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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FINIS Finds, Fixes Freestyle Flaws Fast

The new Agility Paddles from FINIS are quite simply cool and a great addition to my training gear.

The strapless paddles are a fantastic self-teaching aid that immediately enables you to become kinetically aware of your strengths and weaknesses in your swimming stroke.

Because the bright yellow paddles just seem to fit like a one-sided glove on your hands, you can use them in the pool or out in the open water to help find and fix flaws in your stroke and hand position.

The paddles are smaller than the massive paddles that are commonly used by competitive, collegiate and masters swimmers. But they are cleverly designed and have no tubing that is too tight, too loose or can deteriorate. The design of the paddles gives you instant tactile feedback from the water pressure on the paddle based on your stroke movements and hand position. The paddles enable you to work hard while quickly identifying weaknesses in your stroke.

In a test, I not only used the Agility Paddles for all four strokes in the pool, but also in the Pacific Ocean. It was hard as you can imagine, but using the paddles on butterfly was surprisingly smooth…and enlightening. As my hands entered the water to when my hands were accelerating through the back end, I felt exactly where and when pressure was optimally applied and where the plane of my hand was less than efficient. Using the paddles on backstroke and breaststroke was equally educational, especially on the turns while underwater. Any slight deviation from the right position made the paddles come off or slow me down.

But the most important test for an open water swimmer or triathlete was using the paddles while doing freestyle pull, sprinting or pace work - and the paddles proved very beneficial.

At times, I felt the paddles slip. At times, the paddles seem to have a mind of their own. But the uncontrollable slippage was due to flaws in my less-than-efficient hand position. After only a few hundred meters, it was easy for me to make minute changes in order to discover a more optimal hand position throughout my stroke.

In the open water, the paddles were a bit trickier to handle because of the surface chop that I experienced. But under calm conditions in a lake or an ironed-out sea with no wind, the FINIS paddles should work like a charm. However, in a lumpy ocean where turbulence was the flavor of the day, there was constant unyielding pressure to focus on an efficient form in order to keep both paddles on, especially when I sighted. Sighting with the paddles particularly exposed my flaws as my head raised, hips dropped, elbows relaxed and my hand position changed. It required more than a few times with surface chop and sighting to get my stroke technique down correctly. But when the paddles came off in the ocean, their neon yellow color helped the paddles stand out in the murky Pacific Ocean off the Southern Californian coast.

But where the paddles required concentration and constant awareness outside the surf zone, they were a blast once I hit the surf. Body surfing into shore with the paddles was impressive. They were a great way to cleanly break the water and help steer my body in the optimal position to gain the full momentum of the wave.

Can't ask anything more for an avid ocean-goer and open water swimmer.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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