variables that could be calculated that SWOLF does not add (i.e. general effort exerted and energy used — meaning how much oxygen you were consuming and exactly how hard were you working).
  • SWOLF is a good number for you to know if you want to better yourself in the pool. However, SWOLF is not a great way to compare two swimmers. One swimmer’s SWOLF may be 50 (30 seconds 20 strokes) while another swimmer’s may be 55 (25 seconds 30 strokes) and while one swimmer may have a lower SWOLF score, they lost the race. As mentioned before, it also does not tell us how hard either swimmer was going. The SWOLF 50 swimmer may have been going all out and the SWOLF 55 swimmer may have been going at a pace they could have easily kept up for hundreds of more meters or vice versa.
  • SWOLF is a good way to push yourself to do better though. The screen shot above was from a pool workout I did yesterday in a 20 yard pool. After 500 yards of breast stroke my average SWOLF number was 65. In a couple of weeks if I do the same workout and my SWOLF drops to 55 then I can safely assume either I swam the distance quicker or each individual stroke covered a little more pool length, or a little of both, which would mean I am swimming better.

These are the basics of SWOLF; there are several articles written on websites and forums that describe SWOLF in much greater detail than what I did here. If you wish to learn more please do some searching on your own and you will find several articles about the score. However, I hope this article gave you a little better understanding of what exactly SWOLF is and how it can benefit your swimming work outs.

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