I probably don't need to tell you that swimming front crawl or freestyle is a technical skill. It requires the coordinated movement of all four limbs and the spine to produce a smooth series of strokes that blend together seamlessly to propel you through the water. You might have found that endless hours of just swimming up and down the pool has not resulted in significant improvement. A technical skill such as swimming front crawl (FC) often needs to be broken down into it's component parts, with each part being practised and refined, before bringing it all together again. This is where the use of swimming tools can be very useful.
A pull buoy is not just for improving the strength of your stroke. The added buoyancy that the pull buoy gives to your legs allows you to focus on what is happening with the front end of your stroke i.e. with the arms and trunk. This is why we might ask you to use the pull buoy when practising drills designed to improve your catch and pull or body rotation.
Using fins is not cheating! Fins are very useful for improving your ankle flexibility and kick efficiency. The added propulsion that fins give you also allows you to focus on what is happening with the arms and trunk and to practice streamlining and body roll drills more effectively. Fins can also be used for 'over-speed' training. This type of training gets your body (and brain) used to swimming faster than normal, a form of neuromuscular training, that can result in more efficient movement patterns. Make sure you buy swimming specific fins (not diving fins which are very stiff and long).
Paddles are great for improving the strength of your stroke but there are some paddles that are also designed to improve stroke technique such as the Finis Freestyler Hand Paddles and PT Paddles. The Freestyler's unique shape and 'skeg' design forces streamlined hand entry which lengthens each arm stroke. A longer stroke creates a better pull through, a better hip-rotation, and ultimately increases performance. PT Paddles are shaped to deflect water around your hand, effectively removing the hands from the swimming equation. By removing the hand as a paddle, swimmers have to find other methods of generating propulsion such as using the trunk and keeping a high elbow during the catch and pull and using the forearm. Both these paddles are available through Swim Smooth.
In future sessions we will be using this equipment more and more. The Lido does not have enough pull buoys for the whole squad and they do not have fins. If you really want to make the most of the upcoming swim sessions and improve your stroke please buy a pair of fins and a pull buoy. I think you will find the swim sessions a lot more fun and rewarding as a result.
Nautilus, 197-199 Mare Street, have swimming specific fins. You must ring the bell to enter the shop so don't be put off if the door is locked during normal hours. The Lido has pull buoys for sale at the front counter. So get yourself some toys for the pool!
Well done to all of you who completed the London Triathlon in the weekend! Tim (LFTC Coach)