TRIATHLETE'S BLOG

  • Matt Fisher

Maru kickboard, paddles and fins

If you’re anything like me, swim training sets longer than 30 minutes just become a chore. All that endless trudging up and down a 25-metre pool. It’s mind numbing (for me….).

One way to make swim sets both a bit more interesting and beneficial is to employ swim tools (as Brett Sutton says, they must never be referred to as ‘toys’!) such as a kick board, hand paddles and fins.


I’ve been testing the latest wares from Maru and thought I’d combine a mini review with some quick tips on how to get the best out of your swim training aids.


Why use swim training aids?

In addition to making swim sets a bit more interesting, swim training aids can also help improve your overall swim technique, either focusing on specific stroke weaknesses and/or improving strength.


Let’s look at the swim aids in turn.


Kick board

Probably the swim aid you’re most familiar with (along with a pull buoy, see below). Many swimmers and triathletes that come (or return) to swimming later in life have atrocious kicks.


I remember being in a pool in Sydney in the lane next to a group of "Little Nippers" and being surprised at how strong their kicking was. Kids just have great kicks! Amateur triathletes often convince themselves that a strong kick isn’t all-that-important, believing that they should save their legs for the bike.


Regardless, a stronger kick is both important for overall propulsion and stability in the water. So a kick board does what you would expect, it allows you to isolate the legs in the pool and concentrate on developing a good kick.


I also like using a kick board the day after a hard bike or run as I believe it can help flush the lactic from the legs. The Maru kick board is pretty large with extra hand holds if you want to try different positions.


Here are some tips on using a kick board.


Fins

Fins in the pool can be a little contentious as many public pools have different rules on when you can or can’t use them (a sensible compromise seems to be that it’s okay to use them during public sessions if it’s just you in the lane, or if everyone in the lane is using them at the same time). Like a kick board, fins can be used to isolate the legs. But perhaps the bigger benefit is the added resistance of the extended fins for strengthening the key muscles involved in the swim kick (with the added benefit of low-impact resistance training for muscles used on the run and bike as well).


Fins can be used on their own, with the kick board or combined with paddles (see below) to give a variety of workouts. I like using fins combined with single arm drills as well as on their own.


The length of the Maru fins is right in the middle of the range (i.e. you can get shorter or longer if you need, but these work just fine) and the fit and flexibility of the fins is excellent.


Example fin drills.


Paddles

Like fins, some public pools won’t let you use solid paddles, but there’s no doubt they can be an excellent training tool, working to help both strength and technique. Compared to other paddles I’ve used, the ‘scalloped’ shape of the Maru items puts extra emphasis on technique (if your pull isn’t straight, you can feel the paddles 'slipping' in the water), which I think is a good thing. Again, size wise they sit right in the middle (I have both larger and smaller items from Speedo). The rubber straps for the hands and fingers works well (not too fiddly to get on and off).


In use, the Maru paddles add a fair bit of resistance, which gives the shoulders and arms a really good workout. At just over £10, they're also great value.


Here's some advice on using swim paddles.


Pull Buoy

I already have a standard pull buoy, so I didn’t test the Maru item, but I wanted to include a quick reference to pull buoys as they are perhaps the most-used of swim aids. Personally, I only use a pull buoy when I want to rule my legs OUT of the swim, but I see a lot of people using them in the pool and kicking (I guess using the pull buoy to lift heavy legs – something I use buoyancy shorts for when needed).


I often combine the pull buoy with a leg / ankle tie to really prevent the legs contributing. This helps force the core to do more stabilisation when using the pull buoy.


The Maru swim training aids

I was impressed with the quality of the Maru items (the fins and paddles both come with their own carry bags too) and they’ve certainly helped me through the boredom of swim training (I may have even shaved a few seconds of my 400m and 1900m swim times in the last month or two as well).


You can order direct from Maru online here: https://www.maruswim.com/accessories/training.html

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