When it comes to the triathletes I know they're always telling me how they need to "conserve their legs" to be able to perform on the bike and the run. So what does this mean to them? It means they kick little to not at all during their swim. Before you try to tell me I’m wrong, I know that at least 75% of you have all thought to yourselves, “if I don’t kick during my swim, I’ll save that much more energy to use for the rest of my race.”
And you know what? I can’t blame you. On paper, that makes complete sense. But in actuality? That’s a terrible idea, and you’ll only be hurting yourself and hindering your race performance if you do so. Having a consistent kick during the swim portion of your triathlon is key to keeping proper body positioning, maintaining rotation, and preventing unnecessary drag from your legs sinking and being pulled behind you.
Think of it this way, have you ever tried to run while keeping your arms motionless and straight at your sides? If you have, please tell me there’s video, because I would pay good money to see that. But seriously, imagine running without the aid of your arms. Not pretty, and it definitely isn’t efficient. Which if you think about it is what we're always aiming to be in these long races, efficient. The same goes for your kick in swimming. Your kick is needed to round out your stroke and keep the rest of your body/arms in line with what they need to be doing.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to go all out and be crazy with your kick either. There’s a sweet spot we’re looking for here. How do you find that sweet spot, you ask? Well, that’s what practice is for! You need to find a pace that you can maintain for the length of your swim, preferably longer, that isn’t detrimental to your energy stores and promotes a balanced and efficient swim. A small kick that stays up at the surface of the water, is driven from your hips, and doesn’t create too much of a splash is what you’re looking for. The best way to figure out this movement? Start by practicing out of the water to get the feel for a good pace and help your body become more aware of the movement goal.
The pace is going to be different for everyone, so don’t go asking your friends how they kick during the swim portion of their triathlons and try to copy them (because if you do 3rd grade is going to call you asking for it's tactic back). Chances are high it’s not going to be right for you.
Put in the time to find that sweet spot. Don’t exit out of this window and keep on not kicking during your swims. If you do, the time and effort you’re putting in to work on technique and all the other aspects of your swim will have been a waste, and your race times will show it.
Worried because you don't know if you have a proper kick or not? Check out our video Kicking on Land to start from scratch and focus on learning each step properly before you even step foot back in the water.