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All Day Endurance is a national triathlon team that works with all levels of triathletes using Coach Aubrey unique coaching methods. Coach Aubrey is a former pro triathlete who enjoys taking what he's learned to create a team of motivated, hard working triathletes.
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What's In My Swim Bag?
Written by Aubrey Aldy
I think we have all seen that person show up to the pool with an old pair of goggles and speedos only, and fly around lap after lap effortlessly.  Chances are this isn't their first time in the pool and they didn't start out that way.  Somewhere along the line they used tools, and they probably still do in some workouts.  In general pool toys are very helpful, and in most cases you will find triathletes have many more toys than traditional swimmers, there’s good reason for that. In most cases a triathlon swimmer needs more help finding a correct body position and stroke mechanics. Adult onset swimmers and long time swimmers wanting to tweak mechanics or build specific strength should be using pool toys as needed. They can become a crutch, but absolutely the bottom line is the slower the swimmer, the more percentage of workouts will be done with pool toys.  Here's a list of what is in my swim bag and why.   

Long Bladed Fins 

The purpose of the long blade is to create more lift and speed if needed and a little more pressure against the ankle to increase ankle flexibility. The idea of having a very short fin to keep a very fast cadence in your kick used to be widely accepted as the norm, things are moving away from that now and the long bladed fin is going to be more beneficial to most triathletes. Using them right away in a warm-up can help take pressure off the shoulders. Often times adult onset swimmers are going to have stiff shoulders, especially if they have been sitting in a desk all day at work or driving. When they get into the water they are going to stiffen up. One way to get into a proper body position and take some pressure off the shoulders is to ease into the warm up with long bladed fins right away. Typically we don’t want to be using the fins in the main set of the workout, there are very few instances where that might be the case, but very rarely.
Pull Buoy 

The pull buoy 99% of the time is going to be as high up between the legs as you can, keeping your feet and ankles relatively still, plantar flexed the feet so that the toes are pointed away to the rear, and not dragging the foot with a runner’s ankle. With the pull buoy you can focus on the pull. The problem with it is that people tend to relax the core too much and one of the issues with adult onset swimmers is the lack of connectivity through the core. We can pull like crazy, we are aerobically strong, our muscular strength is very strong, but we are not able to apply that force on the water because it’s not connected through the core. You are essentially pulling against a wet noodle. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around because you might have someone that can do tons of crunches, sit-ups, and planks for a long time but they don’t have the dynamic core strength to be able to apply force on the water with a fully extended arm and keep the core still. That takes a lot of of time for most people and if you are using the buoy too often you can get away from that. However, the buoy is most triathlete’s and runners turned swimmer’s best friend because it lifts the hips up. They are generally going to be very low in the water if you come from a running type of background, denser muscle in the legs, and tight in the hip flexors, the hips are going to drop a little bit. It is said that every inch your butt drops below the surface can be 50 more pounds of drag you have to pull through the water, so how can you use the same effort and go faster? Lift your hips up, put in a pull buoy and you're there so you can focus on your pull. 

Hand Paddles 

There are a number of different paddles. My go to these days is the Finis Agility Hand Paddle, there are no straps that you have to worry about replacing over time or breaking, you just stick your thumb through the hole and go. The “feel” for the water at the initial catch is much better and it is just the right size to provide good feedback without being too big and only mashing water downwards and not rearwards early in the stroke. With an adult onset swimmer that's an area of concern because we don’t have a very good feel for the water in the first third of the stroke or catch, but with the Finis Agility Paddles you can still have a decent feel of the water up front as far as paddles go. There is also the Freestyler Hand Paddle which is shaped like a triangle and has a little fin on the bottom for a better feel of direction. This is the best paddle for working on alignment, so if you have trouble keeping your arms straight when extended out front, this is going to be the paddle for you. I have also been experimenting with the Finis Iso Paddle, with these paddles you can isolate some anterior or posterior muscles on your stroke depending on which way you wear it. If you switch hands with the paddle you essentially have an extra paddle or portion on the outside or inside depending. I really like these paddles for continuing to build specific strength and more importantly awareness of the pitch of my hand throughout the stroke. I think the Iso Paddles should be used sparingly, but are proving to be a great tool. 

A snorkel can be used in conjunction with the Freestyler Hand Paddles to work on alignment. You can even use a pull buoy, Freestyler Paddles, and a snorkel to really focus on having the best alignment possible with your arms while keeping your head aligned, neutral, and very still during the swim. That is the purpose of the snorkel mostly, to keep your head still. Your head is like a rudder, so if you have a wobbly head, or your head is too low or too high, it’s going to affect your body position in some way. The idea of a snorkel is that you can set it into place there and really focus on keeping your head still.

Tempo Trainer 

On a tempo trainer there are a few modes of use. Mode 1 you can set specific times, for instance if you wanted to swim long sets say 300, 400, or 500 yards or meters at a time where you wanted to be exactly at 130 per 100, you can set it at 22.5 seconds in mode 1 and you would know that every 25 would be 22.5 seconds, every 50 would be 45, and every 100 would be 130. By matching up the beep with every time you touch the wall, you should be on the correct pace. The tempo trainer can be set right under your swim cap or you can clip it to your goggle strap, I find it works much better under your swim cap. I don’t use mode 2 very often, mode 3 however is great, its like a metronome. There are some ways to test and find out what your optimal stroke rate currently is and then you can work or aim to increase that while still grabbing good water. It is easy to spin the wheels and increase your stroke rate but grab less water, that’s not the goal. We want to increase the stroke rate while continuing to get a good catch and pull in the water. In mode 3 you can do a test of some ramping 50s. You find out the first plateau is say 63 strokes per minute, that’s going to feel like you can do it all day long, very steady. From there you can aim to increase it with targeted sets in training. Set of 200s for instance, starting with your steady RPMs, and increasing RPMs by 2-3 strokes per minute each set. You'll notice if you go too high that you end up slowing down and only spinning the wheels so to speak.

Kick Board

A good kick board, made with solid and firm material is extremely beneficial. Soft and flimsy ones are harder to control. There are some fancy triangle shaped pointed boards available in which you can flip turn, go under water, and work on alignment, but I find while those might do just fine, any standard kick board serves the purpose pretty well. If you have wide shoulders or are very tight you will want a standard width board in order to keep your elbows straight and resting on the board while kicking. 
Ankle Band 

Strapping your ankles together either with 12” of an old bike tube, or with a specifically designed swimming ankle band will cause your legs to want to drop immediately unless you are able to maintain forward propulsion and a taut body position. This is a great tool for increasing strength and should be used minimally and with a pull buoy at first. It can also help to work at keeping your feet closer together while swimming and in a more streamline position. This will cause the legs to snake/wiggle quite a bit unless the core is properly engaged.


Adding resistance in the form of drag is not only a great strength builder, but it does not take away the feel for the catch that paddles can sometimes do. I recommend starting with a smaller parachute and incorporating it into early season training with 25s and 50s only. I have both the 8” and the 12” Finis Swim Parachutes, and while the 12” offers more resistance, I like being able to adjust the resistance as needed by using the smaller parachute. 

About Author: Aubrey Aldy

After serving eight years in the Army as a combat medic Aubrey Aldy is now focused on triathlon and the team he runs: All Day Endurance. Aubrey enjoys helping people attain fitness goals of all kinds. With Aubrey’s help and experience you can and will reach all of the goals you set-out to accomplish. Aubrey is an All-American triathlete who has competed in 100+ events over the years. Having won several races from half marathons to iron distance triathlons. He currently holds course records on 8 different triathlon run courses form sprint to iron distance. Aubrey is a certified personal trainer through World Instructor Training Schools, USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach, IRONMAN Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 3 Coach. 
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