Tips for Swimming With Paddles
Summer swim training on a competitive club team in the Midwest meant a few things. First, swim practices moved from a dank, stifling indoor pool to the outdoors with fresh air and sunshine. Second, the lanes switched from 25 yards to 50 meters for both training and racing. And third, the collegiate swimmers returned to train for a few months. These college guys were intimidating, especially the sprinters. With their broad shoulders and powerful strokes, the lanelines were no match for the wake they created. And neither was I. I dreaded swimming next to their lane. And I dreaded pull sets even more. Once the paddles and pull buoys were in use, the college swimmers initiated sneak attacks with paddles three times the size of my hand. These attacks were just accidents, but I was forced to play defense. All it took was one forceful stroke from across the laneline to send my paddle into the atmosphere and create a painful throbbing in my hand.
As much as I dreaded swimming with paddles, the benefit of using them outweighed the risk of winding up black and blue at the end of a pull set. Swim paddles can be helpful for by improving your technique, strength, and speed in the water. Paddles automatically increase the surface area of your hands. With larger hands, you move more water past your body with every stroke. However, if the positioning of your hand upon entering and continuing through the water is not ideal, the paddle may slip off. This can be frustrating, but the more you practice with paddles, the more proficient (and efficient) of a swimmer you will become.
Paddles come in a variety of sizes and shapes. I recommend looking for a pair that is about the same size or slightly larger than your hands. They are held in place once you slip a few of your fingers into a small rubber loop. If you have never used swim paddles before, it might feel like you have no command over these two pieces of plastic. Here are a few tips to get your swim paddles under control.
- Make sure your cap and goggles are situated on your face before putting on your paddles. Adjusting them can be difficult with very large plastic hands.
- Swimming long distances with paddles may put extra stress on your shoulders. Gradually work paddles into your swim workouts. You could start by adding pulling with paddles to your warmup and/or cool down.
- Warmups with Paddles:
- Swim 1×300, Pull 1×200, Swim 1×100
- Swim 1×200, Pull 1×200, Swim 1×200, Pull 1×200
- Swim 1×300, Pull 1×300
- Incorporate paddles with a pull buoy or paddles with fins. Progressively add these combinations into your swim workouts as well.
- The first few strokes you take after removing your paddles will feel weird. After completing a pull set, do some swimming without paddles to regain your feel for the water. Your feel for the water should improve with time.
Written by Carrie Smith