Swimming seems pretty straightforward, but when it comes to swimming for triathlon workouts and races it gets complicated quickly. Here, Dave Scott answers two common questions about one of the trickiest sports in triathlon.
Q: Should I be using fins in my workout?
A: Yes, it's a good idea, but be sure to kick hard. Fast kicking stretches the tendons on the top of your foot which will help increase flexibility. Also, try kicking back flutter (arms extended) or dolphin kick on your back. You can help generate greater hip extension and more power doing these two kicks.
Also, try swimming with an exaggerated slow turnover and a strong powerful kick. Try sets of 25's or 50's for all these suggestions and include 200 to 500 of kicking in each workout.
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Q: During my races, my foot (arch) cramps near the end of the swim. What's going on?
A: If you're wearing a wetsuit this can compound the problem. Wetsuits hold legs static and a poor kicker will just let them hang during the swim. This inactivity in cooler water and a straighter leg with the wetsuit minimizes leg, ankle and toe movement. Cold water stunts the blood flow to the legs and with a locked foot position the fascia under the arch shortens. A couple quick thrusts of your leg or foot can trigger a cramp.
Wiggle your feet, remind yourself to kick every couple of minutes. Dorsi flex your ankle several times at intervals of five minutes to actively stretch your calf. Lastly, kick--even if it's a soft stabilizing kick.
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