Being somewhat bitter about having to swim in the first place, I am determined to get the most out of being banished to the pool. So, even though I am not actually a swimmer or particularly interested in becoming one over the long term, being stuck with it short term has made me get interested in various points of technique.
Right now my big area of concern is my kick because it has no power. Why does it have no power? Because of the exact same problem I have as a runner – tight hips and weak glutes. These are two problems that make me a 9 minute mile runner instead of the 8 minute mile runner I’d like to be.
Not coincidentally, it is also likely part of my issue with the posterior tibial tendinitis. It’s an overuse injury, but one that I might not have been prone to if my hips and butt were doing what they are supposed to.
This hip and glute problem carries over into swimming, apparently. So, I figure that if I can fix it in the pool, it might also help my running.
From what I have read, it’s a two-part problem – in order to get more power from the kick, I need to engage my glutes and have more flexibility in the hips (glutes apparently can’t engage when the hips are stiff – which makes sense since they are in opposition).
How does one do this? There are 3 things to focus on:
1) Keep the knees straight – don’t let the knee do the work the hips should be doing. The knees shouldn’t be locked, but they shouldn’t really be bending much either. Straight but soft.
2) Think about squeezing the butt while kicking- this gets the glutes activated and puts the kick motion into the hips instead of the knees.
3) Point the toes. This helps the water move in the right direction, and keeps the ankles from acting as a drag anchor.
I’ve always been relatively good about the knees and toes, but the butt squeeze seemed to be the missing piece of the equation. Without it, keeping knees and toes straight meant I wasn’t getting power from them, but I wasn’t getting it from the hips either. So I had no power coming from anywhere.
Incorporating the butt squeeze definitely added some speed to my kick but I also note that it makes me WAY sorer than I’m used to being when I swim. So, it must be doing something, right?
The other piece is to loosen up the hips. I try to stretch them but most of the stretches I know don’t seem to do all that much. They always seem to get the quads – the hip flexors get sore, but they never seem to get more flexible.
So I decided to consult the trusty internet and found this helpful video.
I tried it and it seems like one I can actually do on the pool deck. Also, it feels like it gives a good stretch to the hips without stretching or tightening the wrong things.