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  Swim with Your FINS

Printed with permission from:

Pool’s Edge Column- Swimming World Magazine-June 2007

By: Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen Aquatic Edge, Inc.

Ask any runner the following question.

“If you had a magical pair of shoes that would help you run a 5-minute mile, would you wear them? The answer, “All of the time!”

As swimmers and triathltes, we DO have a magical piece of equipment that allows us to swim faster…they are called fins and to be honest, I wear them at EVERY practice.

Here is a countdown of the top 10 reasons why I think SWIMMING with fins should be a part of every athletes training program.

10. Fun: Admit it, swimming with fins is just plain FUN…so don’t feel guilty about it. Besides, if you are enjoying what you are doing, you will probably swim longer. You may also work harder than expected, so that’s a bonus, too.

9. Fins and paddles: Instead of using a pull buoy, try fins and paddles for endurance (EN1) or threshold (EN2) freestyle and/or backstroke sets. Start out easy and build since you are overloading both the front and back of your stroke and can quickly go anaerobic. Also try fins and paddles for shorter “pure power” bursts of speed.

8. Get to the pool: Even the best swimmer occasionally lacks motivation to train. Make a deal with yourself…if you get to the pool; give yourself permission to wear fins the entire time. Of course you probably won’t, but the point is…sometimes you need a little help to just to show up.

7. Make faster intervals. What it’s like to train in the fast lane? Well, throw on your fins and give it a try!

6. Activate your kick: Swim coaches all over the world have re-awakened to the concept that to be a good swimmer you need to have a good kick. Duh. It’s hard to ignore your feet when you are wearing fins.

5. Recovery swims: Swim with fins on recovery days or to add more distance to your warm up or swim down.

4. Recover from injury: For years coaches have been using fins to keep injured swimmers in the water. Swimming with fins takes the pressure off sore or injured shoulders and helps build leg strength in the process.

3. Ankle flexibility: Most good flutter kickers have flexible ankles. Many older swimmers and triathletes do not. Swimming with fins can help loosen up stiff ankles as well as teach you how to kick more effectively. Try a fin with a bottom or neutral foot pocket to achieve a more natural kick.

2. Good body position: A pair of fins that float your feet instead of sinking them will create less drag and improve your body position. Fins like the Alpha fin by ZURA (see picture and next page) are made of soft, comfortable EVA foam are buoyant and act like a pull buoy on the feet. www.zura.com Once good body position is attained, take the fins off and try to replicate that feeling without assistance.

1. Feel race speed: The number one reason to swim with fins is that you can swim really fast! No need to taper to go a best time…just put on your fins and go for it in practice.

Try one of the following sets: 8 x 50’s on 3 minutes, 5 x 100’s on 5 minutes or 3 x 200’s on 10 minutes holding close to your best time (or faster). On each repeat, maintain solid technique while focusing on ONE aspect of the race that may need improvement. Such as:
  • Tighter dolphin kick
  • Shorter or longer break out
  • Quicker turns
  • Longer streamline
  • Better paced swim (even or negative split)
  • Well-timed and aggressive finish
Getting comfortable with race speed in practice will give you that extra edge as you prepare for your next meet.

Have fun swimming with fins, but be aware:
  • Not all fins are alike
  • Gradually add fin swimming to your workout
  • Breaststroke kick with regular fins is not recommended
  • And finally…don’t get addicted!
BIO: Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen recently set 8 FINA Masters World records for the 45-49 age group while competing in France and the UK. Karlyn and her husband own Aquatic Edge Inc, and host swim technique clinics and camps worldwide. For more information about hosting an event, please visit www.aquaticedge.org

About the ZURA Alpha fin (www.zura.com)

I have tried every fin on the market and the ZURA fin wins hands down.

I swim with them more than just kick, and I do wear them at every session...typically near the end of training. I also love to do sets with both fins and paddles.

These fins are awesome because...

First...they are made of super lightweight EVA foam (the same material as the CROCS) so they are really comfortable...no more blisters.

Second, they FLOAT your feet instead of sinking them, which allows you to feel good body position. With less drag, you ride higher in the water and can generate a lot of speed, or use them for recovery and go easy. Wearing ZURA’s is like the feeling you get when you wear a wetsuit or use a pull buoy...except you can still kick.

Lastly, the foot pocket is on the bottom of the fin (instead of the top) and this encourages you to kick with your ankles, instead of your knees. Wearing ZURA’s can help you to increase your ankle flexibility...something every triathlete can use!

To order, use your shoe size. BUT, if you have a really wide foot or high instep, you may want to go to the next size up. Conversely, if you have a narrow foot and are borderline on a size, go down.

The ZURA fins are also featured in my Go Swim Freestyle with Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen instructional DVD... also available from TriSports. Check me out at www.aquaticedge.org or come see me in Kona, Hawaii!

The Alpha Swim Fin has an offset profile for optimum kicking motion. These training swim fins are ergonomically shaped to increase comfort, they are low impact and provide full-body conditioning.

Other benefits include:
Increased ankle flexibility
Great cardiovascular and aerobic workout
Recommended for all levels of fitness
The Alpha Swim Fins float for added buoyancy
Single heel strap for exceptional fit
Recessed area for Achilles tendons
Stabilizing mini blade inside of fin

Free Mesh carrying bag
Soft comfortable fit
Fin material will not deteriorate in sun or chlorine
Injection molded EVA foam will not absorb water

Shipping Weight: 3.0 lbs.