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Swimmer, do you have a runner's kick?

Ankle and foot flexibility is often the limiter

By

Updated January 13, 2013
Swimmers, ask yourselves these questions:
  • Can you point your toes but not straighten out your feet?
  • When you kick on your back, or with a kickboard, do you tend to:
    • go very slow
    • stay in one place
    • even go backwards
  • Do you have a tough time with swimming drills because your kick is not propelling you forward fast enough?
  • Do you wear fins in workouts just to "keep up"?
  • Did you start out as a runner and pick up swimming later to become a Triathlete?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you may have Runner's Kick! Have no fear, there are things you can do. Even the worst of kickers can develop an adequate kick for freestyle, which is all you need for a triathlon swim. Here are some remedies:

  1. Vertical Kicking
    This drill has been around for a long time. Find water that is deep enough for you to kick in place. Let go of the wall, cross your arms, and kick in place in a vertical position (keep in a straight line), pointing your toes and keeping your chin above the surface of the water. Get your power from your quads and hips on this drill. Try 20 seconds at a time.
  2. Use Fins
    Yes! I am a coach telling you to use fins. But not to "keep up" in workouts. If you have ankle flexibility issues (Runner's Kick), use fins for a few weeks, but wean off them as you get closer to your event. The shorter kind are best. I prefer Hydrofinz but other brands may work okay as well. Fins can increase your ankle flexibility, allow you to do swimming drills with ease, and strengthen the right leg muscles you need to kick.
  3. Sit on Your Feet
    For more severe cases of Runner's Kick, sitting on your feet can greatly improve your ankle flexibility. In Yoga, just stay in "Child's Pose" a little longer and gain this extra benefit.
  4. Just Stretch
    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.

Whatever you do, don't be tempted to use a kick board to improve your kick. For distance swimming and triathlons, you are wasting your time with the floatation devices!

Remember: You don't need a super kick to have a great race in a triathlon. Your kick is mainly for stability and body rotation. Have patience, stick with these drills, and you will lose your Runners' Kick before you know it!

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