On occasion, as coach I think it’s good to share some of the everyday Q&A exchanges between athlete and coach. Frequently, we find that the devil is truely in the details.
Installment #1 of this is here, below:
Q: It seems that most all of my longer swims are done with fins. Should I only be doing part of the swim with fins? What is the major benefit I’m seeking by using the fins for such a large percentage of the work?
A: This is somewhat event-specific. In other words, if your Ironman is NON-wetsuited…….we should probably adjust the endurance-fin-swim-% to 50/50……..half with fins…..half without.
On the other hand, if your Ironman is wetsuited………then 100% of that weekly “long-steady-aerobic” swim can be done w/ fins.
The purpose is primarily 3-fold:
1)–Body positioning……..swimming w/ fins elevates your body to be more horizontal from the waste down………very similar to wetsuit swimming, in fact.
2)–Lower the stroke-count (while keeping your DPS–distance per stroke—”long“). A lower stroke count saves hr beats………which saves calories & keeps you more aerobic………and utilizes a higher % of fat-substrate……..ALL of which are CRITICALLY important to maintain prior to riding 112miles on the bike, and then running a marathon.
3)–Swimming w/ fins is faster…….and faster swimming exponentially increases drag……….and, thus, serves to heighten your awareness & sensation of that drag. By virtue of neccesity, we become more “slippery” in the water when we reccognize drag (consciously or not)………particualry in the absense of the effort it normally takes to go fast enough to create that extra drag.
***Case in point: Remember when you were a kid and learned to dive; it only took a few painful belly-flops to teach you to get your head down and streamline into the water! Water resistance “taught” you how best to shape yourself.
In other words, fins allow us to swim-fast……& thereby we better identify and eliminate drag……..all while remaining aerobic.
True, some swim-tools/toys can be overused…..(a pull-buoy and/or kickboard, for instance). But some DO have a place if you know & apply the tool in a very targeted and specific task.