Training

Want To Swim Like An Olympian? Here’s How.

With fins and hand paddles and some other "toys" for the pool one runner has been able to channel her inner Olympian.

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When the Olympics come on and I see all of those speedsters splashing down their lanes, I can’t wait to throw on my swimsuit and head to the pool for a swim. I’ve often made like a fish since I was a kid, and I’ve done a number of triathlons, but until recently I felt like I didn’t really know how to do a swim workout.

Enter Finis, a brand that is all about the sport and joy of swimming. I’ve been able to try a bunch of their “toys,” at least that’s what I call them. Frankly, they are the kind of hand paddles, fins, goggles and more that Olympians use to train, so if you want to get competitive, listen up.

RELATED: Master the Art of Swimming with These Tips

If you’re more like me, and you simply want to get more out of a trip to the pool—instead of simply timing laps and wondering if it matters whether you can’t do a flip turn. Now I have direction and don’t feel like my workout for the day needs to be on a run or on the bike. A swim can be a great cross-training and recovery day.

An Olympian’s (Kind Of) Workout

Jill Dahle of Finis used to be a competitive swimmer in college and is now a swim coach. She suggested the following workout:

  • 6 Lengths: Freestyle or Backstroke, as a warm-up
  • 4 Lengths: Arm work with paddles (I’ve used these and these.)
  • 6 Lengths: Freestyle or Backstroke, medium speed
  • 4 Lengths: Leg work with fins (These are the latest and greatest.)
  • 4 Lengths: Freestyle for time. (Write down your time or simply gauge your level of exertion, and track your progress from week to week!)
  • 2 Lengths: Freestyle or Backstroke, cool-down

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The paddles and fins actually help your technique and endurance as well as build muscle. For example, paddles ensure proper hand placement as your fingers hit the water, since the paddles are designed to fall off if the position isn’t ideal. Many runners tend to let their hips sink, so using a pull buoy between your legs helps lift the hips, creating proper body placement in the water and increasing efficiency. If you use a pull buoy to keep your legs in line and stop kicking, that ups the resistance of the paddles for even more of an arm workout. (Love it!)

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Dahle adds a specific runner’s tip to her recs: Like running, swimming is heavily influenced by body position, and the head is the key to proper alignment. You should be looking at the bottom of the pool, and your head stays still as the rest of your body rotates around your spine. Finis makes a center-mount snorkel that can help you develop the correct muscle memory. Dahle says, “It’s a little goofy at first, but it keeps your head in line, while allowing you to breath easily.”

RELATED: 5 Swimsuits For Athletes Of Different Sizes

As I gear up for some more days in the pool with all the Olympic excitement, I know my form and speed and over workouts are going to improve. The only question is whether I can learn to do a flip turn.