Expert Adam Young gives us the low-down on the best swim toys to help improve your speed and technique for triathlon.
There’s nothing worse than spending your swims aimlessly plodding up and down the lane. There’s so much more you could be doing to improve your technique and fitness, including using some of the swim toys currently available. They’ve really improved over the years, and now you can get paddles, fins, floats and other gadgets that are brilliant at ironing out the faults in your stroke and helping you to execute a better training session.
Before you get too excited, it’s worth considering that some public pools may not allow you to use fins or paddles during public sessions, although they often have a dedicated lane or time slot when they are allowed. Fortunately, private gyms are normally more open-minded about the training needs of their members and you’re unlikely to have any issues using these important tools.
Here are five recommended swim toys that will help you improve your technique promote you to the fast lane in 2013.
The humble pullbuoy is an essential tool for improving your swimming technique. Placed high up between the legs, it gives you lift so you no longer have to kick, isolating propulsion to the upper body.
They’re used in two ways. Firstly, while swimming freestyle, they allow you to focus on developing a good catch and feel for the water. Secondly, they’re useful when performing propulsion drills such as sculling and doggy paddle, where any propulsion from the legs would interfere with the drill.
Pullbuoys are an essential part of any swimmer’s kit bag but can become addictive for triathletes, so only use yours for a maximum of 400m to 600m per session. They are also available in a range of buoyancies depending how sinky your legs are. Most swimmers are fine with a normal-sized pullbuoy but if you have good natural buoyancy then choose a smaller one and if you have very sinky legs then check out the new HUUB Big Buoy (huubdesign.com) for maximum flotation.
2. Finis Tempo Trainer Pro
This is a deceptively simple gadget that can make a big difference to your swimming. Placed under your swim cap, it beeps as you swim, normally beeping once per arm stroke so controlling your stroke tempo. If you have a tendency to fight the water, slowing down your stroke slightly gives you a chance to lengthen out. Or if you have a tendency to over glide, lifting your stroke rate will bring back your sense of rhythm and timing. Even swimming with the beeper set to your current stroke rate is useful as it helps to develop your symmetry and to maintain your stroke timing while breathing. The Tempo Trainer Pro can also be used to set a target pace per lap (like a beep test, you have to get to the end of the pool on the beep) making it a great virtual training partner for fitness sets. Make sure you get the Pro model to get full stroke-rate functionality.
3. Mid-Length Flexible Fins
You can get various types of fins, from short and stubby to long and flexible. For working on your stroke technique you should opt for the latter, like the Tyr Split Fin, pictured above (tyr.com). They give you support and propulsion while you perform drills, so that you can focus on the drill itself and not worry about kicking overly hard. The longer fin also encourages a better kicking technique from the hip and the softer material is easier on the foot and ankle.
Many swimmers think of using fins as cheating but used constructively for drill work, with a specific purpose in mind, they are anything but. Longer fins can be hard to find in shops but you’ll find them online without any problems.
4. Swim Training Plan
£0 – £30
This isn’t technically a swim toy, but it’s still an extremely worthwhile purchase. All the swim gadgets in the world won’t help if you don’t have a clear plan of what to do every session. The answer is a swim training plan and there are many available on the internet to follow, many of which are free. You can also find them within the Triathlon Plus training plans on triradar.com, or there are pool-side books available to buy. You can also buy them from Swim Smooth – with 35 sessions to work on your stroke technique, fitness and open water skills. They are fully waterproof so you can keep them in your kit bag and take them poolside.
5. Finis Freestyler Paddles
Swim paddles were originally used as a form of resistance training but this intelligent design from Finis allows you to work on your stroke technique at the same time. The pointed shape helps you focus on a spearing entry into the water and the special keel on the bottom gives you feedback on your alignment. We use these extensively with our Swim Smooth squads and we think they’re a great design that really does work.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
You’ll find loads more triathlon training advice in triradar.com’s Training Zone section.