Swimming is the bane of many triathlete’s lives.
What if there were some swimming tools that could accelerate the learning hurdle and improve your technique and your swim times with very little effort?
Swimming is the biggest reason many people give for not attempting triathlon. It goes something like this:
“I’d love to do triathlon but…
I can’t swim
I can’t put my face in the water
My legs drag
I’m scared of open water swimming…”
Whatever the “reason”, it’s time to change your mindset and address these obstacles.
Swimming is technical for sure…and most adults do not have the patience to learn the technique. Instead they blast up and down thrashing about in the water thinking that they are too “advanced” to bother with swimming drills. They want to look like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky…and train only 2 x 30 mins a week…
What they do not see behind the performances of top Olympic swimmers and pro triathletes is the HOURS and HOURS per week these champions spend on drills.
Top swimmers do not come to training, do the main set then go home.
Instead, they arrive, they warm up, they do drills, they start the main set, then they do more drills, more sets then they warm down, then they stretch THEN they go home.
ALL top swimmers spend HOURS a day doing drills.
Because drills work and are the quickest way to get fast.
Top Swimming Tools
Anything we can do to improve our swimming will pay massive dividends. There are some awesome inexpensive tools that will help your swimming improve… and by the way – a cool new gadget always helps peak our interest again and might make doing those drills a little easier ☺
These are designed to help guide correct water entry and pull through.
Now you might have used hand paddles in the past- most traditional ones are designed for strength training…
Warning: do NOT use these traditional hand paddles if you have poor swim technique.
They will exacerbate and magnify ANY slight error you may have with your stroke. You will be on the fast track for rotator cuff issues very quickly.
What is different about these Finis freestyle paddles is they are not designed as a resistance strength tool. Instead they assist correct water entry having a pointed tip and then a fin on the under surface. This helps guide correct pull through. Water entry should be out in front of your shoulder.
Many beginners cross the midline entering the water in front of their head.
This leads to shoulder tendonitis and it weakens your stroke.
The hand paddle will help you correct this by giving you instant feedback every stroke.
If you do it wrong, the paddle and the fin will make it difficult to pull back.
It also features a cut out shape at the base which helps you work on your “catch” and get a great feel of the water.
Enter the water in front of your shoulder then pull straight back with a bent elbow. It also helps you focus on your reach and lengthening your stroke.
Here is a good video on how it works:
Personally I love a new toy and it always makes me enjoy training again if I notice that I am becoming a little stale. The paddles are not expensive and I was pleasantly surprised how effective they were. I noticed I start off swimming with good technique but as I fatigue throughout my session, I have a tendency to start to enter the water towards the midline unless I concentrate hard. The hand paddles help me maintain my form until the end.
Note: I do not do the whole sessions with paddles. Just some drills and some intermittent laps throughout to check and reinforce my form.
In fact, this is one of the best swim hacks I have found in recent years as it gives instant feedback and instant correction. Even when I had a coach telling me that my stroke was crossing the midline, I thought that I was correcting it, but was horrified to see later on video that I was not. Whereas with these paddles I can “feel” the difference instantly.
There is no mistake.
Update: I know this article is ostensibly only discussing my top 3 tools. However after it was published I had so many people contact me suggesting I add this forearm fulcrum tool as it had helped them so much. So I decided to add it in. I have since had a play with it and it is amazing.
Instant feedback is what will make your swimming technique improve out of sight. Instead of watching a video then trying to implement it but not really knowing if you are doing it correct on not, this forearm fulcrum will “make” you do it correctly!
It will stop your wrist collapsing and encourage a powerful high elbow catch.
Check it out here:
I am very impressed with this tool as it is so simple yet so effective.
The collapse of the wrist and poor catch position is one of the most common mistakes I see amongst many of the people I have coach. This tool instantly puts their arm in an optimal position so they “know” and can “feel” the position in which they should be doing their stroke.
If you want a strong, effective swim stroke- get this!
Ever have the feeling your legs are dragging in the water? This is the #1 reason that most triathletes find swimming is so hard. It makes swimming so exhausting which is a nightmare for triathletes as there is still the bike and run to go.
They key for triathletes is to make swimming as streamlined and efficient as possible to cover the distance with least possible expenditure of energy. This does NOT happen if you are dragging your legs like an anchor behind you.
Training with a pool buoy, raises your hips and legs and gives you the feeling of where your legs should be. It allows the correct horizontal position in the water so the body can memorise this position. In addition, it aligns the body correctly so the core can learn the position to activate correctly and help keep the hips and ankles up.
Remember my favourite mantra “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”
This means that “doing more laps” in the wrong position will simply serve to reinforce your incorrect position. The pool buoy however immediately corrects your position so your body can practice correctly. I suggest my clients do 2 laps with pool buoy, then two laps without -trying to replicate the position immediately then keep going 2 laps on, two laps off, for a total of 800m.
Now swimming quickly becomes an expensive sport if you train before work then stuff your swimming costume and towel in your bag, it sits at work all day getting mouldy and degrading. New swim gear is required just about every month due to chlorine rot!
I now use this bag for my “before work” sessions- it has mesh pockets for things like my goggles and cap to dry, it has loops on the outside to hang my swimming costume and light towel- and it has a safe dry compartment for my laptop and is big enough to carry the other stuff I need like work shoes and plenty of snacks!
As a result, my wet stuff is dry before I get to work.
It saves me a fortune in mouldy swim gear.
I hope that overview of my favourite swim tools helps.
Anything that can make swimming easier is worth its weight in gold.
Grab the tools you need and start making fast progress. Once you have improved your technique, swimming becomes a whole lot more fun. Open water swimming will also become less daunting once you can cut through the water better, each stroke is more powerful and your legs are not not dragging you down.
Happy Training as always
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