MAKE IT A TRIATHLON HABIT Tech­nique

KICK­ING 1. 2.

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY CLINT LIEN

HOW OF­TEN DO YOU HEAR FEL­LOW TRIATH­LETES AND EVEN COACHES SAY THAT KICK­ING ISN’T IM­POR­TANT IN TRIATHLON SWIMMING? IT’S NOT TRUE, BUT THERE IS A GRAIN OF TRUTH IN THE LIE.

While you don’t want to spend too much time de­vel­op­ing your kick, hav­ing a weak, in­ef­fi­cient kick or over­kick­ing will cost you in a race.

The kick does two things: it as­sists in propul­sion and po­si­tion. In dis­tance swimming (and, whether you’re rac­ing a sprint or a full Iron­man, you’re en­gaged in a dis­tance swim) you want the fo­cus of your kick to be on po­si­tion. A strong po­si­tion in the wa­ter en­sures your stroke will be more ef­fec­tive and less en­ergy will be re­quired to pull your­self through the wa­ter. Your kick needs to keep you level and high in the wa­ter.

You might say that your wet­suit achieves the same re­sult, which is right. But, with just a small amount of en­ergy from an ef­fi­cient kick, your po­si­tion will be that much bet­ter. It will also help with your ro­ta­tion, which you need whether you’re in a wet­suit or not. And, be­sides, you may not want to limit your­self to wet­suit races only.

A big kick should be treated like a ni­tro but­ton on a street rod. You un­leash it with dis­cre­tion and only for short pe­ri­ods of time to in­crease your speed. For pros, and any­one try­ing to podium in their age group, get­ting into a good pack right from the start is im­por­tant. Also, from time to time, you may need to ac­cel­er­ate to bridge a gap, to get your pace back up af­ter a buoy or to drop a com­peti­tor. Kick­ing harder for a while is nec­es­sary, but it comes with a cost, tak­ing some much-needed en­ergy you might need later in the race. If your kick is weak, the cost is even higher.

For the triath­lete who is sim­ply hop­ing to get to the fin­ish line with some dig­nity, em­ploy­ing a smooth steady kick that op­ti­mizes your po­si­tion in the wa­ter is the way to go. The ex­cep­tion is when you’re within a few min­utes of the fin­ish. In­creas­ing the vigour of your kick will warm the legs up a bit, which helps when you jump on your bike.

Kick­ing does more than just help you swim more ef­fi­ciently, too. It’s a fan­tas­tic, non-im­pact way to strengthen the con­nec­tive tis­sues in the knees and hips. It also works the core and quads in ways spe­cific to the sport.

You should ded­i­cate about 10 per cent of your swim work­outs to kick­ing. A per­son with a strong kick can main­tain that strong kick with less, but a swim­mer with a weak kick may need to spend a lit­tle more time get­ting their kick strength up. Keep your toes pointed, which re­quires flex­i­ble an­kles. If you’ve got stiff joints, fins can in­crease your range of mo­tion. Dry land stretch­ing, by sit­ting on your feet and gen­tly lean­ing back, can also help. Make sure your kick orig­i­nates from the hips – not the knees. Bend your knees slightly in the up­stroke of the kick, but keep them firm on the down­stroke. Keep your kick from flay­ing too wide – imag­ine kick­ing in­side an imag­i­nary bucket. When I see a swim­mer with a wide scis­sor kick, or a foot that shoots out of the wa­ter with reg­u­lar­ity, it’s a safe bet that they’ve got some­thing go­ing on at the front end of their stroke that needs at­ten­tion. A hand en­try that’s too wide or a cross­over are the most likely in­sti­ga­tors. Some­times a prod­uct like “Swim Kik Fix” will force the swim­mer to ad­dress the stroke prob­lem, but more of­ten than not you need to tackle the source of the is­sue. Kick­ing with a snorkel and no board, or a very small kid’s board, will help pro­mote a bet­ter po­si­tion. Us­ing pull buoys as a kick board works well, too. Think of “boil­ing the sur­face of the wa­ter with your feet,” but don’t let your feet come out of the wa­ter. There is nei­ther propul­sion, nor po­si­tion, to be found above the sur­face of the wa­ter.

3. 4. 5.

Work your kick dur­ing train­ing, then use it sparingly while rac­ing. Re­mem­ber, you have to bike and run af­ter swimming. Start­ing the swim with a weak kick will mean weaker legs for the next two events.

Clint Lien is a coach with Mer­cury Ris­ing Triathlon.

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