The Freestyle Catch, Kickboards, and Big Mistakes

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The Freestyle Catch

I had a very productive chat with a guy named John from Illinois last night in the chat room (once per month I do a chat session on BT…usually we get 6-10 people but last night it was just a one-on-one session).

Just wanted to relay some of the questions he asked and my answers:

1. How far below the surface should my elbow be on the pull?

The answer is not a specific number, but a realization that when you pull in freestyle, you are rotating your hips at the same time. Therefore, your elbow never actually drops too far below the surface. Seeing this from underwater will make more sense, but generally you want to keep your elbow from dropping, and instead start from an extended position, bend your elbow, and pull as you rotate your hips.

2. Are kick boards useful in training for the swim?

No. Kick boards give you artificial balance in the water, and have you kicking on your stomach (where you should never be in freestyle). Now, I don’t entirely hate kick boards.

I think they can be useful in taking a break (active recovery) during your swim workout on occasion, especially if you are training with friends- this will give you a chance to socialize a bit. But don’t think you’re actually accomplishing anything swimming-wise while doing a social kick, and make sure to keep board use to a minimum.

3. What is the biggest mistake triathletes make in the swim?

That would be a couple of things. For beginners, it’s not swimming their own race and starting the race right in the middle of the pack. You will likely get clobbered, and by the time you get to that first buoy, you’re already exhausted from just trying to avoid contact (or from getting punched!).

For intermediates, it is sprinting to that first buoy. I have no idea why people do this.

You will end up crashing and burning by the last part of your swim. It won’t do any good for your race, and trust me, it hurts!

Instead, a better approach would be to find your own water and swim your own race.