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

Flip Turns

Q: What provides propulsion when you do an underwater turn? I find myself flailing my arms to complete the turn under water and never know where I am at the end of the turn.

A: You're most likely off balance. Any time you find yourself flailing your arms or legs, you're most likely off balance. It's one of those evolutionary reflexes.

Make sure you maintain speed into your turn, do not lift your head to sneak a look at the wall (it's not going anywhere!), and flip straight over. Your body should be a tight ball and your feet should hit the wall about shoulder-width apart. Push off on your back and rotate during your streamline.

Q: I just watched your flip turn video. I have problems with being short or too close to the wall. Any pointers on timing? And should I be focusing on tucking in? Thanks.

A: Practice, practice, practice. Timing your approaches into your finishes and turns takes a lot of practice. It's something that even world-class swimmers need to constantly work on. Make sure that your body (head, legs, arms, torso) coils into a tight ball when you turn to minimize drag.


Q: Natalie you inspire me. But I have a problem where I don't get as much air when swimming. I have asthma, and during my flip turns I can't stay under the water long enough compared to the other people, which slows me down. Are there any breathing exercises I can do in and out of the water?

A: I've never done any breathing exercises. The ability to hold your breath while swimming hard is all about staying calm. A lot of people make the mistake of panicking when they need to hold their breath and freak themselves out. Another major mistake is that people only focus on the inhale and not the exhale, which leads them to take really shallow breaths.

Q: Do you breathe out of your nose or your mouth when doing the freestyle stroke?

A: Both. If you ever see underwater footage of any of my races, my mouth is always open and I exhale from both my mouth and nose.

Visit H2O Audio's Ask Natalie page to post your question on technique, training, nutrition or whatever swimming subject you're curious about.

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