Flipping Out

Sometimes when I am doing my continuous swim my mind wanders. It is one of my struggles of long-distance swimming in the pool. La-la-land is easy to reach and thoughts float in and out of my mind. Recently a swim started up the debate around flip turns. It is a debate that triathletes and triathlete coaches have on a fairly regular basis. Personally, I do flip turns.

To be perfectly honest I started doing flip turns because I thought they looked cool and made me look like a pro. Since I’m nowhere near a fabulous swimmer, at least I look like one! I learned a long time ago how to do flip turns because the coach I had at the time (a swimmer himself) encouraged me. I watched some YouTube videos like this one and spent a bit of time at the end of my swim sessions learning to flip. While it looks cool now, it sure didn’t at the beginning. That being said, it really didn’t take very long before I had learned to flip turn and was starting to incorporate it into my swims. Now I flip and push on all my long swims. I don’t flip when I’m doing drills because that’s just cruel.

Sometimes people say that they get water up their nose when they flip. I do too sometimes. When that happens I chalk it up to good training for the beginning of a triathlon. I am a firm believer that the more you prepare yourself for the start of a swim, the better off you are (what I wouldn’t give for a training buddy to elbow me in the head a couple times at the start of my workout). Getting water up my nose is just one way I can prepare for the unique experience that is the triathlon mass swim start. But man, it sure does hurt the brain (or whatever it is) in the ol’ melon.

One argument against flip turns is that you don’t do them during a race. This is true, but you also don’t get to hold on to the wall and take a big breath of air every 25m either. The way I see it, having the extra breath and break from an open turn at the wall doesn’t do any good. There are no walls during a race, so training like there is no wall makes sense to me. That is really my secondary reason for doing flip turns. Looking cool is still #1.

Flip turns are scary. I get it. But if you are, or are becoming, a long-distance swimmer, once you learn how to do them (and it doesn’t take long) you will never have to learn again and it will keep the swim flow going so much better during your continuous swim. According to some coaches, open turns cactually hurt your swim stroke, where flip turns do not.

Open Turns hurt your swim technique: Every time you stop to reach for the wall your hand comes out of the water. Is that good technique? I would say no. By swimming laps with flip turns, you are most definitely improving the fluidity of the swim.”

This debate is pretty old and I’m not trying to stir up trouble (the debate can get quite heated). On one of the heated forums, someone posted this, which has some pretty good points:

Really? Really? We’re going to have a serious debate on whether it’s better to do flipturns? Do it, don’t do it..it doesn’t matter! Just swim hard and swim often. 

Triathletes, by and large, do a lot of really dumb things when it comes to swimming. And, by and large, they try to rationalize it by saying something like “Haha, it’s a good thing I’m a triathlete otherwise these dumbass things I’m doing would be really stupid.” It’s ridiculous. The vast majority of triathletes would be better swimmers if they would cut out the tri-toys, the get-fast-quick schemes and all of the other gimmicks. 

All that being said, I wonder how many pro triathletes do open turns while they are training? I’m pretty certain that they do flip turns and haven’t done an open turn since their first swimming days. So if you’re planning to be in this sport for a while (or you have been already), it’s probably time you learn to flip out and turn around.

2 thoughts on “Flipping Out

  • September 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Crystal,

    I just wanted to check in with you and say hello. I am also a triathlete and am always looking for ways to keep up my motivation. Your web site and articles are one of the many ways I keep up my motivation.

    I am not sure how many regular readers you have but just wanted you to know that I appreciate your work and enjoy learning how you are doing with your training life.

    Thank you!


    • September 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Rick! Thanks for reading and keeping up with me. I find it very inspiring to read other people’s experiences, and also to share my own. I find having this blog keeps me honest. Have fun training!


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