“What an earth are these?” was a common comment when we were exhibiting a few weekends ago
As you may know South West Swim are working closely with 113Events this year, 113 events run the best long and middle distance triathlons in the Cotswolds. A few weeks ago we, along with performance cycles, we were advising and displaying at the 113 registration point. It was great to engage with the athletes, advise on the swim course and their race (or as some were saying “survival”) tactics for the swim leg. Hearing the variations of how people trained were great and in some cases eye opening. Many conversations were had on training aids and their use in sessions, and surprisingly about half of the swimmers had never used any kind of aid.
Adding training aids into your swimming sessions, especially when working on technique, can be a very useful way of ironing out any imperfections in the stroke and improving your general swim and technique. During a South West Swim session we use Finis training aids for specific development of an individuals stroke. Finis make (in our coaching and personal swimming opinion) the best technical training aids on the market, with each aid designed for a specific purpose.
So how do you choose a training aid from the huge amount on offer? here are a few key tips:
- Choose aids that will help with YOUR stroke as an individual. It is great having a full kitbag of toys but would you use them all and do you need them all? A good coach will be able to highlight key areas of development that are needed for you personally, video analysis is a great tool for highlighting areas of work and the tools that would help in developing you as a swimmer.
- Try to choose paddles that do not strap onto your hands in a way that they don’t move. This refers to certain types of paddle on the market that will strap to your hand with several straps, basically enlarging your pull area. This type of paddle is OK for a swimmer with great technique and will help build some strength, but are not so great if you are building your technique or trying to overcome poor form in an area of the stroke. The danger is that incorrect form with this type of paddle could cause injury, placing stress on the body because the aid is not able to feedback or move (fixing the bad form in place). Both the Finis freestyler paddles and agility paddles are designed to come off (or feedback) if incorrect form is used, reducing the risk of injury from prolonged, incorrect form.
Use fins for some kick drills. Fins are not “cheating” as some swimmers will tell you but they are very useful in developing a stronger kick and core, promoting good ankle flexibility and enabling the swimmer to perform some very valuable drill sequences that they may find hard or impossible without fins (kick on side, 6-3-6, Javelin, broken arrow etc). We recommend the use of floating fins as they are comfortable and flexible.
- Using a centre snorkel can also be beneficial for developing the front end of the stroke, and indeed the kick. The snorkel takes away the need to breath so a full focus can be given on the actual drill / task at hand. However do not overuse in your swim as you could find yourself developing a flat stroke (reducing an efficient role)
Kick boards have a use but as a coach I only use them in warm ups or cool downs. Holding a board will lift your body at the front end, thus either dropping your legs or arching your back. When kicking you want to try and be in as normal swimming position as possible so either kick using a snorkel or in a streamlined / torpedo position (breathing to the front or side). This will flatten your body into a more streamlined position. A great compromise is the Alignment kickboard as this aids alignment in the stroke but also provides just enough support to the front end whilst in the kick position.
- Pull buoys – Don’t live on your pull buoy! They are great for pull development and for those that wear wetsuits but try not to use this all the time as it can make your core / legs become lazy as you become reliant on the floatation at the back of the stroke. They are very useful and we use them in our sessions (HUUB big buoy is great as is the Finis adult pull buoy) but just don’t use them all the time like we see some swimmers do.
- Use a tempo trainer! Possibly one of the best things you will buy for your swimming. Use a tempo trainer for either CSS based training sets or in the lake to train to a constant tempo, improving timing and rhythm in the stroke.
- Make sure you can actually use training aids in your pool. Some pools have a strange notion that all training aids are dangerous and do not allow use of things like paddles, fins and snorkels. The strangest story I have heard from one of my swimmers is that they could not use a snorkel in the pool as the lifeguard would not be able to tell if they were drowning (true story). Ask your pool about training aid use, it would be a shame to invest in your kit to find you are not allowed to use them.
- Don’t restrict your use of training aids to the pool! We use our training aids in a pool but we also use them in the lake, why not? think of the lake as a very big pool and use it just like………a very big pool. A lake should not just be for getting in and swimming around but also a continuation of pool based work, be it technique or speed, for continual development of your swimming.
To finish off, when exhibiting at the 113 registration afternoon the training aid that got the most attention was the Finis forearm fulcrum! The reaction to this strange looking, but very effective, device was sometimes comical and we saw athletes trying to wear it in all different ways, the funniest being a couple who individually put it around their wrists in the style of a pair of handcuffs, when genuinely trying to work out how they worked :).
For reference the forearm fulcrums look like this:
South West Swim have a massive bag of toys with us at all times, so if you wish to try anything out for size or feel please let us know and we can arrange this in Lake 12, lake 32 or at our pool sessions. We will also have Grant Turner (GB Swimmer, Olympian and Finis representative) and Rhys Mainstone (Australian Elite Open Water Swimmer) with us at the Cotswold Expo on Sunday July 5th who will both be able to offer expert and in depth advice on all if the Finis products.
All kit is available at www.southwestswim.co.uk/store
A brief overview on all training aids can be found in our earlier post on this topic here
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