Sponsored Content by ROKA
If you’ve ever trained or raced in a wetsuit, you know how dramatically it affects your body position in the water—which ultimately affects your stroke mechanics. While it’s always a good idea to wear your wetsuit on at least a few training swims prior to the race (and especially in open water), it’s not something you can realistically do on a regular basis in the pool without overheating.
To make up for this inconsistency, ROKA developed their line of neoprene SIM buoyancy shorts. They act similar to a pull buoy in that they increase flotation, but the SIM is superior in that it lets you kick and SIMulates how the body moves through the water when wearing a wetsuit.
Here are some key principles we’ve found helpful when incorporating buoyancy shorts into a well-rounded swim training program.
1. If wearing buoyancy shorts gets you to swim more, then swim with buoyancy shorts!
Swimming more makes you faster, with few exceptions. So be honest with yourself, and if you will swim more with buoyancy shorts, use them liberally. We’d still encourage you to take note of the other principles in this article, but remember that if training with buoyancy removes a psychological barrier and helps you be more consistent, you’ve found the ultimate secret training weapon.
2. Train with buoyancy some of the time, but not all of the time.
For a developing swimmer, this could mean you wear them 80 percent of the time but go without them every fifth workout or for one set in each workout. For an experienced swimmer, it could mean you wear them once per week with specific intent.
3. Consciously reinforce good habits.
Use your sessions in buoyancy shorts to consciously think about those things that are difficult to work on when you’re just fighting to maintain good body position. Pick one thing at a time to focus on: body rotation, maintaining a straight body line (i.e. not “fishtailing”), or the timing of your kick, pull and breathing.
4. Practice easy speed.
Do sets to work on easy speed: not sprinting, but up-tempo work where you get used to feeling light and quick. This would typically be done with 15-second to 1-minute efforts with approximately a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio. The key is to finish each effort just before fatigue causes your stroke to break down.
5. Train with buoyancy on recovery days.
Some days you need to swim, but you want to keep your heart rate down. Training with buoyancy on these days will allow you to stay aerobic and take the load off your legs. Make a conscious effort to feel how easy swimming can be. Maybe you’ve seen a great swimmer gliding effortlessly while cooling down after a race and somehow going faster than you could ever dream of. Visualize yourself being this swimmer and internalize this feeling.
6. Learn how to leverage buoyancy to create extra speed, just like you will with a wetsuit.
When training with buoyancy shorts, make sure they don’t only lift your butt. Rather, maintain your core tension and use the buoyancy at your hips as a foundation to raise your overall body position — you should do the same thing when you wear a wetsuit, and it’s important to get used to it.
7. Replace your pull buoy.
Let’s be honest: trying to keep a pull buoy between your legs in and out of flip turns is no one’s favorite thing about swimming. Buoyancy shorts give almost the same lift as a pull buoy, so shorts and an ankle band serve as a great replacement for a pull buoy. Most shorts go on or off in just a few seconds underwater, so they’re quick to get in and out of during a workout.
8. Take care of your buoyancy shorts and they'll last.
As with all neoprene, be sure to rinse the SIM shorts with fresh water after each use and let them dry thoroughly to increase their lifespan.