Thursday, March 21, 2013

Flip Turns

Recently, I decided I was sick of using open turns in the pool since it's too easy to take an extra breath or two during the turn. There aren't any walls in open water you can turn around on. OK, I really decided to learn them because I want to look cooler in the water.

It's interesting reading about all the justifications triathletes use for not learning how to flip turn. I already mentioned one, there aren't any ways to get an extra breath or an extra second rest every turn. Open turns also screw up your momentum since you have to come out of the water a bit, turn around and gather speed again. Flip turns are more fluid and it doesn't feel like I'm interrupting my swim a couple times a minute. Having to deal with the increased time under water seems like it can only help one swim faster in the long run. Think about it this way, you can either get an extra breath every 25 yds or meters and then not get an extra breath in open water or you can flip turn and learn to "lose" a breath or two and then it'll be like getting an extra breath every 25 yards in open water. I bet if you watched the top triathlete swimmers in the pool, you'd see them doing flip turns. Plus, can you honestly say you don't push off the wall with your legs during an open turn?

I started off by watching a few videos on how to do a flip turn and how to work up to one. I tried a few months ago but gave up after getting extremely dizzy and water up my nose. I can't find the video that I watched but Competitor has a similar video.

Somersaults in the middle of the pool were a great starting point. I definitely needed to get used to trying to flip in the water without flailing my arms like everyone does as a kid when they try to do somersaults underwater. Those got old fast and I felt stupid just standing in the lane trying to flip over. So, I started about 1/3 of the way from the wall and just swam in and tried to flip. The first 10 times were horrible. I was discouraged, dizzy and inhaled a bunch of water but knew the only way I'd figure it out was to keep doing it. Rather than torture myself for an hour, I decided to work on the at the end of my workouts...just don't do it on long run days unless you're properly hydrated. My calves cramped up during the push offs.

After spending 10-15 minutes at the end of 5 or 6 workouts I finally felt confident in my flip turn. It might not look pretty but, I was getting the job done for now. I got over the dizzy feeling however, I still had the problem of wanting to breath in as soon as I got upside down. Once I figured that out, I eventually made it 100 yards with 3 flip turns. The last 2 workouts I manged to make it 200 yards. The only problem is my lung capacity isn't large enough and I'm gasping for air after 3 or 4 turns. It sounds like, based on everything I've read, that not having enough air will fix itself with time as my lung capacity increases.

It's not as hard as you'd think, you just can't give up. It's like when I tried to learn how to snowboard in college after being a skier for 11 or 12 years. I would rent a snowboard with my friends but still have my skis with me. When I got sick of falling, I'd just put my skis on. Then I decided to buy (when I say "buy" I mean make my parents pay for it since I was in college) a snowboard and go without my skis so I'd be forced to learn. It didn't take long before my skis started collecting dust.

This guy does a good job of defending flip turns for triathletes.


  1. Hey! Just found your blog through someone else's! Anyway, I'm doing IM Wisc as well! It'll be my first 140. I did 2 70.3's last year so fingers crossed :) If you wanna follow along, I'm over at

    I taught myself how to do the flip turns a few years ago but even now I only do them half the time.

  2. I only use flip turns on every 5th lap in the pool to help me keep count of my laps.

  3. My 11 year old son has been trying to teach me flip turns, but I just end up getting dizzy and nauseous!

  4. Kepa, I was getting dizzy for awhile and eventually the dizziness stopped.