FREELAP Timing System and the Long Jump
Nick Newman is a British Long Jumper with a best of 7.77m and the coach of 2011 US no.2 female Triple Jumper Blessing Ufodiama (14.06m). Nick has been using the FREELAP system for the first two months of his 2012 Olympic Trial preparation with great success; here are his thoughts on using the set up for himself and his horizontal jumpers.
The addition of the FREELAP Timing System to my regular daily training has been huge. I had always been a huge fan of timing every sprint myself and my athletes perform. I did this for record purposes and also to gauge fatigue during a speed session. I had tried using other electronic timing systems but found it too much hassle to carry, assemble and unassembled during every speed session. As a result I decided to use a stopwatch and time all sprints from the first foot contact until they passed the line. Honestly, this worked well but one major problem was I could not time fly sprints and the timing accuracy of all sprints was always in question.
Timing for Horizontal Jumps
The idea of the FREELAP Timing System seemed fantastic and I could not pass up the opportunity to test the device on a daily bases on myself and the elite horizontal jumpers who I coach. During this early stage of preparation, my athletes and I are developing a base of acceleration development and are mostly performing sprints between 10-40m. For these we have adapted a timing method which had been used within Great Britain National Squad Camps for their elite horizontal jumps. For each sprint a timing sensor is placed 50cm ahead of the athletes first foot and a second sensor is placed at the end of the sprinting distance. As a large quantity of data using this timing method had been created by UK Athletics on their best horizontal jumpers, I wanted to continue using this method. The FREELAP Timing System allowed me to perform this method with incredible ease and efficiency.
The most important aspect of the FREELAP Timing System is its ability to time fly sprints. It is this assessment of maximum sprinting speed which will give me best feedback as to the competition readiness of myself and my athletes. For my female athlete I have been able to use a 10m fly sprint which is highly specific as it will mimic the final 10 meters during an athlete's approach run. As I am running faster than 10 m/s I use a fly 11m sprint most of the time. This set up will work perfectly when performing full approach runs. It will be extremely valuable to see at what percentage of maximum speed myself and my athletes are attaining on the approach run. This will become a very regular part of the weekly routine within the coming weeks and all throughout the competition season.
Accurate, Easy Setup, Compact
The FREELAP Timing System has become a staple aspect of my training routine. It fits nicely in my training bag and is able to be assembled in minutes. I am now able to collect data during every session and record it with the comfort of knowing it is accurate and consistent. I could not be happier with the timing system and I am able to utilize its benefits. There is no doubt that all horizontal jumpers and jumps coaches would benefit from using the FREELAP Timing System. I am very grateful to Christopher and to FREELAP for allowing me to test the product.
10 Meter Splits of the High School Athlete
It is relatively common to measure and assess the 10 meter splits of elite 100 meter sprinters at large track meets. Track coaches analyze this data to gain insight into how to train for and how to best run the 100 meter sprint with the goal of minimizing the sum of the ten splits.
Lisle High School Track Coach Ken Jakalski wanted to measure the 10 meter splits of high school athletes while competing in a track meet, and he was granted permission to use the Freelap Timing System to acquire 10 meter splits at the 2012 Carlin Nalley Track and Field Invitational. Freelap USA representative Christopher Glaeser attended the invite to provide equipment and assist with the setup and data acquisition.
Prior to the meet, 10 meter chalk marks were placed on the track between lanes five and six using a track measuring wheel. When it was time to run the 100 meters finals, Freelap TX Junior transmitters were placed on each of the chalk marks. A Freelap watch and sprint belt was worn by each of the top two seeds in the 100 meter finals. The table below includes the splits for the ten segments and the total for each athlete.
It is noteworthy that the speed curves for both high school sprinters are quite different from an elite sprinter. In particular, we would expect an elite sprinter to have an acceleration phase, maximum velocity phase, followed by a deceleration phase. As can be seen in the table above, both of the top seed sprinters at this high school invite had two distinct accelerations and deceleration phases. Both athletes hit a plateau in the fifth and then again in the eighth segments.
This leads to several questions. How common is this two-phase acceleration / deceleration among high school and collegiate athletes? And, more important, is it possible to use this information to train these athletes to run more efficient races with improved times?
Special thanks to Ken Jakalski and the timing staff at Lisle High School for conceiving and organizing this timing experiment.
My Evolution to Freelap
by Ken Jakalski, Lisle Senior High School, Lisle, Illinois
Since the mid-seventies, when I first began trying to extend the predictive ability of Russian coach Valentin Petrovksy’s fly sixty projections for Olympic sprinter Valery Borzov to my high school athletes, I've been pursuing an easy method for timing segments gates of short sprint distances. For several years, my poor man’s version worked fine. That involved putting hurdles on either side of the lane an athlete would be running in, taping a piece of finish yard from one hurdle gate to the others, and then draping a red bandana over the finish string. When the athlete ran between the two hurdles and broke the finish string, the red bandana would flutter, and that when I would either turn on my stopwatch as an athlete entered the testing zone, then stop it when the next fluttering bandana signaled the end of the zone.
However, a timing gate company out of Utah changed all that for me. At a fairly reasonable price, I could get two sets of infrared sensors and a compact hand-held watch that recorded those fly-ins times effortlessly and accurately. The system was ideal because it was portable and wireless. Two sets of transmitters, four tripods, the antennas, and stopwatch could easily fit in small red and black bag not much larger than a fanny pack.
I've used Brower equipment for many years. I have two separate systems, each with two sets of sensors and one hand held watch. Do I have issues with Brower? I've never had problems with catching split time accurately. However, it seemed as if I had to replace at least one of the transmitter's back plates because the on/off bubble would crack and fall apart. And I ended up replacing at least one or more of the tripods every couple of years because one of the telescoping legs would snap off. The tripods seemed ideal because they were relatively small and easy to set up, but they were pretty flimsy, and on windy days the transmitters would easily blow over without some ingenious method of adding a weighted collar just below each tripod’s head.
Nevertheless, Brower's service was excellent, and the staff personable and helpful. Brower even had a wireless small clock that could display split times, and that was another cool feature.
Several years back, I took what was a big step up in timing gate quality when I purchased a set of MicroGate Polifemo transmitters, and a large MicroTab clock display clock, which worked wirelessly with the Polifemos. I even added a pretty elaborate RaceTime2 hand held unit. None of this equipment was cheap. The Polifemos at the time were $750 per transmitter, the hand held unit was $1,000, and the MicroTab overhead clock was $5,000.
Between two sets of Brower systems, and the top of the line MicroGate products, I thought I had extended wireless gate timing about as far as I could. Were there drawbacks to this technology? Any infrared sensor is triggered when something “breaks” the beam, and that means only one runner can go through the recording zone at a time. And, extending out an arm to break the beam could also give in inaccurate time. Yes, I've had runners try that, although the frequency is far less than one would think.
Gate timing became a very critical issue when I began using a spreadsheet version of the Bundle/Weyand ASR algorithm for individualizing high speed sprint segment workouts for my high school athletes. And as I began promoting explaining the concept of using the ASR regression equation for determining specific short sprint goals for each athlete, the importance of timing gates increased dramatically.
A few years back a colleague of mine from England mentioned a Swiss company called Freelap, which had begun marketing in the US a segment timing system for everything from skiing to motocross, and the system did not use infrared technology.
I was immediately attracted by the simplicity of the system. The transmitters were nothing more than candle sized sticks on a small black base that you simply pressed and twisted to activate. And the only other component of the system was the wristwatch, capable of storing the data and then uploading the times to a computer.
Freelap is based on electromagnetism. The watch starts and splits/stops when an athlete enters and exits a timing zone. The watches are easy to use, and there are no complicated settings that require the user to negotiate through a series of button presses and steps.
All I need to do is open the Freelap case, set the sensors at the timing zone points, and hand a watch to the runner. The watch can be worn on the wrist or, for increased accuracy, worn around the waste by way of a special belt that holds the watch in place like buckle.
Did I like the system the first time I used it? Yes. I now have eight watches and nine transmitters. I can get gate times on eight sprinters running all at the same time. Each watch has a neat little number band, and each numbered watch is assigned to a specific runner. That athlete can easily read his segment times for each run, and at the end of the workout, I can take those watches and upload the data for each athlete in a separate spreadsheet.
ASR workouts are now completed far more quickly, and equipment maintenance and set up time is minimal. Are the transmitters and watches dependable? I have had no issues with missed times, other than those resulting from human error, such as not turning on a transmitter.
What about product failure? Freelap service is excellent, and issues I have had, mostly with the first generation of watches, were resolved quickly. I've had no issues with the current watches or transmitters I am using. In fact, I became convinced of the product quality when I inadvertently left one of the transmitters out on the track for two days, one of those days being a heavy rainfall. When I returned to the track, the transmitter, which had been left on for forty-eight hours, still worked without a problem.
Accurately Measuring a Time Test with Freelap
Testing a sprinter's progress during training is often done by precisely measuring the time to sprint specific distances. However, some tests are performed by precisely measuring the distance an athlete can run in a specific time. An example of such a test is the 25 second test, which measures the distance an athlete can sprint in 25 seconds. This article describes how to precisely measure that distance using Freelap.
Prior to the use of automated timing systems, these tests were typically done with a hand-held stopwatch. When using a hand-held stopwatch, coaches monitor the time on their stopwatch as the athlete is sprinting and the coach shouts a "mark" command when the stopwatch reaches a specific time (e.g. 25 seconds). Then, the coach measures the place on the track where the athlete was at the time the coach shouted the mark command. Although relatively simple, the problem with this method is the relatively large margin of error. An athlete may be traveling between seven and ten meters per second, and identifying the location at which the athlete had run in the allotted time period may be off by several meters or more.
The Freelap Timing System makes it possible to measure these distances with considerably greater accuracy. The method begins with a good estimate of the distance the athlete should be able to run in the allotted time period. Using past performances and recent workout data, the coach should be able to guess the distance plus or minus five percent or thereabouts. For example, if a high school athlete ran 206.35 meters in a previous 25 second test, and if the recent workout timing information indicates the athlete should be able to improve the distance by a couple meters, the coach may estimate the new distance will be 208 meters, plus or minus.
Given this estimate, the coach places the Freelap TX Junior transmitter at 208 meters. The athlete then runs the test wearing the Freelap stopwatch and records the time. Assuming the coach made a good distance estimate (any track coach with modest experience should be able to guess relatively close), the time should be relatively close to 25 seconds. For this example, let's say the sprinter than the 208 meters in 24.86 seconds. Since the time is slightly less than 25 seconds, this means the sprinter ran slightly more than 208 meters in 25 seconds.
To determine the actual distance, we can use the calculation
208 meters * (25 seconds / 24.86 seconds) = 209.33 meters
In other words, the sprinter was able to run 209.33 meters in 25 seconds.
If the coach had guessed long and the time had been greater than 25 seconds, then using the same equation above, the resulting distance would have been less than 208 meters. For example, if the sprinter had run the 208 meters in 25.12 seconds, then using the same equation
208 meters * (25 seconds / 25.12 seconds) = 207.01 meters
Of course, this method can be applied to test of any duration. Simply place the finish transmitter at your best guesstimate, and then apply the conversion shown above to determine the actual distance with considerably more accuracy than using a hand-held stopwatch.
Bracketing the Guesstimate
If the coach does not have a good estimate for an athlete, perhaps because it is the first test of the season or the athlete is returning from an injury, the guesstimate can be bracketed using two or more TX Junior transmitters at the finish. For example, if the coach estimates that the athlete will run 210 meters in 25 seconds, plus or minus 15 meters, the guesstimate can be bracketed by placing a transmitter at the 205 and another at 215. If the athlete runs a slow 25 second test and the time on the first transmitter is 25.57, then the distance would be calculated using the time of the first transmitter. If the athlete runs a fast 25 second test and the total time at the second transmitter is 24.78, then the time from the second transmitter would be used to calculate the distance.
When testing a larger group of athletes, it is possible to use a larger number of transmitters at the finish to bracket all the athletes being tested. For example, transmitters could be placed at the 185, 200, 215, and 230 to bracket all the athletes that run the 25 second test within the range 180 to 235. The transmitter with a total time that is the closest to 25 seconds would be time the that would be used to calculate the distance covered in 25 seconds. For example, if an athlete gets to the third transmitter that was placed at 215 meters in 24.89 seconds, then the equation would be
215 meters * (25 seconds / 24.89 seconds) = 215.95 meters
Accurate Timing is Essential for Speed Training
Don’t Burn the Toast
Speed workouts, sometimes referred to as true speed workouts or anaerobic alactic speed workouts, are considered by elite track coaches to be one of the most important workouts of a speed training program. Speed workouts typically use a fly-in sprint with an emphasis on maximum velocity. Athletes should be fully rested prior to starting a speed workout, and many coaches recommend one or two days of recovery prior to a speed workout to ensure the best possible performance. In addition, the sprint fly distances are typically short, usually between ten and eighty meters, and the recovery between sprints is relatively long, usually three to six minutes. Finally, the number of sprints is relatively modest, often as few as five to ten sprints.
In the past, it was common practice to specify the total number of sprints all athletes would run well in advance of the speed workout. For example, a speed workout for next Thursday may include 8x60 meter fly-in sprints. A major problem with this approach is the workout is not tailored to each individual athlete. An objective of the speed workout is to run at or very near maximum velocity (within 4% to 6%). On any given day, some of the athletes may not be able to run all eight sprints near maximum velocity and may fall well below the 6% threshold, while other athletes may be able to run several more sprints within the target range.
To address this issue, elite track coaches have begun using a method that ensures all sprints performed during a speed workout practice are high quality, and the end of the workout is determined for each athlete when they fail to perform within a preset threshold. Using protocols such as the ASR Speed Program, it is possible to plot with considerably accuracy the time/distance curve for each athlete and from that the threshold for each athlete for a given workout. For example, if the workout on a given day is to sprint the 30 meter fly, an athlete may have a predicted time of 3.49 seconds. A threshold of 5% would translate to a cutoff time of (3.49 * 1.05) or 3.66 seconds. The athlete would run fly-in sprints until they are unable to run the sprint in less than 3.66 seconds.
One important component of this training methodology is accurate timing. The introduction of the Freelap Timing System makes it possible for coaches and even individual athletes to access accurate and fully automatic timing at every practice. The Freelap is small and portable, easy to set up, and easy to use. The system provides continuous and immediate feedback to coaches and athletes, thus ensuring that speed workouts are always high-quality. The recorded time from each sprint provides additional incentive and focus for the next sprint. When the athlete is unable to run a sprint within threshold, they can end the workout with the confidence that all of the sprints were high-quality, and that none of the training has wandered beyond the burnt toast region where sprinters learn to run slower.
Measuring a Sprinter's Maximum Velocity
Sprinters of all ages and experience from young aspiring high school athletes to world-class elite sprinters can run at maximum velocity for about eight to ten steps. Once a sprinter has achieved maximum velocity (typically measured in meters per second), the sprinter's speed begins to gradually decrease. Measuring maximum sprint velocity is important for any speed training program, because maximum velocity affects the performance at all other distances. A sprint fly of between ten and twenty meters is often used to measure maximum velocity, and it is important that the fastest eight steps fall within the zone being measured. This article presents a simple method to ensure the sprinter's maximum velocity falls within that zone.
Essentially, the method uses an automated timing system capable of capturing a split time. When using the Freelap Timing System, three TX Junior transmitters can be used to measure two consecutive 15 meter splits (a 30 meter fly with a 15 meter split). The fly-in distance is then adjusted on each subsequent sprint to find the optimal fly-in distance.
Note: It is possible to use other distances such as a 20 meter fly with two 10 meter splits, but for consistency in this article, we will assume a 30 meter fly.
Once the transmitters are positioned, the athlete begins running a series of fly-in sprints and both the fly-in distance and split times are noted and recorded. A piece of athletic tape can be used to mark the start of each run, and the feedback from the splits is used to move the mark forward or back.
If the first split time is greater than the second split time, then the athlete was still accelerating, and the fly-in distance should be increased on the next attempt. For example, if the first split was 1.65 seconds and the second split was 1.51 seconds, then the athlete was accelerating from the first to second split and the fly-in distance should be increased. Conversely, if the first split time was less than the second split time, then the athlete was decelerating and the fly-in distance should be reduced on the next attempt. Adequate rest should be observed between each attempt to ensure the ATP energy system has been fully restored.
When the times of the two splits are similar, the optimal fly-in distance to reach maximum velocity has been achieved. The optimal fly-in distance can now be measured from the tape mark to the center of the 30 fly. The purpose of measuring to the center of the 30 fly rather than the start of the 30 fly is to know where the middle of the fastest eight to ten steps occur. Using this approach, it is possible place these fastest steps in the center of any future workout such as a 10 meter, 15 meter, or 20 meter fly.
This distance can be recorded and used for future workouts and maximum velocity tests. High school athletes often underestimate the optimal fly-in distance, and using an automated timing system to determine the optimal distance can provide objective, reinforcing feedback. In addition, high school athletes tend to delay their effort in the acceleration zone to conserve energy for the fly zone. Reviewing the split times with them can help them understand that they are still accelerating in the fly zone, and they do in fact need the longer fly-in zone with good effort in order to achieve maximum velocity within the fly zone.
Measuring the Sprint Fly
The sprint fly, sometimes called fly-in/fly-out or simply "fly", is considered by elite track and field coaches to be one of the most important workouts for speed training. In addition, rather than running a predetermined number of short sprints, science-based speed training methodologies recommend running short sprints until the athlete is unable to run within a small margin (e.g. 94% to 96%) of their maximum predicted speed. For these reasons, timing each sprint fly has proven to be an extremely effective tool in speed training.
The Freelap Timing System has been specifically designed to measure the sprint fly. The system is accurate, easy to set up, and easy to use. This article will explain how to use the Freelap stopwatch and transmitters to measure the sprint fly.
NOTE: Freelap introduced a new stopwatch with a revised user interface in the fall of 2010. This article describes the user interface and button functions of the newer model.
First, turn on two TX Junior transmitters and place them on the track at the desired distance. For example, the transmitters could be placed on the low hurdle marks to measure the 35 meter fly. Each transmitter should be placed on the line next to the lane the athlete will run. For example, if the athlete will run in lane 4, the transmitters should be placed between lanes 3 and 4 (or on the other side of the lane between lanes 4 and 5 will work as well).
Additional transmitters can be used if splits are desired. The Freelap stopwatch can store up to 700 laps, so there is no practical limit on the number of splits that can be measured. For example, three TX Junior transmitters could be placed on three consecutive low hurdle marks to measure the 70 meter fly with a 35 meter split.
The stopwatch requires at least one second of elapsed time between each pair of transmitters. Athletes who can run a maximum of 9 meters per second or less can place the transmitters as close as 10 meters. Elite athletes who can run 10 meters per second and faster should space the transmitters more than 10 meters so that the fly time will exceed 1 second.
It is recommended that athletes wear the stopwatch using the sprint belt. This approach will increase the accuracy by eliminating the errors that could be introduced if the stopwatch were worn on a moving wrist.
The stopwatch is normally in the date/time mode. While standing at the beginning of the acceleration zone, the athlete should press the Mode (lower left) button. This will put the stopwatch in the Chrono Freelap mode which is confirmed with the momentary "Chr FrEE" on the watch face. Now, the stopwatch is ready to begin the fly.
When the athlete runs past the first transmitter, the stopwatch will begin timing, and when the athlete runs past the second transmitter, the stopwatch will report the fly time. The time will appear on the watch face for about eight seconds, and then will resume counting the total time.
If the athlete does not see the fly time within the eight second window or otherwise wants to review the time(s), hold the Stop (lower right) button for two seconds. This will show the Total Time, which is also the fly time if only one fly was run. If the athlete ran multiple sprints, then all of the times can be recalled by repeatedly clicking the Stop button. The times will be recalled in reverse order. Clicking the Mode button will return the stopwatch to date/time mode.
The stopwatch can be reset after each fly, or if the athlete prefers, the stopwatch can be left in the Chrono Freelap mode for the entire sprint fly workout. Every other time will be a fly time (usually measured in seconds and hundredths), and the alternate times will be the recovery time (typically on the order of minutes). For example, an athlete may decide to rest four minutes between sprints. The recall might reveal times such as 3.42, 4:01.03, 3.41, 4:04.37, and so on. The 3 second times are the fly times and the 4 minutes times are the recovery times.
The stopwatch acts as a receiver when in Chrono Freelap mode which consumes more battery than normal date/time mode. The stopwatch will automatically reset to date/time mode if the workout does not begin within five minutes of starting Chrono Freelap mode. In addition, the stopwatch will reset to date/time mode if any lap exceeds seventy-five minutes. These resets are designed to save battery life.
It is possible to time a second athlete using a second stopwatch by placing the transmitters between the two lanes. For example, the athletes could be timed in lanes 1 and 2 by placing the transmitters between lanes 1 and 2. It is also possible to time additional athletes by using more transmitters and stopwatches. For example, it is possible to time four athletes using four stopwatches and four transmitters. The athletes could be timed in lanes 1 through 4 by placing a pair of transmitters between lanes 1 and 2 and a second pair between lanes 3 and 4. The advantage of this approach is that athletes will typically run the workout faster when competing versus running each fly by themselves.