Conquer the Open Water, Step 1: Flip Turns

Here are several tips to help you learn how to flip turn like a swimmer:

  1. Think of it as a half somersault rather than a flip—you go from your stomach to your back.
  2. Practice first by taking a few strokes and somersaulting mid-lane; repeat this progression as you move down the lane.
  3. One of the most important tips is to exhale air out of your nose as you somersault, or you may find yourself with a nose full of water.

More: Proper Breathing Technique for Swimming

Here is your practice progression for learning a flip turn:

  1. Push off the wall and take three strokes, tuck your chin, finishing your arm pull with your hands ending at your sides.
  2. Go into a full-body tuck, bringing your knees to your chest and somersault (be sure that you are breathing out of your nose).
  3. You should now be face-up heading in the opposite direction.
  4. As you feel yourself going to your back, extend your arms over your head in a streamline position and then extend your legs. You should now find yourself stretched out on your back.
  5. Stroke back over to your stomach and repeat the sequence across the pool. Once you are comfortable with the somersault, you can complete it while heading into the wall.

More: Swimmer's Guide to the Perfect Pushoff

Into-the-wall progression for learning a flip turn:

  1. The black line ending with a "T" on the bottom of the pool alerts you that you are approaching the wall. There should also be a "+" on the wall in each lane. Push off the wall and swim at an easy pace. Complete your last stroke cycle at the "T", gliding toward the wall; tuck your chin and knees, somersault, then extend your arms to streamline and plant your feet on the wall (in the middle of the cross). You should be face-up to the sky or ceiling; and your knees should be bent, coiled and ready to push off. Now push off on your back and complete this sequence several times until you feel comfortable with your distance coming into the wall.
  2. For the next several turns, as you push off the wall on your back, take two kicks, rotate to one side (use your core) and take two kicks—you should be fully extended in a streamline position on your side with toes pointed. Again complete several turns like this.
  3. Once you have mastered this step, you will flip, push off the wall on your back, take two kicks and rotate to one side, take two kicks and then rotate to your stomach and take two kicks. Complete several turns like this.
  4. Now put all of these steps together and complete the full turn, moving right into your stroke, as you are on your stomach rising to the surface. Remember the rotation happens as you are coming off the wall, not on it. If you turn your body with your feet on the wall, you are slowing down by staying on the wall. Be sure that you are kicking throughout the rotation.
  5. As you become more and more comfortable with your turn, you can increase your speed going into the wall.

By incorporating flip turns into your swim sessions, your workouts will flow more smoothly to best mimic the continuous swim of an open-water effort. Part two of this article will address sighting drills, getting comfortable in "dark" water and swimming straight.

Remember, it is always easier to practice things with which you are comfortable. It takes dedication, effort and courage to improve on your weaknesses.

More: Learn to Master the Flip Turn

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