My Life in Swim Paddles, or “My Weird Obsession with Paddles”

Posted: October 27, 2016 in Equipment, Swim
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I think everyone has obsessions of some sort, whether it be simply collecting things (of which I have many different collections ranging from vinyl records to bread clips), or Cacodemonomania (the constant belief that you are possessed by a demon, if only so you can say, “Don’t blame me.  It’s Cthulu’s fault I’m running late”).

Whatever it is, it completely consumes you to a certain degree.

Triathletes are no exception.  We are the Batman of the sporting world with absolutely no limit to amount of technological gizmos that we will own and use to enhance our racing and training programs.  As such, we are easily obsessed with these different nuances of our sport; especially given the extreme amount of data, information and equipment that is readably available.  Some of us will obsess over our bikes and biking paraphernalia, insisting on having the most state-of-art aerodynamics and performance-enhancing devices, others will obsess over the amount of data they record during their different blocks of training as a means of evaluating their progress.

While I don’t necessarily have all the latest devices and gizmo’s and, truthfully, I am beginning to lean more towards the “less is better” methodology of training, I am certainly guilty of having a few obsessions and when it comes to swimming, it seems that for whatever reason, my obsession lies with owning swim paddles.

In fact, you could consider this post then as “my life in swim paddles” as certainly, this weird obsession with paddles is very representative of my own development over the past six or so years as a serious swimmer.

It’s true, my swim bag is cram-packed with stuff so that I likely look more like Santa lugging around his toy sack between lanes.

All I’m missing is the beard and a reindeer leading the way (which, now that I think about it, might be a novel idea on how to better pace myself through long intervals).

This obsession all started innocently enough about two years into my journey as a triathlete-slash-swimmer (click HERE for a taste of those early days).  Our swim coaches at the time Bill and Roberto used to talk about the importance of incorporating some “paddle work” into weekly swim workouts.  Of course, at the time I was just lucky to not drown so I never paid it a second thought.  Eventually when I became a little more proficient in the water, a fellow TryForce member (Hi Chantelle!) mentioned that she was going to the Team Aquatics store in Burlington, Ontario to pick up a pair of paddles and offered to grab me a pair as well.

“Yeah, why not?”, I figured and readably agreed.

These are what I was handed a few days later:

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These little babies are aimed at allowing you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm.  Likewise, they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke.  In other words, they are perfect for developing your “technique” and, yes, they can also be used for backstroke but, seriously, I didn’t do a lot of that anyway so who cares?

These worked great as I was in my development stage by that point.  But fast forward a year later and I’m swimming with The Coach and she suggests we do some paddle work.  So upon pulling out my teeny weeny paddles she begins to laugh uncontrollably.

Mocking definitely ensued.

It was kind of like that moment in Crocodile Dundee when a street hood decides to pull a knife on him:

It was some time before I lived that one down.

So, I decided to up the ante and invest on what I figured were the next level up paddle.

These beauties:

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Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel.  They have a nice, comfortable clam-shape to them that were easy to put on and comfortable to wear.

They kind of looked like what this chick is riding on:

clam

They are designed to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull; a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades as swim paddles go.  They are useful for building up shoulder strength primarily and I used these semi-religiously leading up to my 1st and 2nd Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids.    I largely credit these for having the strong shoulders I developed over those two years.  I still use these from time to time but then I noticed that they weren’t quite as difficult to use as they once were and started becoming a little, well, bored with them.

But then one day Kyle Jones jumped in the lane beside me and he was using a pair of these:

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These Finis Agility paddles are now my favorite paddle and I regularly use them regularly.  They have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole.  In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke.  Everyone who has tried these has felt the immediate technique feedback and, likely, these may just be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these.

But did my obsession stop there?

Oh, HELLS NO!

I still wanted to incorporate regular strength building into my weekly routine beyond what my old Tech paddles did so, recently, I made another trip back to Team Aquatics and purchased these bad boys:

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Specifically, these Speedo Power Paddles are designed to create enough water resistance to build up your upper body strength.  They also help encourage you to keep your elbows high as you work through your stroke, for a faster, more powerful swim.

Plus, they look pretty bad ass.

There is absolutely nothing fancy-schmancy about them.  It’s basically a flat, plastic swim paddle that is fitted over your hand by mere pieces of rubber tubing fitted through small holes in the paddle itself. In other words, there are no bells and whistles to these things which is keeping to my more minimalistic “no frills” approach to training these days.

But am I done yet?

Not likely.

Not even close.

Now I’m eyeing these paddles for the very near future.

finis-freestyler-hand-paddles

Specifically designed for freestyle training, the Freestyler Hand Paddles plane the hand forward through the water, improving reach and distance-per-stroke.  With a long fin shape and unique “skeg design”, the Freestyler Hand Paddles promote a strong pull through, better hip-rotation and increased efficiency. An adjustable finger strap offers a perfect fit and the narrow surface area helps prevent shoulder strain.

Maybe Santa will be good to me this year.

**fingers crossed**

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