Monday, June 22, 2009

Tri Tip: Flip Turns

Now I'm not the best swimmer by far. I learned to swim as a kid, but really started to do lap swimming when I was at Skidmore at took a Swim for Fitness class. I've been progressing slowly but surely and think that one of my mile stones is being able to do flip turns.

Technically they're not the most complicated things in the world. But I think that they require a certain level of comfort with the water. For Triathletes with non-swimming backgrounds, being able to swim without the constant fear of drowning can be a large hurdle. The more relaxed you can be in the water the more you can focus on technique and expending energy in the form of propulsion.

Consistency helps a lot with comfort in the water. As well as just experience and repetition. Eventually you'll start to figure out how to move in and through the water and swimming might even start to feel good. (I'm almost there!)

When I first started to try flip turns I was primarily hampered by a lack of oxygen, which led to freaking out and total disintegration of comfort.

I've figured out that the breathing through the flip was difficult because it was inconstant with how I was breathing when I would do a non-flip turn. In the latter I would take my last stroke, then grab the edge of the pool with my approaching hand, take a breath, pull my legs towards the edge, duck my head/upper body back into the water and push off into my streamline. I would never have to worry about my breath in the last few strokes before the turn because I would always get to breathe during the about-face.

But when doing a flip you obviously can't breath while in the middle of your somersault.
And if you add up the time in the last couple of strokes before the flip,during the flip and in the streamline before your first stoke it seems to be way longer than the time between three stokes (if you're bi-lateral breathing...and you should be). I've never actually clocked the aforementioned amount of time. But I've struggled enough to know that if I don't think about taking a breath before I come into a flip my streamline is going to be pretty short and I'll be burning for air.

So. How to remedy the first problem of flip turns? Well, the solution that I've come up with is to make sure that I take a breath after I pass the flags at the end of the pool. Usually I'll see the flags on a stoke and then take two, sometimes three, more strokes, breathe and will have enough O2 until I come out the other side of the flip. Play with it and see if that helps.

Now hopefully if you're a little more comfortable with the breathing aspect of flip turns then the actual execution won't be that difficult.
For me I took five or ten minutes during a couple of practices to mess around in the shallow end to see if I could make my flips work. This is what I would suggest doing:

Walk out from the wall ten feet or so, enough to allow for a few strokes. Turn around. Push forward with your feet to generate some momentum and then take a few strokes. When you get just past the T, where the stripe in the tile ends, keep your recovering hand (the one moving forward to take the next stroke) out in front of you, and press down with your head then chest as if executing a somersault. Focus on looking up towards the ceiling and the lights, as this will help you rotate. And when you flip upside down breath out through your nose and mouth. The latter will keep the water out and the comfort in. Once you've completed your somersault stop there. Just try that a few times to get a feeling for moving forward and flipping. Make sure that you recover enough between each try so that searching for oxygen isn't an issue while you're figuring out the movements.
Now as for that part about keeping a hand out in front of you: I like to keep one or both hands out in front of me as I think it helps to give me something to pull against and assist my flip. I'm sure it's not Pro and others will argue against it. But it really helped me to rotate around and has now started to dissipate as I'm more comfortable with my flip turns.

Once you've tried just somersaulting a few times your next step is pushing off the wall. The T on the floor gives you an indicator that the wall is approaching and about when you need to flip. I usually find my self going just past the T and flipping with my legs pretty bent for a good push off the wall. Often times my outstretched hand could be in contact with the wall when I start to flip. But err on the side of caution allowing for a bit more room, especially if you're afraid of bonking your heals.

Flip keeping your feet about shoulder width and your knees fairly bent. When you're about upside down, push off the wall and engage a twist to right your self out. You're going to use the stability of the wall to help you rotate your twist. Twisting without the wall is possible but a tougher. Also, you'll probably find that you prefer twisting to one side or the other, but try both to see which works.
Again, while flipping think about looking for the lights on the ceiling as you're pressing your chest and head forwards at the start of the flip. And while you're flipping make sure to breath out for the duration of the flip.

Work through it a few times and it'll come. I'm sure of it. Plus when you're cruising and land a really quick tight flip it's an awesome feeling.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Awesome tip. I think I have the same breathing issues. When I do flip, they are pretty good, but I'm always gasping for air once I turn around. I'll have to try it out.