As a triathlete, we look at swimming as something we have to do and not something we want to do. Swimming is for swimmers, we are triathletes, and we're better than them. Well, except for when we have to share the pool with them. It's sort of like comparing a goldfish to a barracuda and we're not the barracudas. They are slender, aggressive, and FAST. And not only that, they do those damn flip turns. We'll rationalize the flip turns with a statement like "I don't need to do flip turns, I swim in open water!" I have personally held on to this belief for over 10 years.
Over the last few months, I have really been focusing on my swimming. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on in order to better understand how I can become more efficient, have a better stroke, and get faster. I’ve also been spending a lot of time at the pool and around “them”. And I stick out like a sore thumb. I swim to the end; I come to the surface and bob around like a goldfish, get positioned in the other direction, swim again, and repeat.

I’d been sticking to my philosophy until I had read an Internet debate on flip turns. You know the kind; it’s basically swimmers against triathletes debating the same tired argument. Except this time, someone made a few points that really struck home with me. The first point was that by not doing flip turns, you are essentially cheating. It’s true; when you’re swimming in open water, you do not stop and reposition. You just swim. But when you’re in the pool turning around at the end, you’re essentially getting a mini-break. You pop your head up, takes a few good sized breaths, turn around and start over. It’s cheating, I concede to this point.

The second point that was made has more to do with fitting in. If you’re not doing flip turns, you must be a triathlete. Because why would anyone swim 2.4 miles… ummm… I mean… 4224 yards (swimmers talk in yards) and not do flip turns? But if you’re doing flip turns, then you might be a swimmer and therefore receive a warmer reception.

Ok, the second point is a little silly but the first one really got me to thinking. I concluded that I needed to learn how to flip turn. And for me, that was easier said than done. When I attempted to flip turn, a couple of things happened. First, I became disoriented and nearly shot myself into the bottom of the pool. Second, water got into my nose and it burned the hell out of my nostrils. I immediately stopped and decided to wait for another time to learn this trick.

I stumbled across a forum discussion about flip turns. One of the posters described how their coach had taught them to flip turn. Basically, you go into the deep part of the pool away from the wall and attempt to complete a summersault underwater. While rotating your turn, exhale out of your nose. I did this a few times and was able to accomplish the turn without burning my nostrils. Now I needed to incorporate this new trick while swimming. I remembered reading something about initiating the turn one arms length away from the wall. When I got near the wall, I extended my arm, my fingers touched, I initiated the turn, I exhaled from my nose, I pushed off the wall and I successfully completed my turn. One of the things I have noticed is if I push off the wall really hard, I use up quite a bit of oxygen. This causes me to have to breathe more and interrupts my swimming. I still push off the wall but not like I’m trying to get to the other end in one shot. Over time through a little practice, I have perfected my flip turn and now I look like one of them. Well, except for the fact that I don’t wear one of those little Speedos. And I haven’t found any articles that have convinced me that I need to so….