Monday, June 01, 2015

How I Hacked my Swimmers' MP3 Player's Headphones to Make it Louder

So I decided to hack my Sony Walkman Swim Headphones – an imperfect but adequate solution to a volume problem.

This past Christmas, I received an MP3 player which can be worn while swimming. I was excited but afraid some of the more negative reviews I'd read might be true. That being that they've not been perfected yet and water can baffle the sound.

Mine was a Sony Walkman NWZW273 4-gigabyte MP3 player which is submersible. I won't get into the features outside of those for swimming except to say that the unit is like the iPod Shuffle in that it is a very small. Instead of one piece with wired headphones, my was a two-piece wireless MP3 player with ear-buds connected directly to the two player parts.The unit is light and I barely notice it on my head when I'm swimming. 

As part of the water-resistance feature, the package includes two types of ear-buds--those that are designed for swimming and those which can be used for either swimming or not. The two are basically the same except that the swimming ear-buds have a second filter to prevent water getting into them (a first filter exists on the end of the plastic tubing that runs into the player and to which the ear-buds attach).

While it was a good idea, I found this second filter feature to be a big problem for me in that they muffled the sound such that the volume was insufficient and nearly inaudible when combined with the splashing sound of my freestyle stroke. The standard ear-buds (no filter) provided much better volume transmission but allowed water to get in (even after experimenting with various sized ear-buds Sony provides), baffling the sound equivalently or worse when that happened. Ergo, I had a problem.

Realizing this baffled sound might make the unit unusable for my purposes (swimming), I googled this issue and found some other swimmers using the unit had similar complaints. Some advised switching to a different MP3 product which offers jaw-bone (skull) sound conductivity, but those suckers cost over a $100, are bulkier and, to my eye, resemble scuba equipment!

Instead, I decided I'd try to hack the unit by finding a better pair of ear-buds to replace those that came with the unit. Spinning through the myriad listings of ear-buds available through Amazon.com, I found some water-proof ear-buds for $4, that apparently came from China. This was a reasonable financial risk, I told my cheap self who really wanted this Sony player to do what it was supposed to but didn't want to spend much to fix it.

Upon arrival, the new earphones resembled standard earphones with larger than usual ear-buds designed like a pair of mason screws, each with three increasingly wide rings whose purpose apparently was to offer both universal sizing and to prevent water penetration into the ears. Removing the rubber ear-bud components from the wires I noted they had no water filter at all.

Well my idea worked. Swapping out the Sony soft rubber ear-buds for the harder rubber Chinese ear-buds jumped the volume up considerably. Bottom line, they successfully keep the water out of my ears for the most part*. The sound is even louder, when I put my ears (even my entire head) below the water surface. 

I am now a happy rocking swimmer!

* Water still gets in occasionally and a good shake of the head or ear-bud usually removes it. I've found that if this does not improve the volume, water has most likely gotten into the plastic tubing past the first (permanent) filter. When this happens, I've successfully repaired this by removing the ear-buds and placing the tubing a few inches from a halogen desk lamp for a few minutes which has draws the water out of the inside of the tubing. Pressing a soft cotton cloth over the filter may also draw the water out (this solution eliminates the need of a trip home before using the player again).

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My blog has problems posting replies to reader-comments so my answer(s) is/are included below ...

The following is the link to the headphones I bought. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F408EYK  ... remember, upon receipt of these new headphones, I simply swapped out the old earbuds with this product's new earbuds. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chlorine impacts swimming performance?

Does anyone know if this is legitimate?

Data appears unsourced, so I'm skeptical, though I've heard that chlorinated pools may be cause for some asthma.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Love the Pool but Hate the Crowds?

Someone has built a remote - and by remote, I mean nearly inaccessible - swimming pool as an art exhibit. I'd make fun of the old cliche' "Your tax dollars at work," but it's a pool!

http://www.social-pool.com/

Monday, April 01, 2013

Better Pools Considering New Chemical Choices

2013 started off with a bang at the annual Country Club Managers Association Convention held this year in Las Vegas, where visitors were treated to a variety of new innovations and improvements on old stand-bys that club managers can bring home to their wealthy clientele. Keeping their facilities on the cutting edge and one-upping their competition - be it for turf, facilities, tennis, or pool management - is big business when your customers are blue-bloods (the richest of the rich). One of the biggest surprises at this year's show was a demonstration presented by AA Sun Products, Inc. which is offering a sun screen product that allows one to exit any swimming pool totally dry after complete immersion.

Using a technology similar to that offered by RainUWAY, a popular automobile wax product which is rubbed on windshields to whisk away rain in beads as fast as it lands on one's car, this sun screen product is made for people (applied like sunscreen or as a spray) and conceptually does the same thing.

With PoolTowelX (the new product's name), water can not be absorbed by the skin, swimsuits or even hair when it is applied. When one exits any swimming pool, the water falls off the applied area nearly instantly leaving the area totally dry and as if the user had never been wet at all.

As an added benefit, besides offering this innovative towel-eliminating feature, PoolTowelX - when applied to eyes (physician approval recommended) also allows one to see clearly in the water without goggles and increases swim speed exponentially by reducing drag (because water can not cling to the body).

Out of concern for this latter feature that some swim competitors may use PoolTowelX to get an unfair advantage, AA Sun Products promises a pool water mix (added along with the chlorine cycle) which will give all competitors the same advantage of the sun screen product and eliminate the need for any user application at all. ;)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Do You Use the Kickboard Enough?

Do you adequately work all your body appendages when you swim? OK, let me be more clear ... When you swim, are your legs propelling you as much as your arms? When you get out of the pool after a good workout you may be arm weary, but are you ever leg weary too?

Yes, it all depends on the stroke, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people barely use their legs to propel themselves through the water when in fact some of the strongest swimming muscles of a given swimmer may be in the legs.

While many swimmers are quick to stick a pull buoy between their legs, it is the rare lap swimmer I see actually using a kickboard to give him/herself an aggressive workout for their lower half.

Instead kickboards get the short shrift. In the rare case I see someone who does use a kickboard, it is generally only for a couple laps or to work on their form. Some even - perish the thought - stick their kickboard between their legs and use it as a pull-buoy. In the twelve years I've been swimming daily--outside of watching swim teams practice--I have rarely seen anyone use a kickboard to go more than a couple hundred meters, and NEVER have I seen anyone use one to the point of exhaustion.

There are reasons. Kickboarding can be a bit difficult. Even if one is in shape in the upper body, kickboarding at first can be painful. Making muscles work hard that are not accustomed to an aggressive routine, always is. But once you get past that, it's just like any other exercise.

You can ease into it. Start with a set of short sprints 1/4 to 1/2 length followed by a couple easy lengths, then repeat. After a couple sessions start making those short sprint lengths longer. Set a goal to fatigue your legs -- at least briefly -- in each swim session. A little effort goes a long way to building power and endurance.

So here's the bottom line. Most lap swimmers' typical swim workout is not sufficient to build all available swim muscles and the legs are generally the ones that get ignored. I suggest adding a dedicated period of time during the aggressive part of your workout (not just the warm-up or cool-down) to kickboarding. After a couple months of this, I think you'll amaze yourself with additional speed and endurance, and when it comes to that final kick to the finish, it will be you who may have the advantage.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Best Door to an Indoor Pool Ever

Have you ever tried to sneak into a pool when it was closed? It's usually not too difficult. This might challenge you a bit more. Source: Unknown.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

New Federal Rules for Beach Swimmers

New rules - some say controversial - are scheduled to go into effect this Memorial Day for beach-goers around the country just in time for summer.

Due to the sometimes violent, always unpredictable nature of the oceans that surround nearly three-fourth's of our nation's landmass, all swimmers venturing past ankle depth in any ocean, bay or estuary on the continental United States will be required to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

This is as much a cost-saving measure as a life-saving measure. Cities around the country, strapped for cash are cutting back on their life-guard expenses and they've appealed to the federal government for help. The matter was taken into consideration last year, and after an extended study and comment period, passed the law with little fan fair. As it matches well with the Government's sense that people want to take personal responsibility for their safety, an enforced life-jacket rule will allow both cities and beach-goers to still enjoy the beach safely and keep their taxes low.

Unsurprisingly not everyone is thrilled with the idea and the concerns go beyond tan lines. Hawaii and Puerto Rico have asked for and been granted waivers as a large portion of their beach goers are from other countries and they fear the law would encourage travelers to seek other destinations. Florida and California also requested waivers but were not granted same.
;)

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Like last April 1st, I'm getting comments (spam?) that imply belief in the subject above. Just to set the record straight, for anyone thinking this is a legitimate post, it is not (neither was last year's post). This too was an April Fools joke. Note the wink at the end of the original posts.
:0

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Struggling to Swim? Good for You - Seriously

Yesterday, as I was swimming my laps, feeling kind of smug as I zoomed past some guy who was really kicking up a storm and getting nowhere, it dawned on me that that guy was probably getting more exercise than I was.  Yes, the guy who was doing 10 laps (maybe fewer) to my 50 was getting more out of his workout than me.  Why? Pretty simple physics, actually.  He's working harder than I am.  Probably 10x harder than I am for every meter.  Sure, I know how to swim well. That's why it can be easy for me.  I don't have to work nearly as hard.  I can cruise through my workout and get out like I just got out of bed (pretty smug, huh?). So, here's my salute. If you are in the pool and you are pushing yourself (struggling perhaps) and you see someone swim smoothly past, just know you are getting as much or more out of your workout as that "good" swimmer.  Unless they are kicking their own butt so they come out fatigued - having worked their cardio and other muscles like you - you're doing more for yourself than they.  Good for you! Seriously!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Zealand Emperor Penguin Swim

OK so the Diane Nyad swim from Cuba to FL tanked before it could really get going. My heart still goes out to the old gal. Still, we were all stoked to see this happen so I was beside myself when I found a new distance swim tracking opportunity to share with you guys.

Whoever has seen the movie Happy Feet knows about the cute animated penguin that swam a great distance to save his flock ("flock" is that what a penguin group is called? Whatever). There is a real life Happy Feet emperor penguin that somehow made it to New Zealand. Some good hearts got it in their minds that they ought to take this real life critter and get it back on track to the arctic. They've put a tracking device on it's back (just like in the movie), dropped it into the middle of the sea and now you can track its progress as it moves across the Arctic Ocean to home, we hope.

Here's the link. Click on "Map" when the page opens, then drill down using the "+" sign. Clicking on the points between the blue lines gives you the date and time of the last geo-location tag.

OK, so this isn't the kind of distance swim I usually discuss here, but what the heck. Good luck, Happy Feet!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Swim On Your Back in a Straight Line while Outside

I've been getting a number of comments at my outdoor pool about my ability to keep a straight line while swimming on my back, so I decided it might make for a worthy inclusion here.

We've all seen those swimmers who when on their backs weave back and forth across the lane. That's fine if you have the lane to yourself, but just imagine if you are sharing the lane with that swimmer! Until a couple of years ago, I was that weaving swimmer, but I've cracked the nut on how to deal with the problem.

Let's start with why swimming on one's back in an outdoors pool is harder than doing so in an indoor pool. The answer is pretty simple, outdoor swimming offers few cues to allow you to keep track of where you are.

My indoor pools (I visit several each year) have any number of ceiling features that generally line up with the lanes. At my pools there are ceiling panels, ventilation pipes, fire suppression piping (yes, in the pool room!!!), wood planking, etc. All it takes to keep a straight line is to keep yourself in line with the selected feature and you're good to go. If you see yourself going left or right of the feature, you're not swimming straight and you need to make a minor correction. Easy, right?

But outdoor pools, generally offer none of the above except blue sky, if you are so lucky, so what's one to do?

My technique is to swim as close to the lane line as I can without rubbing against it. Every few strokes, I'll allow an elbow or hip to gently brush the lane line, just so I'm certain that I am where I intend to be. That's it. Very simple. It will work in any pool that has lane markers.

A couple notes to keep in mind. Make sure you keep your leading fingertips pointed away from the lane marker - you don't want to jam a finger. Secondly, this technique is solely for training and recreation purposes. For obvious reasons of speed, you don't want to use this approach in competitive swimming as it may subtract from your time, even if it is only for a brief micro-second.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lebron James - 10 Meter Platform High Diver?

This is what you get when you put a basketball court next to a high-dive platform. Personally, If this had been me, I would have been tempted to jump to the side and splashed the DJ guy in the left side of the screen after he started yelling "jump, jump, jump".

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Diana Nyad Calls it a Day Before Dawn

At 12:45am, this AM, Diana called it quits. NYTimes has a good article describing the circumstances behind the decision to end the marathon swim. Apparently Diana developed asthma, shoulder pain, and was nauseated after 29 hours in the sea. Still, 29 hours in the water while 61 years old - no shark bites, too! - I call that lady, one tough broad. Good job, all the same.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Diana Nyad's Cuba to FL Swim has Begun

Diana began her swim last evening. Here is a link for a tracking map courtesy of CNN.

See my prior post for details about Diana's swim quest.

Edit: Here's the tweet feed from Matt Stone who is following along in a boat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Pool Activity - Leisure Diving

Check out this hilarious web site devoted to photos of people doing what people do best at the pool ... no, not swimming (I wish). They like to be leisurely.

Oh, I forgot to mention one key feature ... all photos are of "people of leisure" taken as they are high up in the air after jumping off a diving board (or other), in full relaxed pose.

See the gallery of photos here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Old" Woman Plans World Record Ocean Distance Swim

Diana Nyad plans to swim from Cuba to FL - a world record swim. Oh, yeah ... she's 61 years old. In this video, Diana shares some of her philosophies on aging, laments and goals. Good luck, Diana and thanks AOL Video for the embed code!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Martin Strel Completes Grand Canyon Swim

What do you do for fun when you've already swum most of the major rivers in the world including the Amazon? How about a dip in 46 degree water for 19 miles down the Grand Canyon? (Best feature ... no anacondas or piranha)

Extreme swimmer, and favorite extreme swimmer hero highlighted in this blog, Martin Strel has another fin to add to his back with this accomplishment.

Link to Martin's web site and lots of pictures.