The Importance of Flip Turns

Triathletes tend to believe certain myths when it comes to swimming. The one I hear most often is not to kick at all on the swim in order to save your legs for the bike and the run. Another one I hear is that there is no point in doing flip turns since the race will more than likely be held in open water where there are no walls, duh. And the last one is why bother doing other strokes when freestyle is the stroke of choice?

Well, those are all wrong.

If you are swimming, you need to kick. I’m not saying to kick as hard as you would for a 50 meter sprint, but you do have to kick, and if you don’t practice kicking you will be super fatigued on your open water swim. Because, guess what? You will kick in a race whether you like it or not. Kicking is your motor while you swim, and if you have to pass another athlete in the water, you’re going to need to turn that motor on. In addition, kicking keeps your body in alignment for a faster and more efficient stroke. Practice kicking. End of story.

Now, if you swim in a pool, do those flip turns. Here’s why you should do them: flip turns keep your from taking a break at the wall when you would do an open turn, and they help you swim faster in the pool. It’s a win win! To do a flip turn, approach the wall with one arm extended, dolphin kick your legs over and do a half somersault, push off the wall on your back (or side in my case), and then turn over onto your stomach and keep swimming. Practice without a wall first and don’t forget to blow air out of your nose and mouth.

Lastly, swim all the strokes. Backstroke helps your freestyle: if you have a good backstroke, you have a strong freestyle. Getting comfortable on your back will be helpful in a triathlon if you need to fix your goggles, work out a cramp, or breathe if the waves are terrible. Breaststroke is a resting stroke and can be useful for seeing above the waves or sighting. Butterfly will make your shoulders stronger in practice, but don’t do it in a race. That’s it!

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