Should Triathletes Learn the Flip Turn?

Flip turns could uncharitably be called the appendix of triathlon training. After all, they're not really necessary—we never use them in races—and when things go wrong they create more than their fair share of discomfort (water up the nose, anyone?)

Still, with a little practice, flip turns can improve your swim training. Here are three reasons it really IS worth the hassle of mastering them:

Raw speed. Ultimately, flip turns are faster than the touch-and-go open turns. Sure, we don't use them in open water swimming races, but let's be honest...we all love swimming a lane up. The confidence of swimming on a faster interval with better swimmers shouldn't be ignored. Feel fast to go fast!

More: Q&A With Natalie Coughlin: Flip Turns and Better Breathing

Like a good neighbor. When you're swimming masters or other group swimming situations where the other swimmers are likely doing flip turns, not being the lone sheep means that the flow is likely to be smoother. In crowded lanes or when swimming on tight intervals, your lane mates will appreciate swimming sans accordion effect at the wall.

Better open water simulation. Perhaps the most compelling reason to practice your aquatic acrobatics: each time you push off the wall, you're breaking swim form and getting a mini rest. (If you need proof, try a 50-meter long course workout after a few months of short course—brutal!) Flip turns minimize this break, making for a better simulation of open water swimming.

If you're ready to jump aboard the flip turn bandwagon, here are a few tips to ease the transition:

Build it Into Your Warm-up (or Cooldown)

Try practicing solo at first by spending a few minutes before or after your main swim set. Without the pressure of an interval or other swimmers in your lane, things will go more smoothly. Try starting with a series of 8 to 10 midpool-start 25s to get the hang of it. By starting (approximately) 12.5 yards from the wall, you'll have enough time to build momentum.

More: Learn to Master the Flip Turn

"T" Time

The black "T" at the end of each lane provides a good marker for timing your flip. Personally, I duck my head to initiate the flip turn right over the T. Adjust forward or back depending on your height and velocity.

Back Off

In a properly executed flip turn, swimmers will push off while still on their back and gradually roll over to their stomach as they leave the wall.

(Not) Waiting to Exhale

Getting water up your nose isn't so comfortable. Fortunately, it can be corrected easily...with no surgical intervention. Blowing out gently through your nose as you flip prevents the aforementioned discomfort.

More: 8 Tips for Open Water Swimming Newbies

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