I sometimes feel that the woggle / noodle gets thought of as only a buoyant aid for keeping non-swimmers afloat. I had such a case at one of my weekend sessions, where a father raised the fact that his son had spent the majority of the swimming lesson on a woggle, when in fact the boy could swim and didn’t require a woggle at the local leisure centre. There are two major differences between the local leisure centre and where I teach. One is the depth of pool, my place of work’s pool is too deep for a child of five / six to stand compared to that of the leisure centre which has three pools to choose from: two are shallow and the third has a graduated depth. The second difference is I have other children to teach! If it was a one-to-one lesson, the child would probably have more time off the woggle and be pushed along at a faster pace, his parents have this luxury - I don’t.
Anyway, I digress. Woggles are used for non-swimmers to keep them afloat in the water, but I also use them for games and drills for more competent swimmers and think nothing of giving my top group (STA Shark series) woggles when I see fit. The simplest game with a woggle is called “Seahorses”, where you sit astride the woggle with the ends sticking up towards the ceiling and race to the other end of the pool. The children love it and is extremely popular with all age groups and great for a fun warm-up. There is also an ulterior motive as well (isn’t there always?), Seahorses is great for core strength which is vital in swimming
as good core strength helps link the movement of the upper and lower body together, assists with the body roll for front crawl and back crawl and the undulating movement of the torso required for breast stoke, butterfly and dolphin kick. Being on a stationary seahorse also introduces a beginner to treading water and lets them practice the different parts of treading water (sculling and the leg movements) whilst not having to worry about staying afloat.
Woggles are particularly good for teaching breaststroke. Breaststroke is regarded as the most technically difficult to learn out of the four competitive strokes. Imagine having to deal with a kick that has several components of it’s own, as well as the arms, timing and floating. The woggle takes away the added difficulty of staying afloat and lets the swimmer focus the technical elements of the breaststroke. An extremely common fault of breaststroke is that a lot of swimmers have a tendency to bring their arms down by their sides at the completion of a breaststroke pull. If you put a woggle across the upper torso of the swimmer, the woggle acts as a barrier / reminder to the swimmer that their arms cannot finish at the sides of their body and instead, to bend their elbows and bring their hands up past the breast bone.
Adults can use woggles too and not to learn the four competitive strokes either. You can have a great aqua gym workout with just the aid of a woggle. Using the woggle as a swing (making sure both ends are pointing upwards), place both hands on your head and using just your legs, try and move backwards (the secret is to hold in your core muscles and sit as upright as possible). Once you have mastered moving backwards, try travelling forwards. Most people find this much harder and the secret is to stretch out your legs one at a time and pull them back (a similar action to riding a bicycle). Another exercise is to lie flat on your front whilst holding the woggle at both ends so it forms a u-shape stretched out in front of you. The idea is to use the woggle as a skipping rope, but in a much slower action. Push down on the woggle’s ends as in a skipping action and at the same time; rotate (along the horizontal axis) from your front onto your back, so that the woggle ends up at your feet.
I have only begun to scratch the surface with what one woggle can be used for. In the next blog, I shall be exploring what you can do with several woggles and a little bit of imagination.