Triathlon Swimming Improvement – Issue #109

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Triathlon Swimming Improvement

Dear Friend,

There seems to be a triathlon of some kind every weekend this time of year here in southern California.

After reading an article in the latest Triathlete magazine on late season burnout, and listening to the beginner triathlete of the month interview this month (trixie), my conclusion is that it is so important to 1) not train too hard and enter too many races, and 2) not train hard enough and have too much time between races!

For swimming, of course, training “hard” doesn’t always mean busting your butt to make a faster interval. It is the little things that make the big difference- like stroke counting, bending your elbows on recovery, and overall having hip rotation as you swim, rather than powering through with a flat stroke.

Nonetheless, you must balance your training between drills, intervals, and open water practice (if you are swimming in an open water race) to see real improvement in the water.

And to balance the rest of your training and racing, you need days off, weekends away, and active recovery (i.e. social running, social kicking (with board), and workout days with no particular goal in mind other than enjoyment.

To Laughing at the Water,

“Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Does a “Runner’s Kick” Slow Down Your Swim?

Can you point your toes and straighten out your feet?

When you kick on your back, do you tend to go very slow, stay in one place, or even go backwards?

Do you have a tough time with swimming drills because your kick is not propelling you forward fast enough?

Do you wear fins in workouts just to “keep up”?

Did you start out as a runner and pick up swimming later to become a triathlete?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may have Runner’s Kick! This means your ankles are more inflexible than the average person, mainly from doing all that pavement-pounding.

Have no fear, there are things you can do. Even the worst of kickers can develop an adequate kick for freestyle, which is all you need for a triathlon swim. Here are some remedies:

1. Vertical Kicking. This drill has been around for a long time, and has helped many a poor kicker. Find water that is deep enough for you to kick in place. Let go of the wall, cross your arms, and kick in place in a vertical position (keep in a straight line), pointing your toes and keeping your chin above the surface of the water. Get your power from your quads and hips on this drill. Try 20 seconds at a time.

2. Use fins. Yes! I am a coach telling you to use fins. But not to “keep up” in workouts. IF you have ankle flexibility issues (Runner’s Kick), use fins for a few weeks, but wean off them as you get closer to your event. The shorter kind are best. I prefer Hydrofinz (see below) but other brands may work okay as well. Fins can increase your ankle flexibility, allow you to do swimming drills with ease, and strengthen the right leg muscles you need to kick.

3. Sit on your feet. For more severe cases of Runner’s Kick, sitting on your feet can greatly improve your ankle flexibility. In Yoga, just stay in “Child’s Pose” a little longer and gain this extra benefit.

4. Just stretch. In a seated position, take one leg and bring it out in front of you. Extend your feet and push your toes toward the ground. Hold for about 15-20 seconds, repeat with other foot. You can do this several times a day.

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to use a kick board to improve your kick. For distance swimming and triathlons, you are wasting your time with the floatation devices!

Remember: You don’t need a super kick to have a great race in a triathlon. Your kick is mainly for stability and body rotation.

Have patience, stick with these drills, and you will lose your Runner’s Kick before you know it!