Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Flip Turns: Starting to feel natural

I think one of the things I like most about swimming is that you can learn some pretty complex physical skills with little risk of hurting yourself.

When I was in my mid thirties, I ruptured an ACL trying to do a flying side kick in a Tang Soo Do class.  Given my tendency to enbonpoint, perhaps that was foolish, but anyway...  I tried, and I learned that knee surgery wasn't the horror I was afraid it could be and that I could refrain from swearing in front of children in extremis.

However, I never did entirely get my physical courage back in terms of stability, and am very dubious about any kick above the waist any more. The only martial arts I've done since are a few T'ai Chi classes.

I'm not afraid to try things in the water so much.  You don't run any real risk of falling, even if you mess up the movement.  The scariest thing about a flip turn is whether or not you've gotten an adequate breath for the flip and glide.  And even that isn't a big deal, as you're not far enough under the water that pulling out and breathing is going to be a problem.  I suppose, in theory, you could give your head a nasty knock if you waited waaaayyyy too late to flip, but it's not something that generally runs through my head.

At first they do feel clumsy and awkward.   I'd given myself stern instructions that I was to do flip turns on a certain number of freestyle sets, then I had permission to drop them in favor of the open turn just to be able to enjoy my swim.

Then, on a longer weekend swim, I found I was just doing flip turns instead of open turns, even though I'd gotten my practice quota in.  They're just feeling more natural now.

This isn't to say that I'm great at them.  I'm not.  I'm not enough that they're slowing me down rather than speeding me up.  But that's part of the learning process.  I'm still gliding slowly to the wall, doing a somersault and then kicking off rather gently and corkscrewing over.  It's certainly not that tight flip and snap off the wall someone who is used to flip turns will do.

That's okay.  That they feel like a natural part of my freestyle sets is a good step, and I expect that after doing them ten thousand* times or so, they'll be a lot more expert.

* Not hyperbole.  I do think that it's going to take a few months.  But notice that's a few months, not years, of work!

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