Swimming laps with a snorkel mask may sound like something only a diver pining for Caribbean reefs would undertake. In fact, elite swimmers around the world use specially designed snorkels that rise in front of their mask or goggles, instead of to the side of the face, to improve their technique and cardio-respiratory efficiency. You can get started yourself with a training snorkel to work toward similar improvements, as well as longer and more comfortable training sessions.
Wearing the Snorkel
After you don your swim goggles and swim cap as usual, place the strap of the swimmer's snorkel around your head, roughly following the edge of your swim cap. Align the tube and head bracket in front of your face so that the tube extends directly up. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth. As with a regular snorkel, flex your lips and cheeks to keep the mouthpiece in place.
Acclimating to the Device
The leading manufacturer of the swimmer's snorkel mask, California-based Finis, recommends taking the time to get used to the mask before starting your laps. Take easy kicks with the snorkel for a few lengths. Inhale through the tube and exhale through your nose. You can even float in place, face down, inhaling and exhaling, to acclimate to the snorkel, and later, to relax after a lap swim.
Laps and Turns
Begin your laps by swimming slowly, keeping your body balanced and entering your hands cleanly in the water. The swimmer's snorkel will alert you to being out of balance by vibrating and pulling to one side or the other; you can steady your head and body to avoid this wobble. Prepare for your first flip turn at the end of a length of the pool by taking a deep inhalation. The snorkel will fill with water, which you expel at the end of the turn with a powerful exhalation to send the column of water out of the top of the snorkel tube. As you get used to the snorkel, you will notice that it promotes a lower head position in the water, leading to fast turns and a greater training effect, as you can breathe with less strain and focus more on pulling hard on every stroke.
You can swim laps with the swimmer's snorkel switching among the major strokes, including the crawl, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. You can also perform kicking drills and balance drills. A cardio cap placed on the end of the tube limits the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs, mimicking the effects of training at altitude, useful if you have a meet in Denver, Mexico City or other high-altitude venue.
Tips and Warnings
A snorkel mask can also help you if you are rehabilitating from neck or back injuries, as it limits the twisting of the neck required for snorkel-less breathing. Check if your pool permits snorkel masks and work if necessary to educate the manager on the benefits to fitness and rehabilitation from using this accessory.