I get the impression that some triathletes have a bit of a stigma when it comes to wearing fins at swim practice. The obvious reason being that you can’t wear fins in a race and fins make you swim faster. Its kind of like cheating. There are many benefits that come with putting on a pair of fins during practice:
- Faster Swimming. Swimming faster is a great way to measure how you feel the water. If you have any hiccups in your stroke, they will be amplified with fins on. Wearing the fins can allow you to take your mind off your stroke as a whole and isolate something you want to work on. Whether it be a 6 beat kick, hand entry, or breathing – fins can allow you to focus.
- Easier Balance. Its no secret that it is easier to balance in the water if you kick a little. I strongly encourage people to try and balance without fins or kicking before adding one or the other. However, as a coach I have worked with some novice swimmers that struggled with their body position and seemed to hit a plateau. When I allowed these athletes to practice some drills and swimming with fins, I found that it helped them in the long term. They were able to relax and put together some basics. Once they figured it out with their fins on, they were able to transition to swimming better without them.
- Improved Ankle Flexibility. Fins encourage a larger range of motion which results in greater ankle flexibility.
- Greater Distance Covered. Sometimes it just feels good to swim further.
- Better Core Work. A strong core is probably one of the most important things for any athlete to develop. ANY athlete. Dolphin kick with fins and without a board is abtastic. Trust me.
- Mental Break. Swim practice can become boring, especially if the athlete is doing the same thing day in and day out. Mixing things up with fins can be a great way to give yourself a mental break and switch focus.
Keep in mind: Fins are a tool, not a crutch. Fins should be used to enhance sets or drills with specific focus in mind, they should not be worn for an entire practice. Remember, the goal you are working toward is to swim well in your triathlon. Fins won’t help you if you are using them to avoid swimming without them.
- If fins are giving your feet blisters, try wearing a pair of socks with them.
- Never do breaststroke kick with fins on unless it is a pair of breaststroke fins. Regular fins will hurt your knees if you attempt breaststroke kick with them on.
- Experiment with different fins before purchasing your own. Many pools provide access to fins and zoomers for their lap swimmers. If you don’t have access but see that the swim team has equipment, ask their coach if you can try them out.
- Mix things up. Swim with and without fins. Kick with and without fins. Kick with or without a board. Try doing one round of a set without fins and then another round with them at a faster speed. Alternate odd and even repeats with or without fins.
- Have fun!