With the Northern Hemisphere deep in the throngs of winter, triathletes and open water swimmers probably aren't practicing their race starts and finishes during pool workouts. But the best coaches do not forget the small details that can lead to better performances.
Fast dolphining skills can give you tremendous advantages at T1 transitions and at open water races with onshore starts and finishes. But like everything in sports, proper technique and repeated practice are key elements to success.
You can and should practice dolphining in a pool throughout the offseason, especially if you swim in a shallow pool or a pool with a shallow end. In addition to your focus on stroke work and devotion to aerobically-difficult interval sets, technical dolphin sets can be challenging, fun and a welcome change of pace. These sets can be as simple as 10 x 50 or 10 x 100 on your normal intervals--or slightly slower--dolphining on each 50 or 100.
In the video below, Coach Gerry Rodrigues, of Tower 26, demonstrates the proper fundamentals of dolphining. He was analyzed because his ocean starts and finishes have been compared to Michael Phelps' wall turns in the pool. Just as it is rare that the 16-time Olympic medalist is beaten off the walls in a pool, Gerry was rarely beaten going into or coming out of the ocean in open water races at his peak.