Kickboards are another staple of the competitive swimming world. Newcomers should occasionally work butterfly and breaststroke kick in addition to the usual freestyle. When you use fins, kick hard so it becomes aerobically challenging instead of just a gentle cruise up and down the lanes. For veterans, different kinds of sets can include pushing off the wall and trying to go the entire length of the pool underwater with the kickboard. If you cannot go the entire distance, come up and sprint kick the rest of the way.
Newbie set: 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 25 hard, 2 x 25 easy + 2 x 25 hard, 3 x 25 easy + 3 x 25 hard, 4 x 25 easy + 4 x 25 hard.
Veteran set: Increase your kickboard work to as much as 30 percent of the workout if working on speed and surges for open water swims.
Alternatively, you can try vertical kicking. Hold your kickboard above your head as you kick vertically in the water. In this position, keep your back straight and your knees as straight as possible. Kick vertically for 30 to 60 seconds trying not to move forwards or backwards. You will have to kick hard in order to stay in place and keep your mouth above the surface of the water.
Fins are a great way to work your legs while improving ankle flexibility. They also help correct any cross-over kick you may have. Ankle flexibility is a key element in being able to generate propulsion from your kick and is usually a very important area to work on for newcomers, especially for runners and cyclists. Fins come in a variety of sizes and shapes: Longer, stiffer fins are good for beginners while shorter, softer fins are generally better for the experienced crowd. If needed, use socks to help reduce chaffing. Later in the workout, you can also use the socks for finless sprints. The socks will force you to kick harder and focus on your up-kick.
Set for newbies and veterans alike: You can do the same sets with fins as you do without fins, but the pace and intervals should be significantly faster. If your pace is 1 minute per 50 without fins, try to kick at 45 seconds per 50 with fins. If your interval is 2 minutes per 100 without fins, try a 1:30 interval with fins.
Of course, there is a variety of other equipment at your disposal: Waterproof MP3 players are great for keeping you entertained, especially on those days you just want to swim smoothly and listen to your favorite turns. Mirrors at the bottom of the pool are helpful reminders of what your form looks like. Swim parachutes and stationary cords that are hooked to one side of the pool while you sprint to the other side are great for stroke work and developing speed. Underwater pace clocks to put at the bottom of your lane line are great so you can always keep track of your pace.
One thing's for sure: Gone are the days of swimsuits and goggles being the only pool equipment you need. Now there are plenty of tools to help you improve.