But I'm a triathlete I would never tumble turn in a race.......Alright so this may be true but does that mean that a tumble turn or general "swimmer" skills are not worth practising in training? Under water fly kicks, streamlining off the wall and as written about on a previous blog swimming the other strokes, all things that may not directly impact you on race day but could be added to your training. Unless you come from a swim background the chances are that these skills wont come naturally to you and will take a certain amount of time and effort to learn and put into practice. For me though I am very much of the opinion that this is time and effort well spent and ill try and explain why.
Take tumble turns as an example, unless you do the odd early season pool based triathlon or aquathlon you are never going to use these in a open water race scenario. Making the effort to learn them in training though i believe can bring some potential benefits.
Breathe control. Compared to a touch turn, a tumble turn is smoother, quicker and takes away the chance to get that extra breathe in each length as you are under water for the turn. Although uncomfortable at first you are slowly developing the capacity to hold your breathe and control your breathing on the way out. Relate this to a open water scenario where you are in a rough start, take in a mouth full of water and struggle to breathe. As a swimmer comfortable with holding there breathe more then theres a good chance you can take those few extra strokes, get into some clear water and get a clean breathe with distinctly less disruption and panic than someone who isn't used to or comfortable with this feeling.
Body awareness. Swimming as a sport requires the athlete to be aware and in control of fine movements in a somewhat alien environment. Having to use opposite arm and leg movements at the same time whilst then adding in head rotation for breathing is a lot to think about all at once before even considering the finer parts of the stroke. A tumble turn is similar adding in a leg and arm action into one smooth movement with a full rotation of the body and trying to come out facing the right way just adds to that ability to combine movements and be aware of and control your body. The better you get at this the better you are going to get at controlling your stroke and having the ability to automate movements and skills that are going to improve your stroke and swimming.
They just look pretty cool! Lets face we have all turned up to the pool to see that guy or girl in the fast lane cruising up and down in 15 strokes a length with a tumble at each end and breaking out past the flags and had a tinge of jealousy that he or she just looks like they know exactly what they are doing and who doesn't want to look like that! As a triathlete you probably swim with a Garmin on and if your anything like me have a complete inability to count your lengths when you have gone past 200 metres. Get comfortable with your tumble turns and before you know it you have a great opportunity to sneak in a look at your watch mid turn and see whether you have done the amount of lengths you thought you had or whether you have over counted and what you were hoping was 2 to go is actually 4!
Breakouts For me the same goes with breakouts from your turn, look at a really skilled swimmer and they will be doing underwater butterfly kicks for 5 or more meters off each turn and then not breathing first stroke with a big gasp! Give this a go and you will find that after only a couple of turns all of a sudden it feels like you are desperate for a breathe similar to how you would feel swimming flat out but you are only cruising up and down. It is something I have introduced a little more to my own training and I can still hear my coaches voice from when I was 13 shouting in my head "No breathing after the T and for at least 3 strokes after the turn". Trying this now I start off swimming easy and 100 metres later I get back to the wall gasping for air and wildly out of breathe despite minimal effort through my stroke. Perfect for those days I want to work a bit "harder" but have tired and aching arms and shoulders.
You are at the pool anyway
Its not like you are going to be making the effort to go to the pool just to learn these skills but combining them with an already planned swim session as part of your training. If increasing breathe control, aerobic capacity and general athleticism and fitness are something you want, then learn to swim like a "swimmer". Who knows if you even enjoy it then it opens up a whole new worlds of swimming and Masters Competitions that will ultimately improve your swim ability and fitness even more!
Kit can be found at Kit Walker Triathlon