Pro triathlete and swim coach Anna Cleaver shares the items in her swimming gear bag, and explains how each tool can benefit triathletes.
“There are training tools that are essential, but most are ‘nice to haves,’” says Cleaver. “It is more important that the athlete knows why he or she is using a specific aid, and using it in the parts of their session where they will get the most benefit. While I have updated the equipment, what is in my swimming gear bag has not changed in the past 15 years. I keep it simple,” she says.
Her gear bag has two sets of paddles. “I recommend finger paddles for almost everybody,” she says. “They are inexpensive and are super helpful with the catch phase of the stroke. Hand paddles are good for strength work and some people like to incorporate them into main sets. My preference is for a paddle that is only slightly bigger than your hand. Oversize paddles may result in faster times in training but I am not convinced they correlate to faster times in racing, and I would rather avoid the stress on my shoulders. The key to paddles is to strap them on loosely. They will stay on if your technique is great.” Photo: John David Becker
Cut an old bike tube, tie a knot and you have the most inexpensive tool in your gear bag! The band is useful for strength work, usually in shorter-duration sets. Cleaver recommends keeping arm turnover high and body position elevated while churning out a few 25s. Photo: John David Becker
A useful tool not only for kick sets but for drills (one-arm drill holding a kickboard in front of you limits your tendency to over-reach). Photo: John David Becker
Cleaver prefers small fins or cutting longer fins. “Long fins might encourage ‘snaking’ in the stroke, could disrupt stroke rhythm (slowing it down) and are likely to result in more knee bend than necessary.” Photo: John David Becker
This tool will aid in body position, elevating the hips and therefore making your body position more closely resemble racing conditions (when you will very likely be wearing a wetsuit). It can be incorporated into strength sets, aerobic endurance sets and used for technique/drill work. For most triathletes, the bigger the buoy, the better. Photo: John David Becker
While this is not technically in Cleaver’s swim bag, she sees its value for many swimmers. “It allows you to focus on technique without thinking about the timing of your head turn. It is also useful for those who haven’t mastered breathing efficiently or get that panic feeling when they breathe.” Photo: John David Becker
Also a ‘nice to have’ item. There are a few versions of this strength tool, or you can tie a towel to a band for drag, tow a friend while they hold your ankles, or wear shorts that create drag. Photo: Nils Nilsen