In many years of coaching and teaching, one of the things I’ve learned is that air is important. In fact, most swimmers find that air is SO important that everything else takes a back seat. I’m talking about things like hand entry, the catch, initiation of the pull, head and eye position, hip rotation, kick — those sorts of things. Most swimmers get so caught up in getting air, and thinking about HOW and WHEN they will get air, that they have trouble focusing on how everything else ties together.
Why Use It:
By enabling you to breathe whenever you want (except on your turns), allows you to CHOOSE what your focus will be — and it can be just about any aspect of your stroke. By keeping your head stable and still, the snorkel allows you to pinpoint any irregularities or problems in the various parts of your stroke, rather than having to worry about how the parts set up your breath.
How To Use It:
1. Put on your goggles, cap, suit — whatever you need to get ready to go. Put the snorkel over your head LAST, and get ready to push off.
2. Push off and swim. Really, that’s it. Swim as you normally would, but breathe through the snorkel. The snorkel is designed to wrap around your head, and to allow you to get clean air without water seeping in.
3. OK, so maybe it’s not THAT easy. When you push off, you’ll need to SAVE UP your air so you can blast it out after the breakout. As advised by PORTcoach, you need to "snort like a whale" to clear the snorkel after the pushoff. You’ll also need to do this after each turn. So make a HUGE mental note… during the turn, DO NOT EXHALE (or only very little). Save as much air as possible so you can SHOOT that water out of the snorkel.
4. Once you get going, pick ONE part of your stroke to think about on each lap, and don’t worry about anything else. Lap one — rotation. Lap two — extension. Lap three — hand position. Lap four — how much of your arm do you initiate the catch with. Etc., etc., etc. Start at the top, or front of your body, and work your way back. Bit by bit.
5. If you want more challenge, incorporate the snorkel into a typical set. Don’t change your standard intervals, but challenge yourself further by making sure you make the same intervals while using the snorkel. Now there may be a bit more water to deal with, more breath control, more focus with a little panic. It’s a good panic though… really.
How To Use It Really Well (the Fine Points):
I’m not ashamed to admit it (OK… maybe a little), but I have to use nose clips when I use the snorkel. I can’t help it; when I breathe in, water goes up my nose. If you’re the same way, NOSE CLIPPERS UNITE! The rest of you are just lucky you don’t have to walk out of the pool with the imprints of the snorkel on your forehead, imprints of the nose clips, and the typical goggle marks. Sometimes I look like I just finished 3 rounds in the UFC Octagon when I finish using the snorkel, but I feel TOUGHER, definitely.
On your turns, if you’re really getting uncomfortable, cheat a bit to the side. This basically means to lean more, or spin sideways through the turn. This will NOT provide you with a quick turn, or a proper push off, but it gives that chlorinated water less chance to creep into the end. When you push off initially, you can also do that above the water. Not great, but SAFE.
If you REALLY want to go hardcore, I’ve got some coaching friends who actually tape PART of the opening shut. This way, the swimmer simply doesn’t get as much oxygen through the tube. This is called… "poor man’s atitude training." Obviously, duct tape works best for this, and the coach should try it first, before forcing it on the swimmers. Understand what you’re putting them through first. If you’re the swimmer being subjected to this torture… er… drill… and you discover you’re not getting enough oxygen. Stop, lift your head above the surface, remove the snorkel from your mouth, and breathe IN.
Again, this is a great tool, and it’s not just for freestyle. Use it for your pulling or kicking sets, too. It allows you to super-focus on what you’re doing, without having to worry about messing up your form JUST to breathe.
Dave Denniston wrote about the Center Mount Snorkel almost three years ago on this site. The product hasn’t changed, so his evaluation is without a doubt… still totally valid (and funny).