When I’m working with a child who is learning to swim, I often remind her that swimming is hard work. That’s why adults swim for exercise! By using your upper body, lower body, right side, and left side– all while your face is in the water– your body gets a complete workout. Even better, the connections between the body and the brain are strengthened as well.
Over the years I’ve come to learn that teaching swimming is a lot like building a sandcastle. Each of the individual parts has to be really strong before the whole thing works together. Often, I ask the kids to put the parts together, but then I see we need to take the whole thing apart and work on the individual parts again. Once the components look strong, we go for the whole stroke again.
It’s really no different than how I swim myself. Each workout I do consists of leg drills, arm drills, and full stroke practice. Other than access to a pool, the only items you really need in your swimming kit bag are a good swimsuit (which is very different than a good bathing suit), goggles, a kick board, and a pull buoy. Some people like to have hand paddles and flippers, too, but for my purposes of recreational swimming for fitness, I just don’t find I use them very much.
Let’s start with the legs: a kick board allows you to isolate the swim stroke to the legs only. This helps you to concentrate on the flow and the rhythm of your kick. You can get fancy and practice side kicking or one-legged kicking drills with your kick board, as each of those elements can help the efficiency of your stroke by making you a more streamlined breather or a stronger kicker, respectively. I use my kick board as part of my warm up as well as an active-recovery tool in the middle of a workout.
When I want to focus on my arms, I use a pull buoy between my thighs. This keeps my legs afloat so I can maintain a long, horizontal swimming position without expending the effort of kicking. I use the pull buoy to think about the extension and pulling of my arms through the water, trying to generate more power from my upper body. The pull buoy also helps prevent shoulder injuries, because this focus on technique allows me to check-in and make sure I am moving my arms in an ergonomic, efficient manner. I usually use the pull buoy at the end of a workout, when my legs are already toasted but I want to get in a few more laps while my heart rate is still elevated.
By using the simple tools of a kick board and a pull buoy, I can isolate different aspects of my swimming stroke. I can focus on moving through the water efficiently. When I am ready to add the components together, I find I have a more powerful and intentional stroke.
Have you ever used equipment to help you improve your swim stroke? Have any questions as to how these pieces can be used to work best for you?
Good health and great happiness to you!
This blog post is the third in a series regarding water and fitness. Check out my thoughts regarding water safety and the FAQs of Aqua Yoga. We’ll stay in the pool next Thursday as well, when I’ll give you some ideas for a swim workout.