If someone had told me two years ago to warm up with fins, I would have asked them which ‘Learn To Swim’ class they had just came from.
Today however, you’ll see my squad wearing fins in their warm up nearly every session.
I can hear the sceptics already.
“Fins ruin your technique”
“You don’t race with fins on so you should never wear them”
“You’re soft, be a man and warm up like a real swimmer”
Before I came across a type of swim fin that replicated normal kicking rhythm, I would have probably agreed with them.
So why on earth would we use fins in warm up?
1. It Eases Your Shoulders Into It
Swimming isn’t like taking a casual stroll in the park. It’s a whole body exercise and your shoulders take a lot of the force. I typically coach adults and it doesn’t matter how fit or strong they are, they need to look after their shoulders. Our club physio Helen Walker suggested to all of our athletes with minor shoulder injuries to warm up with fins. We took it a step further and now have all our swimmers using them in warm up to help avoid injury and ease their shoulders into the training session.
2. It Improves Your Catch
Normally a swimmer will need to adjust their catch and pull in the beginning of a session to allow time for their shoulders to warm up. Their muscles just aren’t ready to swim normally. The good thing about using fins in warm up is it allows you to swim with a high elbow pull and catch* without the muscle strain associated with not being ‘warmed up’.
*This only occurs with some types of fins
3. It Trains Your Mind To Reduce Drag
When you swim at a faster pace the drag forces acting on your body increase. Wearing fins for the first part of your session gets you to swim at a slightly faster pace than normal. This in turn trains your mind to adjust your body position and pull to minimise drag.
So what type of fins are best?
I’ve tried most of the fins available on the market today, and without wanting to piss off too many of big swim gear companies these are some of the main problems I’ve run into:
- They’re As Stiff As A Metal Rod – This is fine if you want no propulsion, sore ankles and blisters but for me…I’d prefer to be able to walk after my swim session. Fins need to be comfortable and flexible.
- They Change Your Normal Kicking Rhythm – Some fins are sized and designed in a way which change the way you’d normally swim. If your fins are causing you to kick differently than you would without them, it’s time for some new ones.
- No Propulsion – You may as well be wearing socks in the pool.
- Buoyancy – I’ve seen some really stupid fins which are made from foam and cause your feet to float at the surface and totally unbalance the swimmer. I could swear some fins are designed by people who have never swum a lap in their life…