Time to make a splash! This month our team of experts is sharing everything you need to know about swimming—whether you’re just diving in or training for your next competition. But first, Team Amino Vital athletes share what you’ll need to before you head to the pool.
One of the reasons swimming is such a great sport is because it doesn’t require much to get started, says 3X Olympic swimming medalist and Team Amino Vital Athlete, Megan Jendrick. All you really need are a suit, cap and goggles. She notes even most guys find they prefer swimming with a cap, especially come race time.
Beginners may also want to consider training with fins, says triathlon coach and Team Amino Vital Athlete, Jenny Lagerquist. When just starting out, beginner swimmers typically spend an enormous amount of effort just trying to not sink. You tend to have to kick very hard to not only move forward, but also keep your body in an attempted horizontal plane. Adding fins helps improve a beginner’s body alignment, allowing you to focus more on the front quadrant of swimming, especially while working through drills.
When picking out a pair, Lagerquist suggests finding fins that allow a natural and normal kicking cadence. If the fins are too long or big, they can hinder that cadence, and you end up kicking like a scuba diver. She prefers either short fins or split fins.
The Next Level
For more experienced swimmers, using fins is an excellent way to help improve your speed, says Lagerquist. As we swim thousands on top of thousands of yards for seconds in time, our bodies acclimate into a rhythm. Working on swim-specific strength, technique and aerobic capacity will help us get faster, but sometimes we have to remind our bodies what its like to really swim fast. Insert using fins. As soon as fins are employed, we move much faster, and now we have to concentrate on moving our arms faster through the water. Furthermore, the faster you move, the more you can feel discrepancies in your stroke, which allows you to alter your technique to find that sweet streamline position.
Another underused, yet highly effective swim tool to consider is the band, says Lagerquist. You can purchase a specific band that ties your feet together or a simple piece of rubber tubing will work great. Swimming with a band forces the swimmer to really learn how to catch the water and pull yourself forward, all the while maintaining a horizontal body position.
And as you reach higher levels of competition where every tenth of a second counts, you’ll want to invest in a proper “tech” racing suit, Jendrick explains. These suits are often made with high-technology fabric that mimics marine animal skin to improve swimmers’ glide through the water and reduce the absorption of water by the suit.
Using these tools correctly can make any and every swimmer stronger, faster and more confident, but keep their use to about 25 percent of your workout. In the end, Lagerquist reminds us that we’re only allowed to swim free, so it’s important to have the confidence to do just that!