I had a good swim this morning and something made me want to blog on the topic of triathletes and swim paddles. OK. Get ready for my opinion and feel free to disagree, but I’d suggest that there is a lot of misuse of swim paddles by triathletes out there.
Why am I picking on triathletes? Cool down. I have paddles, use them in workouts and am a triathlete. I’m not wagging my finger at ALL triathletes. Just some of you.
Again, why triathletes? Triathletes tend to be folks who learn the swimming skill later in life as compared to the average masters swimmer. I don’t see a lot of swim paddle use with other swimming adult subcultures. Triathletes also might, on average, swim fewer yards per week than masters swimmers due to the need to train across three disciplines. Also, my masters swimming brother might suggest that triathletes have a greater love of non-essential gear than single sport enthusiasts. Of course, he has swim paddles too and uses them in workouts, so make of that what you will.
Moving on. I claim that there are right and wrong ways to implement swim paddle work into multi-sport training. Mainly, I’d recommend not using them during the bike nor run. Not that I’ve seen that but I’d sure laugh my butt off if I did. I’ve seen paddles attached to the end of stretchy cords for swim-related dryland exercises and that seems like a pretty good idea.
Let’s assume we’re dealing with swim paddle use in the pool or other swimmable body of water. Here are my do’s and don’t for swim paddle use in multi-sport swim training. Apply at your own risk.
DO: Warm up completely before using paddles. Would you do big gear intervals on your bike before getting your legs spinning smoothly?
DON’T: Use paddles during your warm up. Just don’t, OK. No. Never.
DO: Keep the % of time using paddles in the workout low. If you’re going to do a big paddle set, then you have better worked your way up to it gradually over time. Do you want to find yourself with a bum shoulder or two the day after and then have to cut way back on your swim volume? Let me help you answer that. If you care about improvement, then the answer to that is no.
DON’T: Continue using paddles if you feel your stroke degenerating due to fatigue. Build power through a range of motion used in proper technique. Only.
DO: If necessary to keep your stroke together (keep that elbow high during the catch) while using paddles, take plenty of rest in between intervals and keep the distances short.
DON’T: Push the pace beyond steady-relaxed-focused. This is strength work. Doing it right matters more than doing it fast.
I’ve been doing a few 50′s on 50 seconds towards the end of the workout using my paddles. Seriously. My training time is precious and I’m not wasting a moment of it blowing out my shoulders or building sloppy stroke power.
So that’s my swim paddle tips. Follow, adapt or ignore. In the very least, know what you aim to achieve in a set before you whip out the paddles. It really shouldn’t be just to keep up with a group because you’re too tired to keep pace without the assist. Don’t lie. I know you’ve done it. I have. Stupidly.