Many triathletes just don’t have a swimming background and have that “runners” kick. Mostly it comes from have overly tight ankles and minimum flexibility in the ankles. Ankle flexibility is a critical component to swimming. Ankle flexibility just doesn’t happen overnight. The more flexibility you have in your ankles the more you can point your toes and therefore your feet act more like fins during the kick. I remember when I first started swimming, I felt like I couldn’t move forward when doing kick sets. It would take 2 minutes or more to get across a 25-meter pool.
Here are several methods to improve your flexibility and ultimately your freestyle stroke:
1. Vertical Kicking. This is a very useful drill. Get in the deep end of the pool, cross your arms, and kick in place in a vertical position pointing your toes and keeping your chin above the surface of the water. Get your power from your quads and hips on this drill. Every 15 seconds rotate 90 degrees to the right and then left back to your starting point. Use only your feet to rotate your body.
2. Use fins. I am a big proponent of using fins during drills and kick sets, but not during the main set unless it is in your training plan. Use the shorter training fins such as Zoomers, avoid using the long snorkeling/scuba diving style fins. Fins will naturally increase your ankle flexibility, allow you to do swimming drills with ease, and strengthen the correct leg muscles you need to kick. Remember your power comes from your quads and hips on your kick.
3. Stretch. Here are two options to stretch your ankles.
- In a seated position, take one leg and bring it out in front of you. Extend your feet and push your toes toward the ground. Hold for about 15-20 seconds, repeat with other foot. You can do this several times a day. The goal would be to sit flat on the floor and touch your toes to the ground.
- ***CAUTION: If you have knee issued do not do this stretch. Get on your knees and point your toes behind you so that the arch and sole of your foot are facing up. Now sit down on your heels, pushing the top of our foot to the ground. If you don't feel the stretch, then lean back on your toes to create a better stretch.
If it comes easily for you, try and hold it for a good 2-3 minutes. Focus on keeping from your knee down to your big toes flat on the ground. If you can make it through 3 minutes, then you are doing great! If not, we have some work to do.
Stretch your ankles every day and increase your stretching time. Record your time you can hold the stretch. Each week increase the length of stretching time. With a little effort work toward holding this stretch for up to 2-minutes at a time. It will make your kick more powerful.
Remember as a triathlete you do not need a super kick to have a great race. Your kick is mainly for stability and body rotation. Have patience and stick with these drills and your will improve you kick.