Apr 152012

Do you sleep with your swim fins? Are they always in the back of your car? Do you own more swim fins than shoes? Do you cancel your swim workout when your fins go missing? For Pete’s sake, are you running with your fins on? These are all signs that you may be FIN DEPENDENT. There is help for you, but it will require a series of steps to conquer this addiction. Let’s start with, “My name is…and I am addicted to fins.” 🙂

In all seriousness, fins can be a wonderful tool. They quicken your workouts and shorten up the amount of time you spend in the water; many of you will actually commit to more kick sets with the fins on; you can keep up with the rabbit swimming in the lane next to you; and, it feels awesome to fly through the water at top speed, doesn’t it? And for those nursing some type of a shoulder or elbow injury, fins can help ease some of the strain on that body part. Still….if you really wear them all the time, you need an intervention team. I’m here for you!

As a coach, I’ve had many swimmers wear their fins the entire workout. This is where things get a little tricky. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses, I’m sorry, reasons, that swimmers want to wear them the whole workout. Many will say they go “nowhere when I kick without the fins”. Ahem…all the more reason to work some sets without the fins and learn to kick properly. Of course you are slower without the fins. But how can you really develop your kick when you are “cheating” by wearing the fins for all or most of your workout.

Another one is, “I can’t keep up with Billy” or, “I am always the last one in”. Well, big fuzzy duck, so what? You aren’t going to get much faster if you don’t put those fins up throughout your workout. This is about you and your time on the sets, not the speed demon next to you. You are sacrificing learning better stroke technique and positioning in the water when you regularly don those fins. If you are falling far behind and getting no rest between your sets, then talk to your coach about how you can modify the set or rest period. For example, if your swim group is doing 6 x 50 and you are getting just 2-5 seconds rest on a set where everyone else gets 10-15 seconds rest, then maybe you swim 5 x 50 and take that 10-15 seconds rest. You’ll finish up about the same time as the rest of the group.

I once was a fin addict. Don’t get me wrong, I still love ’em and I still use ’em. But, like my sweet tooth, it’s the whole idea of “everything in moderation”. Some workouts I don’t wear my fins at all. Other workouts I may do as much as 20-30% of the workout with my fins, or as little as 5-10%. When I wear my fins, it is for a distinct purpose. That may be to enable myself to hold up to swimming 10 x 25 fly on :30. Or, it may be to do some hypoxic sets of underwater kicking or even for a series of long kick sets. I might put them on when I want to feel pure sprint speed and attain that feeling of riding high in the water on my freestyle, or flat and low on my butterfly. It may be to practice my underwater dolphin kicking to extend how far out I can go on my starts and turns. I don’t wear them to keep up with so-and-so. Even when I have been unable to stroke (from surgery or injury), my 2000 yard kick workouts are not all done wearing fins.

Once I broke my addiction, I began to realize how poor my flutter and dolphin kick were. They have become much more efficient over the past few years. I also ditched the kickboard and do all my kicking in various streamline positions, and have found that has really heightened my awareness of body position in my swimming. I actually gave up the kickboards because of shoulder problems, and it was one of the best things I did for my shoulders and low back.

Here are some tips to begin cutting down your fin use in practice. Set an ultimate goal for using your fins 20% or less in your workouts.

  • Start by not wearing your fins in warm up! Go as slow as you need to go; take breaks as needed, but don’t wear them for warm up!
  • When a set comes up where fins are an option – talk your lane mates into ditching the fins. All for one and one for all is a powerful motivator. 🙂
  • Try some kick sets without fins. Start with maybe 4 x 25 flutter kick or dolphin kick. It will feel awkward and maybe even awful, but stick with it. 
  • Throw in some combination kick /stroke – maybe a 50 that is 25 kick, 25 stroke, or 75s with the first and last lap kicking, and the middle lap stroke. In other words, start small and work your way up.
  • Eventually, try an entire workout without using your fins. You do that and the goal of using your fins just 20% or less per workout will be a snap.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.

  2 Responses to “Fin Dependency”

  1. Thx for your column on fin addiction. I’ve been swimming for many years but as I have gotten older I swim much slower. So I started using the fins and it is like an addiction. You can’t swim without them. Yesterday, I had a blister and swam without my fins and it felt like I was treading water, I was going so slow. So have decided to take some swim lessons and only use my fins 20% of the time. Thanks again.

    • Beth – as the Aussie’s say, “good on ya” for doing this. You won’t regret it. Before you know it your kick will improve and you will be very happy for getting stronger.

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