Q & A With Natalie Coughlin: Kicking Tips and Cramping Toes

<strong>Natalie Coughlin uses her powerful kick and balanced stroke to propel her in the 100m freestyle semifinal at the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming trials.</strong><br><br>AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Making Your Kick Part of the Entire Stroke

Q: My daughter pulls too much with her arms and does not have a strong kick. What should we do to strengthen her kick?

A: Try not to think of kicking as something separate from your pull. A lot of times swimmers use their kick to correct balance issues in their strokes, rather than use their kick for propulsion. (If you watch someone underwater and they have an off-balance scissor kick, they are most likely using their kick for balance.) Focus on balancing out your stroke. Then, hopefully, you can start to incorporate a steady kick into your stroke.

Timing Your Butterfly Kick

Q: I'm 9 years old and swim on a local swim team. I was wondering, when you swim butterfly do you do your kick at the same time that your arms are out of the water? Mine is not very effective.

A: Honestly, I'm not sure. There are two kicks per butterfly stroke that should follow your body undulation. Focus on your pull and body position, and the timing of your kick should occur naturally.

Will Fins Improve Your Kick?

Q: I am an intermediate triathlete who does about eight triathlons a year between June and September. While open water swimming is different from the pool, I am not sure how much effort to put into the kick, since it seems to expend a bunch of energy and tires me out. I noted that you suggest keeping your kicks underwater and pressure on your feet. My question is about kick strength: Is it better to use flippers or no flippers when training? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Overall I think I am using too much upper body and not enough kicking.

A: I have never been a fan of fins. In fact, I hate them. In my opinion, fins emphasize the downbeat of your kick and not the up beat (which is equally important). Fins also seem to reward big kicking from your knees, which is the opposite of what I try to do. When kicking, I focus on keeping my kicks small and tight while kicking from the entire leg.

Cramping Toes

Q: Any help for cramps in your toes? I've tried relaxing my feet, stretching out my toes in the hot tub first, and consuming more bananas and Vitamin Water. My feet still cramp up, and once they start I can't seem to loosen them up.

A: I've never had that problem. I would imagine it probably is a nutrition thing. Are you properly hydrating?

Natalie's Favorite H2O Audio Product

Q: I am going to be doing triathlons and would love to use H2O Audio's products. What unit would be best for running, biking, and swimming and won't fall off?

A: I'm a big fan of my H2O Audio Interval!

Visit H2O Audio's Ask Natalie page to post your question on technique, training, nutrition or whatever swimming query you have. And for more from Natalie Coughlin, watch her swimming video tips, presented by H2O Audio.

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