I love my pull buoy. I really do.
But we need to break up.
It’s not the buoy – it’s me.
Buoys are what they purport to be: flotation devices. They do what they promise. Boom! High hips. Zero effort required.
And when do I reach for it?
When the set gets tough. When I’m on the third round of 3x200s and I want to go faster than the first two rounds.
I’ve heard passionate defenses in defense of the pull buoy: It’s a tool, not a crutch.
I acknowledge that there is some truth to that. It does elevate the hips and eliminate the need to kick in order to achieve an efficient body position. It’s good to learn how that feels.
Yet, like all tools, the buoy has its limitations.
It limits body rotation. It eliminates the need to use your core and kick to maintain body position when fatigue settles in.
It also creates a false sense of your mastery of swim technique. You can swim faster and farther with one in the toughest moments of your workout.
Here’s another way to look at it.
Imagine you are a musician who plays the saxophone. You play your scales – much as a swimmer rehearses drills. You practice moving back and forth between different musical intervals just as a swimmer might practice learning to connect various parts of their stroke.
What if you had an auto-tune switch that made all of your notes pitch-perfect?
How often would you use that? Maybe for a minute or two as you figure out how a difficult passage should sound.
But would you use it constantly as you work through the toughest passages of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”?
All I’m asking is to be realistic about how often you use your buoy, and for what purpose.
When I ask myself that question, I know the answer.
That’s why, for me, November is going to be ‘No-Buoy November.’