“What an earth are these?” was a common comment when we were exhibiting in the summer months.
As you may know South West Swim worked closely with 113Events this year, 113 events run the best long and middle distance triathlons in the Cotswolds and we will be working alongside them again in 2016. We were at each registration day for the events with our mobile store and 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 was 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, targeted 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 kit bag 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 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. The longer blade also provides additional propulsion so you can focus on the front end development of the stroke.
- 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 body roll)
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 perform kick in a streamlined / torpedo position (breathing to the front or side) or with the additional use of the centre snorkel. 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 SPM based sets.
This season my Tempo trainer was my best friend and helped train me to a rhythmical and even stroke for my Windermere swim. I used the tempo trainer in the pool for CSS and SPM training to build speed and rhythm and then purely for SPM training in ling distance training swims to help maintain a stroke rate of 64SPM for 10.5 miles.
- 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.
- In the open water season 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. A great way of carrying training aids is a Chillswim tow float with a couple of carabiners attached so you can clip aids on and off.
To finish off, when exhibiting at the 113 registration events 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. See, training aids can be fun 😉
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 squad sessions. We also plan on running a kit try session in the coming months so you can come along to the pool, try the kit and get advice on your precise needs. Look out for information in our newsletters and social media.
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
South West Swim Coaching & Retail
South West Swim specialise in open water swimming, front crawl stroke correction and video analysis for open water swimmers, pool swimmers and triathletes (of all levels). We use the world renowned Swim Smooth coaching methods in our sessions, together with a South West Swim Twist.
Open water groups, 1-2-1’s, pool squad sessions are available together with video analysis in both traditional and (soon) our own endless pool environments. Endless pool 1-2-1’s will also be available once the pool is up and running. For information on coaching and retail please feel free to contact us at email@example.com