Swim kit test – Speedo power paddles

Recently the nice people at simplyswim sent me a couple of items of kit to test out. I’ve already reviewed the Pool Mate swim watch, so now it’s the turn of the Speedo Power Paddles.

According to the blurb on the box, these are designed to add speed and power to your stroke on your swim.

Now, I have a lot to work on with my swim – head positioning, breathing, kick, arm entry…it’s a long list, but no-one’s mentioned power before now, so I was curious as to how these would make a difference.

My first task was to put them together. The paddles come in a box with two lengths of rubber tubing that you can thread through the holes in the paddles to make wrist and finger straps.

There are no instructions with the paddles, so I used the picture on the front of the box as a guide and measured up against my own hands. This left me with a lot of tubing left over, so I ended up cutting one piece in half and threading both paddles with this.

Next up was the question of how best to use them. The blurb on the back of the box suggests they’re not the kind of thing you want to use for the whole of a swim session, so I thought I’d incorporate them in my warm up and as part of my technique drills.

I managed to find this video featuring Team GB swim coach Ben Titley and swimmer Liam Tancock  to give me a few ideas  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvqCa_dhbC8
The paddles they use are slightly different, but the principles should be the same.

So, off to the pool, I went to try them out. After a few warm up lengths, I tried the paddles first with the pull buoy and then without.

You can immediately feel how the paddles strengthen your stroke through the water and pull you along. It’s a good feeling until you get your stroke wrong and then the paddles are really unforgiving. If I dropped my elbow and let my hand flatten as it hit the water, the resistance was enough to completely stop my stroke and even force the paddle off my fingertips. It was a good way of making sure I concentrated on improving my hand entry on every stroke.

I found the tubing stretched a bit in the water, so I tightened up the lacing a bit next time I used them. But the first time, I just wanted to get on with my swim and didn’t want to waste time trying to fix them in the pool.

I could certainly see their value for giving you a good upper body workout and improving your strength through your shoulders and arms. When I took the paddles off to do my main swim set, I really felt the difference in speed and pull through the water.

I’ll carry on using them as part of my warm up and technique drills, but I do think they’re best used in moderation. I’ve built up quite a bit of upper body muscle strength and endurance through weight and resistance training on dry land, so didn’t experience any particular soreness around my back and shoulders, but I could see how this might be an issue for some people.

But for regular swimmers who maybe don’t have as much time for weight training, this could be a good way to add a some pool-based resistance work.

The paddles themselves could be improved if they came with a bit more guidance about how they should fit and how you can use them, with some examples of drills. Even just a web link to more information or the training video I found would be helpful to someone like me who is new to using them.

That makes me think they’re more a tool for a serious swimmer, or someone who benefits from regular coached swims. And if you’re looking to add more upper body strength in the water, then they seem like a winner.

I’m always keen to learn hints and tips to improve my swimming, so even if they just help me nail that hand entry into the water, that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, it’s always fun trying out new swim kit and keeping my training interesting.

simplyswim sent me the Speedo power paddles and just asked if I’d write a review of them, so all opinions are my own. They’re opening a triathlon section on their website soon, so I shall be interested to see what products they feature.

Recovering and reviewing plans

I’m happy to say that after a couple of days of treating my ankle with ice and wearing a compression bandage, the swelling has almost gone and I’ve been able to walk around on it quite easily, although I’ve done my best to keep of it as much as I can.

But managing to get from my car to my desk and from my desk to where I need to be at work without too much of a limp is a long way from the kind of active lifestyle I normally enjoy. So it’s been a bit of a week off from training.

And that’s been hard at times, particularly on Thursday morning when I had to cancel my regular PT session. It’s been part of my life for so long and I so enjoy doing it, that I felt a bit bereft without my usual dose of exercise induced endorphins and encouragement from Ian. I’m afraid I was a bit sulky and low that day.

I am trying to be sensible and not make the mistake of rushing back into my usual activities too quickly and risking compounding an injury that I hope will clear up in a couple of weeks. But it feels like a waste of these splendid autumn days, and so I’m looking at things I can do.

I tried walking on the treadmill at the gym and a short swim on Wednesday night, not really enough effort to raise my heart rate, but I felt the effect enough to know that I shouldn’t push it to do any more.

Even swimming put a bit of a pull on my ankle, so when I went back to the pool on Friday morning, I took my pull buoy with me so I could eliminate my legs and swim mainly with my arms. A pull buoy is just a kind of float. In this case I stuck it sort of between my knees to keep my legs up without the need to kick with them. It’s a good tool to use to help you concentrate on parts of your swim technique, so I used it to focus on my head position in the water.

As I can’t run so much at the moment, it will be good to work on my swimming for the next triathlon season. A very good swimmer on Fetch Everyone has sent me some ideas for exercises I can practise in the pool to improve my stroke.

It may sound strange, but I am missing the hot sweaty buzz that I get from a good cardio session such as a fast paced interval run. Particularly as before I hurt my ankle I was just starting a new programme with a lot of this kind of activity in it. And if I want to keep my fitness up, I need to do something that will get my heart rate up. So I’m going to go back to doing some sessions on the indoor rowing machine and bike. They should also fit in well with next year’s triathlon plans.

Today I volunteered at parkrun and enjoyed meeting up with my friends, shouting encouragement and taking photos of the runners on Newcastle’s Town Moor. It’s such a friendly and social event and today was simply a lovely day to be outdoors.

I also picked up an exercise that I haven’t done since the beginning of the year, trying out a pilates class at my gym. It was a good test of my flexibility and core strength, so I’ll try to make time to continue some of those exercises at home too.

I’ve been making progress with my Level 2 gym qualification too. I’ve now worked my way through all the anatomy and physiology sections and am starting to learn about working with clients. It’s really interesting stuff. Luckily I’ve had such great experience with my PT, Ian from Inspire Fitness that a lot of it seems like second nature or common sense to me and it would just be the way I’d do things. But I want to take my time to take it all in and not take anything for granted.

I need to do a bit of revising, but I hope to take my first assessment in anatomy and physiology in the next few weeks.

All this is helping me keep a positive note on my injury as it’s really not the end of the world and people have far worse to deal with. But when you love what you do, like I do, you miss it when things change. Reading the notes on changing behaviours and setting goals for clients as part of my studying today made me realise I need to do a few of these things myself . And actually changing the way I do things could be good in the long term, as working on my cycling and swimming skills will really help me improve my performance during next year’s triathlon season.