Why you need to learn how to tumble turn....(and how to do it effectively)

Below is a blog written by one of our coaches explaining why all triathletes should learn how to tumble turn, along with a video to help you start, plus her own experiences!

The dreaded tumble turn - the distinguishing feature in a pool that sets most triathletes apart from those who have come to the sport from a swimming background.  The sure sign that the person in the pool next to you (or more likely in front of you!) has been swimming from a very early age and you have taken up the sport of swimming in recent years, months or even weeks!

But why should a triathlete learn to tumble turn?   As coaches, we find that there are two types of non tumble turning triathletes (NTTTs), those that say they don't need to learn tumble turns as they only compete in open water swims and those who really want to learn how to do them but don't know where to start.

At Tri Training Harder, we would encourage all triathletes to learn how to tumble turn, regardless of where they race, if you're training in a pool then there is a benefit for you.

The first part of this blog is to provide reasons for the reluctant NTTT as to why they should learn, the second part takes you through the steps to successful tumble turning.

Better 'feel' for the water

Not feeling it; more tumble turn practice required!
As a consequence of being more than just horizontal in the water, you develop a certain sense of who is in control of what here.  By moving through the water in different ways, you will feel more confident and comfortable in the water.

Face down or head up?

View number one....

Undertaking long open water swims, you can spend up to two hours with your face in the water - there is no opportunity to take a little breather every 25 metres, or lift your head up high out of the water as you would do with a touch turn.  In fact, the only movement of your head should be to breathe or sight.

....view number two.
"One thing I learned during my 10k swim today was that unlike a bike, run or triathlon events where you get so much energy from the supporters and other competitors, in a long swim with your head down in the water, all of your energy and motivation has to come from within.

- Judith Ormston, Coached Athlete

Getting used to this in the pool will mean that when you are in open water your mind doesn't start to play tricks on you with the lack of sensory input.

Increased confidence in all types of conditions

Not scared, not scared, not scared

Because you spend a small part of the turn being upside down in the water, your confidence is automatically increased.  Why does this matter?  Imagine you are in a sea swim and the waves turn you upside down....easy - you can now deal with this, whereas before, I bet you wouldn't have coped well at all.

Potential to be faster

Not only does it make you faster as you spend less time turning at each end, it means you can keep up with faster swimmers in your training sessions.  Meaning you have someone to realistically chase. Meaning you get quicker.  Result!

Encourages better and more efficient breathing

We all know trickle breathing out through your nose and mouth is good for swimming, even more so when undertaking tumble turns (to stop the water going up your nose when you turn over), by learning to trickle breathe more effectively through the turns, this will help you trickle breathe more effectively overall.

Help promote a streamlined push off 

When you push off from the wall, you are in a prime position to be completely streamlined and get great propulsion from the wall (which equates to less swimming!) - once you have obtained your excellent streamlined position, you can carry this through, focusing on the key aspects of good posture, one of which is holding your body taut, for the rest of the length.

Core strength from dolphin kicking

A core workout and swim all in one.
After you have pushed off from the wall, with your great streamlined position, you can maximise this further with a brilliant dolphin kick. 
This style of kicking works on your core muscles which will in turn help stabilise you in the water and encourage a more taut position and therefore a better controlled swim stroke (and there you were thinking you were just coming to the pool to swim!).

Looks cool and makes you look like you mean business

Joking apart, the more confident you feel in the water, the more likely you are to swim better.  And let's face it, how many times have you looked at someone in the lane next to you and thought 'I wish I could do that'. Tumble turns will make you look (and ultimately feel) like you mean business - which is what you are there to do, right?

Being in the pool is the only time when a triathlete can't be interrupted - no mobile phones, no laptops, no Garmin (look out for the upcoming blog from Coach Alan on this one), so this is the one time you can get your head down, so to speak, and really get some quality training in.

Now that all your excuses to tumble turn have been eradicated, where do you start?

Learning to tumble turn

The video below shows how you can start from the basics and progress all the way through to full turns.

From a personal perspective, I was a true NTTT - after watching this video umpteen times, I braved the pool and followed the steps.

Yes, I aborted a few turns and swam into the wall.  Yes, I got it wrong and popped up in another lane, but do you know what?  After making the commitment to just keep doing it and keep practicing, I am now at the stage where every 2 out of 5 turns is a good one - this is progress!  I am also much more confident about being upside down in the water and being dunked in an open water swim, happy days.

Good luck and don't forget, for every excuse you have as to why you don't need to tumble turn, we've got a reason as to why you should.

Coach Sorrel

If you are interested in being coached by Sorrel, please contact us by completing this form or contact us at email us.