How to use a swim snorkel correctly

Using a snorkel in your triathlon swim training can help you focus on skills, but how do you use one properly to make sure you're getting the full benefit? Andrew Sheaff explains…

OSTIA SWIMMING COMPLEX, ROME, ITALY - 2020/05/09: Swimmers Gregorio Paltrinieri, Gabriele Detti, Marco De Tullio. Alessio Proietti Colonna, Mattia Zuin and Stefano Di Cola of Italy swim during their second training session day after more than 50 days of Italy's and sport lockdown due to the coronavirus  pandemic. (Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Using a snorkel in swim training can be a valuable tool in a triathlete’s arsenal as it will help you focus on your skills without having to worry about your breathing technique.

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What are the benefits of using a swim snorkel?

It can also help you improve your breathing by letting you feel how smooth you can swim without breathing. For some, using a snorkel can even help to alleviate pesky neck or shoulder problems.

However, learning to use a snorkel can be a real challenge. One’s first experience with a snorkel often involves choking, panic, and frustration. Not fun! However, just like riding a bike, once you figure out how to use a snorkel, it’s a simple skill that you’ll never forget.

What’s the biggest problem with using a swim snorkel?

The biggest problem with using a snorkel is that there’s a very strong chance that water is going to enter your snorkel, and unless you do something about it that’s water you’re going to inhale. The key is to learn how to consistently get all of the water out.

How to clear your swim snorkel of water

To evacuate all of the water, rather than simply exhaling, you need to forcefully blow out all of your air. This will launch any water out of the snorkel.

If you’ve ever seen a whale or dolphin blast water out of their blowhole, it’s the exact same concept! You need to blow HARD. Doing so will make sure all of the water is out of the snorkel. When you next inhale, you’ll be getting all air instead of water.

How to start using a swim snorkel

Start in shallow water and practise letting the snorkel submerge and then clearing the snorkel. Practise with a full snorkel, practise with a half-full snorkel, and practise where there’s just a touch of water. All require a slightly different type of blowout.

The benefit of starting in shallow water is that you can simply stand up to breathe if necessary and you don’t have to worry about swimming while learning to breathe. Once you have some level of comfort, start with some slow swimming.

Once you’re reached this step, you’re well on your to using the snorkel at any speed.

What should I be aware of when using a swim snorkel?

More than any other time, you’re most likely to inhale water after pushing off the wall in the pool. This is almost guaranteed to happen if you’re performing tumble turns. Not only will your snorkel fill with water, but you’re holding your breath for an extended period of time.

In spite of your need for air, you need to be patient and really blow hard to clear the snorkel, ensuring that when you do breathe you’re getting air instead of water.

Assume the worst when using a swim snorkel!

Whenever you’re using a snorkel, assume the worst. Assume that the snorkel has water in it, and exhale hard to completely clear the snorkel. Likewise, always breathe in with some degree of hesitancy to just in case there is still some water in the snorkel. Doing so will ensure that you’re getting the air you need!

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