Perfecting Your Flip Turn: How to be smooth, graceful and avoid cracking your heals on the wall.

By Natalie Bojko, CTS Senior Coach

Even the most experienced triathletes can benefit from flip turns. Learning to manage and balance your body in different positions as well as incorporating other strokes into your weekly workouts can benefit as much as wearing your wet suit. Learning to flip turn also requires breath control and will enhance the aerobic component of your workouts. Since majority of your workouts, if not all, will be in the pool each wall is an opportunity to add more quality to your training.

There are some basic principles to remember when perfecting your flip turn.

1. Practice your somersault away from the wall.
Perfecting your somersault before you even make it to the wall will greatly improve your turn. Float face down in the water with both arms at your side, palms of your hands facing the bottom of the pool. Your eyes should be focused at the bottom with your head in line with your spine. You can kick slightly to keep your legs afloat. In one quick, powerful motion, engage your abdominals and roll your body into a tight ball: tuck your chin into your chest, bend at the waist, bring your knees towards your head and your heels to your glutes, while simultaneously bringing both arms from your side to over your head. During this motion, your arms should be softly bent at the elbow and you should feel the constant pressure of the water against your hands and forearms as you bring your arms over your head. This “pressure” is to help make sure you are moving the water and not just going through the motion. This arm motion is what propels your tightly rolled body into the turn.

Tip: To make your flip turn and somersault practice more enjoyable, be sure to exhale forcefully through your nose while you are turning, especially during the second half of the turn. This is where breath control comes into play. Without one powerful exhale that lasts the entire flip turn, you will likely get water straight up your nose – a feeling that is not pleasant and will likely discourage you from further practice.

2. Flipping at the wall.
Once you have perfected a few somersaults in the middle of the pool, you can bring your flips to the wall. Swim regular freestyle into the wall and when the wall is in sight, time it so that your last stroke brings both of your arms to your side by the time you are 1 to 1.5 feet away from the wall, equivalent to approximately one arm length distance. You may feel as if you are too close, but a common mistake when doing flip turns is flipping too far away from the wall. Flipping at this distance will give you optimum power off the wall. Once you are in position, go into your turn by following the steps described above.

Tip: Make sure your body is tightly tucked: your chin down, knees at your chest and heels to your glutes. This will ensure you do not hit your heels on the wall, which can occur when swimmers “open up” from their tuck too early, or while in a loose, messy somersault.

3. Making contact with your feet.
Once you have finished the somersault and are completely spun around, make contact with both your feet on the wall. Plant your feet about a foot underneath the surface of the water. Knowing when to feel for the wall with your feet will be a matter of timing and may take some practice to perfect. At this point, your arms should be above your head. Allow your hands to find each other and place one hand over the other.

4. Push off and kick.
With your feet firmly planted on the wall shoulder-width apart and your hands together, push off by extending your body until your arms are fully extended over your head in streamline position, and your legs are straight. The plane of your body should be parallel to the surface of the water and the bottom of the pool (you’re on your back). As you push off, roll into the position where your body is parallel with the water’s surface and you are face down in the water, leading the motion with your hips and shoulders. Once your feet leave the wall, start kicking to help your momentum, and start stroking again as you reach the surface again.

Tip: Stay in a tight streamline: arms extended over your head, hands together, one on top of the other while your biceps squeeze your ears to your head. Your head should be in line with your spine and your legs together long and extended, while you are pushing off the wall. The tighter your streamline, the further off the wall you will be able to go.

Perfecting your flip turn, like anything else, just takes constant practice. Try incorporating them into your workouts from the very first wall. Not only will you be working towards making them graceful and flawless, but you will also be getting a better aerobic workout by practicing breathing control. Your ability to maneuver your body through a flip turn also helps you gain added feel of the water. You can surely utilize these added skills to your races.

Natalie Bojko is an Senior Coach with Carmichael Training Systems, a USA Swimming certified coach, and a former swimmer for Ohio State University. For information on coaching, camps, and performance testing, visit

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Chris Carmichael Blog: A Recipe for Adding Quality Calories as Training Workload Increases

With the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience coming up very soon, I’ve been spending as much time as possible on the bike recently. This may very well be the biggest endurance challenge I’ve participated in since I retired from professional cycling. La Ruta was hard, but there wasn’t a field of professional riders coming up from behind us, and I didn’t have to keep up with a specific team of riders every step of the way, either. An increased appetite and increased daily caloric requirement are consequences of my increased training workload, but with the climbing that’s going to be involved during the ATOC, I’ve also been trying to avoid gaining weight. I don’t necessarily care if I lose weight, I’m not obsessing over getting down to a certain weight; I just want to be careful not to let my increased appetite trigger a calorically-excessive response.

Before I get to the recipe I’ve been using for increasing my caloric intake, I wanted to let you know about a new indoor cycling DVD we’ve just released: “Amgen Tour of California: The Workout”. This new workout DVD was produced in partnership with AEG and the Amgen Tour of California and I lead you through a hard workout that’s set against exciting race footage from the 2010 ATOC! No more watching other people sweat on their trainers while you sweat on yours! It’s a very cool DVD, and due to the use of real race footage, we were only able to produce a limited quantity of these discs. Additionally, they are available exclusively from and

You can check out a preview clip here:

Over the past few years I’ve gradually increased the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet while reducing the amount of animal products. I haven’t cut out meat or dairy, I’ve just made a shift to more vegetable and less animal. So, as I noticed an increase in my appetite and need for calories, I went looking for a vegetable-based solution that would add calories and quality nutrients. I found it in a recipe from one of my older books, “Food for Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right”. The recipe is available at the following link: 

Black Bean Hummus
Traditionally made with garbanzo beans, hummus can also be made with black beans. Prepared either way, I’ve found hummus to be a great way to add some calories and nutrients to my diet. I was already eating plenty of vegetables (carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), now I just dip them in black bean hummus sometimes. The hummus adds a good source of protein and fiber , which helps make it more filling with fewer calories.

Ready in: approx. 5 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

1 clove garlic
1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain and reserve liquid
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini                                           
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Mince garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Add black beans, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, tahini, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper; process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add additional seasoning and liquid to taste. Garnish with paprika.

Servings: 8         
Nutrition Information (per serving)
Carb/Protein/Fat Ratio (%): 62-20-18
Calories: 98
Carbohydrate (grams): 15
Protein (grams): 5
Fat (grams): 2
Fiber (grams): 5

Additional Links for upcoming Camps and Events
I’ll be coaching at the following training camps and riding the following events. If you’re interested in any of these camps, please call our Athlete Services department at 866-355-0645 or email

Triathlon Performance Camp, July 21-23, in Asheville, NC (Training Camp)
Triple Bypass (East to West), July 9, in Evergreen, CO (Event)
High-Altitude Performance Camp, June 21-25, in Vail, CO (Training Camp)
King Ridge Gran Fondo Training Camps, August 25-27 and 28-30, in Santa Rosa, CA (Training/Recon Camp)

Chris Carmichael
Founder, Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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Using a 70.3 to Optimize Your Ironman, Part II: Training Between Your 70.3 and Ironman

By Lindsay Hyman, CTS Pro Coach

Completing a 70.3 Ironman race should be a positive and encouraging experience, one that helps provide confidence in your abilities as a triathlete. As I mentioned in Part I of this article, during a pre-Ironman 70.3 you can learn a great deal about how your body responds to competition, and particularly how your current fitness level corresponds to your body’s response during competition. But with roughly two months between your 70.3 and your Ironman race, there’s still plenty of training and tapering to be done before the big day. Here’s what you want to accomplish:

Race recovery
The week following your 70.3 is very important, not for what you do but for what you don’t do. Some athletes get amped up from their half-distance performance and jump right back into training 48 hours after this race. That’s a mistake. You should take a week of active recovery, not only to recuperate from the intensity and duration of the race, but to consolidate the benefits of that long race-paced training session. I like to do a short ride or swim the day after a race, as a recovery activity, rather than take that day completely off. But I recommend taking 1-2 days completely off in the 4-5 days immediately following your 70.3. The remainder of the week, your activities should be at a low intensity. Not a moderate or endurance intensity, either. I mean low, slow, easy, etc.

In some cases, these recovery-paced sessions might be somewhat long. If you’re normally training 20 hours a week, you might still go out for a 3-hour ride during a recovery week, but the intensity needs to be low. If you’re training 12 hours a week for an Ironman, your longest recovery week ride might only be one hour. During your recovery week, you should also focus more of your activities on cycling and swimming. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run, but since your primary goals are to recuperate and prepare to resume meaningful training, cutting down on the inevitable stress of running is a good idea.

One last training block
You can’t turn a huge ship on a dime, and at this point your fitness has momentum similar to an ocean liner. You can pour on the fuel and gather speed, lighten up on the throttle to save precious resources, and make course corrections, but you have to be realistic about what you can change about your fitness in the final 6 weeks leading up to your Ironman. You basically have time for one last hard training block before you begin your taper.

The primary goal of this final training block should be extending the amount of time you can sustain efforts at lactate threshold pace. Increasing pace at threshold and the amount of time you can sustain that pace are important, but at this point in your preparation you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by focusing on increasing the time you can sustain threshold efforts. In the time you have left, if you focus solely on increasing pace at threshold, you won’t see a very significant increase. But if you focus on making those efforts longer, you’ll maintain your goal paces longer on race day, and there’s a good chance you’ll make your threshold and race paces a bit faster as well.

Your longest sessions
A lot of athletes look at their longest individual training sessions as a crucial milestone for Ironman preparation. Your longest run, ride, and swim are important, but you have to keep them in perspective and plan them appropriately.  Rather than focus on mileage for the run, for instance, I like to have athletes do a run that is 45-60 minutes shorter than their fastest open marathon time in the past two years. That means that if your fast marathon time (not in a triathlon, just a running race) is 3:15, then your long run in Ironman training should be about 2:30.

Some athletes and coaches will say that is too short for a longest pre-Ironman run, but for athletes who can run a 3:15 open marathon, this long run will most likely end up covering 19-20 miles. The benefit of the longest pre-Ironman run is part psychological and part physical, and from the physical side I’ve found that it’s better to focus on quality in shorter run workouts than to add more fatigue by adding a few more miles to a long pre-Ironman run. In fact, swimming is the only discipline of three in which I make sure athletes complete the full distance before an Ironman. For many athletes, even some experienced Ironman competitors, the swim is the most intimidating component of the race. As a result, I like to have athletes complete full-distance swims twice in the final 8 weeks leading up to an Ironman.

But going back to the run training, another scheduling component to consider is how you build to your longest run. About 6-7 weeks out from Ironman you might do a 17-mile run. But rather than doing 18-19 the next week, I like to cut this down to 12-14 miles, followed by the longest pre-Ironman run the following week (about 3-4 weeks out from the race). I find this alternating structure allows for greater training quality leading into the longest run. Your best Ironman performance isn’t just about endurance; you have the endurance to cover the distance by this point. You have to focus on quality, especially in threshold running workouts, so you are better prepared to handle the longer sessions.

In terms of your longest ride, the greatest challenge for many athletes is finding the time to go out and ride 100-112 miles about 3-5 weeks before an Ironman. If you can carve out the time for this ride, it’s a good idea. But understand that its benefit if more psychological than physical; if you can’t get this ride in, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a terrible bike leg at Ironman.

One more thing about your longest individual training sessions: they shouldn’t necessarily be lumped into the same training week. It’s easy to build a massive training week by piling your longest run and ride and swim into one week. But that leads to a lot more stress than you want at this point in your training. You can put your longest ride and a full-distance swim in the same week, but generally I don’t put the longest run into the same week as either a full-distance swim or a full-distance ride.

Taper into your Ironman
Finally it’s time to taper and consolidate your fitness as race day approaches. The typical Ironman taper is about three weeks and involves a gradual decrease in training volume and workload. What’s important is to reduce workload by making your workouts shorter and making the periods of time at lactate threshold pace shorter, but not reducing the actual intensity of those periods. In other words, you should still be doing lactate threshold and challenging aerobic pace work, just less of it. You don’t want to take it too easy, because the goal is to insert enough intensity to keep all the fitness you have while enabling your body to recover and strip away the cumulative fatigue from your training program.

I recommend cutting deeper into your running and cycling time, and retaining some more of your swimming time, during your taper. Not only is swimming a non-weight bearing sport, but for most athletes it only represents about 25% of your total weekly training volume. Cutting this in half typically isn’t necessary, and can be detrimental.

Starting with a 70.3 triathlon, recovering from it, focusing on one last training block, and then tapering is a clear-cut and concise route into an Ironman race. Especially with athletes who are being pulled in many different directions, like most of us are with families and full-time jobs, this method eliminates a lot of the doubt and uncertainty that can wreak havoc with an Ironman athlete’s final preparations.

Lindsay Hyman is a Pro Coach with Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. In additional to competing herself, she coaches athletes from first timers to Ironman World Champions.  For further information on coaching, camps and triathlon performance testing, visit

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