I have a confession to make. I am a mentally weak swimmer who’s addicted to their pull buoy. For years I convinced myself that all I needed to do was pull as it replicated the wetsuit. Here is what it really did, it made me mentally weak and unprepared for the hardships triathlon swimming presents. Anytime I would swim without my pull buoy it instantly became harder than I liked. I would grab my pull buoy faster than I do my Oreo Ice Cream. There were times I would forget my pull buoy at home and not even swim! Repeat this process over and over and I developed a dependency that was hurting my swim training as well as my confidence on race day. Sure, after some big swims my arms would be smashed and confidence would be restored (short term) but I never saw the returns on all of the pulling.
Practice what I preach? Nope, didn’t do that. Ive been coaching swimmers from the pool deck for 10 years which means I have coached hundreds of swimmers. In 10 years of on deck coaching, I became very good at connecting body position errors and whats truly effecting it. The more I think of it with the coaching I prescribe in our classes, it rarely has any buoy work.
For years I never USED the rotational aspect of my stroke to improve my distance per stroke. I knew it but couldn’t fix it because I believe that too much pull buoy, or the wrong pull buoy inhibits your ability to use your hips and core in the swim stroke. To improve usable rotation in your swim stroke, you can't use a pull buoy and I wasn't willing to give it up. So what was the result of all my pulling? Better pulling but not better overall conditioning.
Step 1: Cue Rocky Theme Song
Step 2: “Cindi HIDE MY SWIM BUOY"
Step 3: Harden Up
Step 4: Enter Cave Man Swim Training
Cave Man Swim Training (CMST) is literally something I made up. When I think of what the definition is, it resembles going back to the bare bones of swimming with no toys and simply getting the work done. I’ve removed my pull buoy from my bag so it not within reach. All of the my swims are purely freestyle, no toys. The 1st couple swims were exhausting. More open turns because I was so low on oxygen. More internal profanity. The bike and run sessions that followed would suffer because how much energy it took out of me. I didn’t care, I was motivated to break this habit.
Guess what? I started to see improvement. I started to really connect my hips and core into my catch phase. My swim times for a set of threshold 100s went from 1:25s to 1:18s. I like improvement.
Sometimes it is cool to be the swimmer with all the gear on. Snorkel, paddles, buoy, band, fins. It may be helping you or it may not be. Do paddles, band, and snorkels have a place in swimming? Well, duh. Each toy has a specific place within swim training and fixing certain aspects of a stroke. In my case, these toys made me weaker because I started to depend on them too much. To become excellent at whatever it is you’re attempting, you have to have 100% belief in yourself. If you don’t because you rely on something or someone to do it for you, your chances of failure go up. You have to fix you before you can truly accomplish what you want.