Learning the Importance of a Strong Kick

When I made the move from college swimming to open water swimming and started training for my English Channel swim, I all but gave up on kick sets.  I was focused on getting as much distance in as I could. I only had time for 7-8km per day to prepare for a 21 mile swim! I had no time to devote to kick sets when I knew I had to prepare my shoulders for a brutal beating.

This lack of training combined with a suggestion that kicking could expedite heat loss (the theory behind this being that heat is lost from the extremities much more quickly than from the core, and kicking brings blood and thus heat to the legs) made me eager to leave kicking behind. So I began to swim dragging my legs. The English Channel was essentially my longest pull set ever. I wasn’t able to lift my arms for three days.

Since my English Channel swim I have given up on this theory.  Looking back, my lack of kick affected my rotation which most likely was a large contributing factor to my extreme shoulder pain.  I also couldn’t help but wonder how much faster I would have been if I had kicked!  I have since abandoned the no-kick experiment and have decided that no matter what additional heat loss may result, kicking is worth it.

Right now I am in “off season” which to me means “pool season.” I am focusing more and more on developing my kick, not only to improve my overall technique but also because an efficient sprint kick can be useful in shorter events such as the 5k and the 10k for maneuvering the pack. Wearing my Z2 training fins or Zoomers while kicking are a great way to improve my ankle flexibility, work on a fast paced kick, and cover more distance in a shorter period of time……without making kicking too easy or leisurely as is common with traditional fins.  Because of the soft construction and a design that results in more propulsion, swimming with the Z2s allows me to focus on improving my overall technique. I am able to get a good body roll and position, while still isolating my kick. Finally, once I am back into heavy marathon-distance training the Z2’s will come in handy to use while swimming, so that I may get a kick workout in without sacrificing any yardage or upper-body work, all while taking a load off of my shoulders!

-Mallory Mead
Open Water Marathon Swimmer
Indianapolis, Indiana