Flip Flip Flip Flip… Wednesday, 6:00AM

Before I left the house I decided that today was going to be a “screw around” day at the pool. My plan is to start some structured base training in January, and until then I’m going to enjoy myself (the same as I have been with running and cycling). Plus, I’d left my workout card upstairs in the house, and I was already outside cleaning last night’s snow off the car when I realized it. “Maybe I’ll swim 3,000 yards straight through,” I thought.

When I got to the pool, I was the only one there, and I hopped in the deep end just to let the water temperature surprise me. I did the same thing last Friday, since Pat told me the water was freezing. A quick dip of my big toe told the shivery truth, and I knew that I needed to just dive right in or I would take a lot of time dangling my feet into the shallow end before hopping in. Today, however, the water was very warm, definitely in the non-wetsuit-legal-if-it-were-a-triathlon upper-70s. “With this heat? Maybe I’ll just swim 2,500 yards.”

About 500 yards into my swim, a few more people had arrived at the pool, although it still wasn’t too crowded. Stephanie was one lane over, and every 25 yards I would see her doing a flip turn to switch directions. “I know I really should be doing tumble turns,” I told myself, remembering that most of the really good swimmers at the pool do them. I’m pretty good at “open” turns, getting a really strong push and efficient streamline, but I’ve always wanted to learn the flip. Yet, it’s always so hard to convince myself to try it when I’m following a structured workout or when the pool is really crowded and I’m fighting for space. Moreover, I needed to swallow my pride and not worry about looking like a total newbie. “Maybe I’ll just swim 2,000 yards this morning, man up and force myself to learn flip turns.”

A couple laps went by, and I was still doing open turns. And then a few more. I was never quite ready. Eventually I sternly told myself, “Okay, next lap, when I get to the deep end, I’m going to do it!”

And so I did. I swam toward the wall, and—instead of gliding in, grabbing the wall, and pushing off—I tucked my head and threw my body forward. I reached for the wall with my feet, but it was just barely out of reach. I continued my lap knowing that I needed to be closer to the wall. On my next trip to the deep end, I accelerated in my last stroke, threw my body forward, hit the wall with my feet, turned my body and shot down toward the bottom. I came back to the surface gasping for air. I caught my breath, swam out about five yards and swam at the wall again. That time and the next couple afterward, some variation of the same thing happened.

“You aren’t rotating far enough,” Pool Guy said. “That’s why you’re going down.” Evidently he had been watching me from his lifeguard’s chair and was ready to give me some pointers. Suddenly he was using his high school swim coach voice. “I want you to do four somersaults here in the middle of the lane . . . one right after the other without stopping. You’re going to have to use your hands to keep yourself spinning.”

Deep breath. One. Two. Three. Four times the cyan of the bottom of the pool and the white of the ceiling switched places. By the last one I was spinning pretty fast, and when I surfaced the world kept spinning on its own for a couple seconds.

“That’s good. Now do that same thing when you get to the wall for your turn.”

The next lap I got to the wall, spun, planted, and pushed off without going “downhill.” Same with the next lap. When I returned to the shallow end, Alex gave me a bit of applause. A few laps later, I looked over to see Stephanie crouched down between workout segments, her head under the water so I could see her smiling her approval. I did tumble turns in the deep end for the remainder of the 2,000 yards. They weren’t all pretty, and they weren’t all horizontal, but I did them. And by the 15th or so, it felt like a pretty natural thing to do.

Friday, I’ll try working on my streamline as I push off the wall. I need to get that piece back in the mix. One step flip at a time.

This entry was posted in 101 in 1001, Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Flip Flip Flip Flip… Wednesday, 6:00AM

  1. StephenS says:

    Jeff, this is awesome. Honestly, the hardest part for me was learning how to keep water from going up my nose (I learned how to flip turn about 35 years ago). Getting that proper technique pushing off the wall will help you a lot. Good luck!

  2. Sarah says:

    Great job Jeff! Flip – or tumble :) – turns can be tough to get figured out. That’s great you have some willing knowledgeable people to help you out. That’s helpful some mornings in just getting to the pool. I’ve had mornings where I woke up and was set on not going, but remembered the people I’d miss seeing.

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