Fins come in all shapes and sizes. There are sport-specific as well as leisure time fins. So, if you are doing laps in a pool the first thing you need to do is avoid scuba fins…that is unless you are training for your scuba certification.
For swim training you will find short fins, long fins, and monofins useful. Each has a different benefit to their use, but all are excellent training aids to add variety. If you need help finding the right fin, please click on over to my guide here.
Primary benefits to using the standard long fins are increased speed to simulate race pace scenarios and increased work load on your legs. By using long fins you are building endurance and strength with the added bonus of trying to control your turns, streamlines, and stroke under higher speeds.
Short fins are beneficial for flutter kick training. Their shorter stature forces swimmers to use small and quick kicks maximizing all around efficiency.
Monofins are exclusively for dolphin kick training. Foil movement underwater is optimized greatly by the aid of a monofin. Working with a single fin in this manner increases core strength in addition to leg strength.]]>
• No Black Lines
The monotony of going back and forth, back and forth is completely eliminated! During an open water swim there is no black line glaring back at you, taunting you. It’s just you and that wide open space, be it a lake or ocean!
Being surrounded by nature and not a pool deck is a definite perk. Sure your coach still might be pushing you on from the edge of a boat instead of the edge of a pool, but changing it up is always a good thing for sanity.
• Contact Sport?
For those of you who are uber competitive and are a little more ‘hands on’ welcome to football in the water. Just kidding. But seriously you can expect some contact during an open water swim, unless you are out there doing your own thing solo. At the beginning of an open water swim, getting out of the pack can be tricky and is a huge part of strategy.
Open water swimming events are more like a game than traditional swimming events. There is plotting to do and plans to initiate. Not always diabolical ones but this type of competition includes much game play.
Go with friends, make it an active part of your lifestyle. Swimming can be like going for a run or a hike, you just have to try it. Plan for a shoreline picnic after or a lunch at a local mom and pop restaurant. Get your vitamin D, exercise, and social exposure all at once!
Sure sounds great, right!? I think you will enjoy it if you give it a try. And if you are already an open water swimmer, pass the word along… ask a friend or make a new friend and ask them to join you. Share the happiness that is open water swimming.]]>
The week prior to competition, set aside 10 to 20 minutes each day to visualize your race. Find a quiet spot, lie on your back, close your eyes and imagine all the steps you will be going through the moment you step to the block. Visualize success, athletic competition is not all physical. Being mentally prepared can make a lesser talented athlete smash a more talented one who isn’t mentally prepared.
Visit your goals, don’t let them consume you, but remind yourself what they are. Make this a separate exercise from visualization.
Listen to music that gets your heart thumping; watch a race that inspires you on YouTube. Get excited! This is what you have been waiting for. Don’t dread the opportunity to show off your hard work, relish in it. now get out there and race fast!]]>
You can perform this exercise from a plank position on your elbow, on your knees, or in a standard push up position on your hands and toes.
This is a small movement controlled exercise with big benefits. To start squeeze your shoulder blades together, this will lower your torso slightly. Squeeze as close as you can and then return to your starting position. If you are having difficulties a buddy can be a big help. Have a workout partner place their hand (thumb up pinkie down) on your spine in-between your shoulder blades and then try to squeeze their hand. Up for a challenge? Perform this exercise on your toes with your hands on a medicine ball.
This exercise helps with posture and range of motion in your shoulders and upper back. Most swimmers tend to shrug inwardly due to over development.
Basic Plank position is on your toes and elbows. The goal is to keep your body in a straight line. Keep your eyes looking down and hips low to feel the burn. Planking is not solely a core exercise. You will feel it all over!
Variations include raising a leg or an arm, or opposing leg and arm at the same time. You can take this exercise to your side by turning on one elbow and taking the other arm up so your fingers are pointed to the sky.
A standard core killer, but swimmers need a strong core to protect their lower back from damage and extra strength to propel kicking. The best thing about planks is the variety and modifications you can use to make it easier, harder, or just different.
All you need is rope and an anchor. Wrap the rope around a sturdy pole, large tree, etc and you are ready to go.
A basic beginner exercise would be waves. Hold an end of the rope in each hand and alternate moving your hands up and down to create a ripple through the rope. Check your stance, wide legs, slight bend at the knees. Keep your back straight!
Interval training with ropes is a killer workout that can help build muscles and improve posture. If you don’t have one at your gym or pool, head to the hardware store and snag about 50 feet of manila rope in 1-2 inch thickness depending on your personal needs.
Have fun trying new exercises and stay fit in and out of the water.]]>
1. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
A fast blend of carbs and protein that can easily be carried in a plastic bag and doesn’t need refrigerating.
2. Lunch Meats
Portable and pack the protein. If you have the option, go to the deli counter and choose the low sodium cuts. Low sodium is key, hydration is so important for athletes, adding to your salt intake will make hydrating that much more difficult.
Antioxidants and sweet berries can reduce the urge for something sugary sweet, they also provide good nutrition to boot.
With more potassium than bananas and high in B vitamins, avocados are an awesome energy booster. Plus the monosaturated healthy fats avocados contain are easily burned for even more energy.
5. Chia Seeds
Jump on the band wagon, these popular additives are sweeping the athletic world. They are easy to toss into most meals. Pour some in a smoothie, sprinkle them on a salad, mix them in anything for aiding your recovery time and maintaining energy.
Just a little planning ahead of time can make eating on-the-go smart, easy, and fast!]]>
Will you be wearing it at an indoor pool or outside? How many hours a week? This will help you determine what fabric is best and is as good a place to start as any.
If, for example, you will be wearing your suit in the water for 10 hours a week or less a Lycra suit should do the job. If you are swimming outdoors or 20 hours a week or more polyester is your best bet. The sun and chlorine affect the life of a suit. The more you use it and the more the sun fades it, the faster it will wear out.
Lets examine the different cuts next. The rise at your hips is generally available in three different cuts: modest, moderate, and high. Most competitive swimmers will be looking into high cut suits whereas most aqua aerobic enthusiasts prefer modest cuts. There are plenty of options in the middle for those who arent quite sure.
We arent done with cuts yet, next we have straps. Thin or thick? There is a healthy mix of both and the choice often just rides upon personal preference. Thick straps tend to be more supportive, but can bite into the neck of competitive swimmers because of the constant movement during training. Many younger competitive swimmers prefer thin lingerie type straps.
Finally we come to the back of the suit. There are a multitude of different backs with hundreds of different names. It generally comes down to thick cross backs and thin strap lingerie backs. Again this has a great deal to do with personal preference. For training competitive swimmers seem to prefer the less is better approach. The thinner the back the less rubbing, fewer tan lines, more mobility, etc. With thicker backs you get more stability and a tighter fit. Thick straps are preferable in racing situations like competition.
Last we get to colors. This is the fun part. You can pick between patterns, solids, splices, and more, the choices are innumerable and colorful. Say color isnt your thing, black is an industry standard and is most often offered in all styles and cuts.]]>
1. Hydrate - You must stay hydrated. Being in the water often gives off the illusion of being cool and hydrated, but you are still using up reserves faster than the average person who is not swimming. You should be drinking at least one full water bottle every hour. You do not need sports drinks, however if you are anti-water and need something for taste, a 60/40 mix of water/sports drink is much more tolerable.
2. Focus - Don’t bring video games, stay off your smart phone, etc. This is a sure fire way to miss your race or become consumed with something other than your performance. You’ve put in the hours, don’t waste them away. Bring a deck of cards and talk or play with your teammates.
3. Warm up and warm down - Battle the stiffness and muscle fatigue by ensuring your muscles are warm pre-race and then take the time to cool down post-racing. If you don’t warm up, you risk pulling muscles or just feeling like a stiff board. If you skip cool down you will likely feel your muscles start to tighten and become sore. Set yourself up for success and do the right things!
4. Consider the elements - Sunscreen and clothes to keep you covered in the hot sun is especially important. Imagine trying to swim at your peak with a severe sun burn. Burns also coincide with dehydrating! Pack warm clothes, especially a hat and warm shoes if it is chilly. The most heat escapes from your feet and your head when they are uncovered.
5. Check in with your coach pre and post race. Let them guide you with race strategy and let them help you evaluate after your race. Their eyes see things you do not. Take their experience and use it to your benefit.
Of course these are just a few suggestions to avoid “flopping” at your competitions. What kind of pitfalls have you experienced or witnessed? How would you avoid them?]]>
A good place to start, especially if you are new to the area, is USA Swimming’s website usaswimming.org. On this site you will find local teams listed with current phone numbers and individual team’s websites. By making a list of clubs that are commutable for your family, you can decide which programs to focus on. Visit team websites and check out practice times, coach biographies, and the general feel of the organization.
Many clubs will offer a visiting or trial offer including watching or participating in a few practices. Some teams offer an entrance interview where you can sit down and talk with the coaches. This is a great way to find out if these teams are a good fit for your family. Be sure to also get all of the team paperwork in advance. Most clubs have packets for all members which include member policies, behavior expectations, volunteer requirements, fees, and meet schedules. These are all important things to look at when selecting a potential teams for your family.
Of course you can ask other parents for recommendations, but in this day and age take all comments with a grain of salt. Sports are competitive by nature; parents of athletic children are often even more competitive. What is a good fit for another family may not be a good fit for your family. Also keep in mind that children are all different and will be successful in different situations.]]>
There has to be a certain level of ego, self-awareness, and confidence to be an elite level athlete in any field. Over confidence can be a flaw, but combine that confidence with work ethic and you have a monster, one that will crush swims on a regular basis.
Swimming is hard. It will consume your life. But if you accept it, love it, and let it be part of you the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices.
This is your career and your lifestyle choice. The results will come out of the time and effort you put it. Don’t place blame for failures on the shoulders of others. Every problem has a solution, work with your peers and your coaches to find them.
Swimming has no off season. You get sick or injured; you know where this is coming from. The more time you spend out of the water, the more feel for the water you lose. Out for a week? Takes two weeks to gain back your losses. Likewise, you are always a swimmer, in the water and out. Make choices that will positively impact your performance.
Recognize the commitment you have made to yourself. Respect yourself and the choice you made to strive to be elite. Don’t sell yourself short and take a day off, before you know it one day has turned to two because your mom’s car battery was dead.
Elite athletes and outstanding people are goal setters. Without goals you have no direction, no path to travel. You can put in the miles, but if you don’t know where you are going you are bound to get lost. Swimmers don’t have time to get lost.
With the max consumption of time that swimming demands scheduling is key. Know what your day holds. Prepare yourself for all the activities therein. This means planning for fuel replacement, how often, what is best. Planning for recovery, can you snag a nap here? Planning when you will do homework or chores or work if that is your thing.]]>
Children who are just learning to swim may thrive in group classes offered at local recreation facilities. If this is your path follow it with as much enthusiasm and the happiest face you can muster. Why? If you are feeling anxious, scared, or hesitant about getting your child in the water they will know.
I speak from experience. Currently I teach baby to toddler swim lessons and run six to ten sessions every week. The goal in my class is safety skills, survival, and fun. There are awesome parents who love getting in the water with their children and there are parents who fear it. Guess which kids kick, scream, and cry.
Start them young when they are babies. Both of my kids were in the water at 5 months, about the age when they can begin to regulate body temperature, assuming you are using a pool that is at least 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Parent and child lessons are awesome. Most of my swimmers are 2 or younger. Start them as babies so they are not the 3 or 4 year old in a class full of 12 month olds. It can be more detrimental to their young egos to be struggling where clearly younger children excel. If you are already in this predicament aim for something one on one with an instructor to get your older toddler/child up to speed so they can quickly rejoin an age appropriate group.
When they are ready for group taught lessons without parent assistance is when your parental role changes. They have an instructor or a coach who is now in charge of their development. This is an important skill for you and your child. For your child this is the introduction to group learning, a life skill used across sports and education. They are forming the ability to focus, listen, and initiate directions on their own. The parent role can be more difficult. It’s no longer time for you to be their coach, that time has passed with their graduation into an instructor led class.
If they are destined for a swim team this is the best practice. Participate by showing your enthusiasm in what they are doing and being able to watch them. Give them your time. If you have questions talk to the instructor, or when the time comes your child’s coach. Open communication between adults is important when the kids are little. Coaches and instructors alike can be a learning resource for you as well as your children.
For more parental education on swimming, check out these posts.]]>