Q & A With Natalie Coughlin: Kicking, Flip Turns, Core Strength and Nutrition

<strong>Natalie Coughlin holds her gold medal after the women's 100m backstroke final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.</strong><br><br>AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin returns with four more answers to your swimming questions.

Kicks Per Breath

Q: How many kicks do you do when you take a breath in freestyle?

A: I have no idea, probably a lot. Kick hard and don't waste time counting how many kicks you are taking. Make sure that your kicks are small and powerful. When people count their kicks per stroke, it's often a sign that you are using your kick for balance and not propulsion.

3 Tips to Strengthen Your Freestyle Kicking

Flip Turns

Q: Hi Natalie. This is a wonderfully quick way to learn a myriad of tips! Thanks. I'm 53 and struggling in my attempts to learn the flip turn. Any simple techniques to pass along?

A: The biggest mistake that I see people make is bending their body (at the hips and knees) instead of turning their body into a tight ball. Make sure you maintain your speed going into the wall, keep your head down (Do NOT look at the wall!), and initiate the turn by turning your body into a tight ball starting at your head.

When you plant your feet, make sure they are shoulder width apart so that you can get the most powerful push-off possible.

Getting back to not looking at the wall—use the "T" on the bottom of the pool to help you judge where the wall is. This takes some work, but it helps maintain your speed into the turn.

How to Perfect Your Flip Turn

Dry-Land Conditioning for Swimmers

Q: What are some good out-of-pool exercises to strengthen the core and other dominant muscle groups used in freestyle? What kind of stretches do you perform before and after your workouts? Thank you so much, Natalie. You rock!

A: I really like doing forearm planks on the ground. You need to make sure that you are engaging your serratus, lower back and all your core muscles while maintaining a good bodyline. Hold this pose for as long as you can maintain good form and then try to increase the time as you get stronger.

You can do one-arm side forearm planks as you get stronger. It's also important to stretch your chest, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, triceps and lats.

Strong Abs Build a Base for Swimming Success

Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

Q: I hear you are a great cook. What is your favorite pre- and post-workout meal?

A: This always changes, but after a workout you want to look for the right mix of carbs, protein and fat. I usually have something that totals about 200 to 250 calories, ~5 grams of fat and 10 to 20 grams of protein.

Before a workout, I just make sure that I'm properly fueled without feeling too full. In the morning I'll usually have whole wheat toast with peanut butter (or something similar to).

Breakfast and Recovery Strategies for Swimmers

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

Related Links:

Q & A With Natalie Coughlin: Breathing and Hand Position Tips

Natalie Coughlin Video Swimming Tips

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