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What is a flip turn?
A flip turn, or tumble turn, allows you to change direction at the lane end at speed, rather than stopping, touching the wall, turning around and pushing off the wall to go back up the lane again.
Effectively, you swim until just before the lane end, dive into a forward roll, twist under water so you’re facing the direction you came from, and push off the wall with your feet.
Should I be doing flip turns?
Rather than providing a black and white answer to a nuanced topic, I’ll provided some suggestions based upon certain circumstances. Then, you can decide if it’s the right decision for you.
You’re already accomplishing your goals
If you’re accomplishing your goals in the water, you’re making progress, and you’re not doing flip turns, there’s no compelling reason to change. Flip turns are NOT a requirement for open-water racing.
You’ll never have to do one in competition, so you never have to do one in training, either. If you’re happy with where you’re at, there’s no reason to change it up for a skill that’s not required in competition.
You just don’t want to do flip or tumble turns
Perhaps the most important reason of all – you don’t want to! As mentioned above, flip turns are not a competitive skill in open-water triathlons.
You don’t need to be able to perform one to race effectively, successfully, or safely. While this might seem like a rather lame reason not to learn, remember that participating in triathlons is something that should enrich your life and bring you joy.
If learning flip turns is going to make participating in sport less enjoyable, don’t sweat it.
Racing pool triathlons
If you ever race in triathlons that take place in pools, you might want to learn flip turns. They’re going to be faster in the long run, even if it’s a struggle at first.
As you improve, at some point your turns will limit your ability to race competitively when other triathletes are performing flip turns and you’re not. Take the time to learn the skill.
You have problems with breathing
Improve your triathlon swimming breathing technique
You’re looking to gain an edge in your swimming
Flip turns are harder. They’re not just harder to do technically, they’re harder to do physically. As mentioned above, you’re going to be without air for a longer period of time, and that extra challenge may provide a physical stimulus that can take your training to the next level.
You want to move into competitive swimming
If you have any notion that you might one day compete in swimming, learn flip turns sooner than later. There’s going to be a learning curve both physically and technically, and you might as well get working on it today.
Turns will absolutely limit performance in competitive swimming, so learn flip turns as soon as you can.
Top image credit: Getty Images