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Thread: Swim strokes

  1. #1
    Part-time Commuter astr033's Avatar
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    Swim strokes

    I'm very new to swimming and I still haven't figured out rotary breathing when I do the crawl. My swimming technique is fine and if I didn't have to breathe then I'd be all set. I'm sure that I'll eventually get the breathing part down for the crawl, but in the meantime I'm thinking of concentrating on the breast stroke. It seems to be a lot easier for me. My question is, do people use the breast stroke as their primary swimming stroke in a tri? Supposedly crawl is the fastest, but if I got really good at the breast stroke then could I be competitve with the crawl people? I haven't tried going too far with the breast stroke just yet so maybe it's more tiring in the end? My plan is to stick with sprint tri's (no more than 1/2 mile swim).

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    Prefers Aluminum Sprocket Man's Avatar
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    There are several problems with using the breast stroke. First, it's significantly slower than using the crawl. The 200m breaststroke world record is 2:09, while the 200m freestyle (crawl) is 1:44. Those differences are likely to be magnified over longer distances because the breaststroke is very inefficient in comparison to the crawl.

    Secondly, triathlon swims are very crowded, and you won't be able to effectively use the frog kick (too many people crowded on your left and right side). From my understanding, the frog kick (when used with the breast stroke) is responsible for much of your propulsion, whereas the flutter kick (when used with the crawl) give just a little forward propulsion, but is done mainly to keep the lower body from dragging in the water. Therefore, if you can't effectively frog kick, using the breast stroke will be extremely slow.

    Do you live anywhere near a master's swim class? If so, pay them a visit. I did, and it helped my swim stroke tremendously. (I'm still slow, but not as slow as I used to be!)

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    One day at a time H2OChick's Avatar
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    Well, I'll weigh in... I was a breaststroker in college - several time All-American blah blah blah... point is, I know breaststroke. (Gee, I sound so modest...)

    As a beginner and not a very strong swimmer, doing breast occasionally throughout the swim is a fine idea. It will help you catch your breath, it will help you sight your target, it will help you feel more comfortable. It will also earn you some enemies if you're swimming in close proximity with others (you'll kick them). Many people do breaststroke or even backstroke sometimes, but I doubt there are many (any?) who do it for the entire swim. A more experienced triathlete could weigh in on this.

    As a general rule, breaststroke is the slowest of the strokes. What I mean by that is that if you look at the fastest times (e.g. records) across the 4 strokes, breast is the slowest. That doesn't mean that it's YOUR slowest stroke. It might well be your fastest. However, I would doubt that you'd "be competitive with the crawl people" whilst doing breast.

    Regarding being tiring... Breaststroke utilizes your legs much more than freestyle which demands more oxygen (big muscle groups). You reach anaerobic threshold doing breaststroke much faster than you do freestyle. That's why you see folks competing in 500, 1000, 1650 free, but the longest breaststroke event is a 200. Bottom line, when done properly, freestyle is much more efficient than the other strokes. Of course, this is all assuming that you're aiming for speed - if you coast and relax when you're swimming breast then the demands will be less on your body.

    So... my advice to you is to continue working on your side-breathing technique and improve your freestyle. That is a very hard skill to learn, especially when you're an adult. See if you can get a lesson or two. But keep working at it and in the meantime, don't be afraid to fall back on breaststroke when you need it.

    Hope this makes sense!

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    Part-time Commuter astr033's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the very helpful advice.

    Out of curiousity, what about the fly (butterfly)? I read somewhere that it's almost as fast as the crawl but that it's hard to learn. Is that true? It looks tiring to me. I doubt that I will ever go beyond the crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke but I am curious about alternative strokes.

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    As someone who has been in master's swimming for a year, after 20 years off from swimming, butterfly is:

    - tiring
    - tough to learn (years, even)
    - reminiscent of drowning

    Fly is graceful to watch when well done. It involves a huge power stroke, which can be very exhausting, especially to beginners like me.

    Both Fly and Breast involve pulling a significant portion of your body out of the water on every stroke. That's inefficient, on some level. Freestyle/front crawl involves much less body position change (you'll roll, but you'll stay in a straight line underwater), meaning that it involves less energy to move yourself forward.

    0.02

    'roth

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    Poseuse. sweetharriet's Avatar
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    hee. i'd like to see someone trying to do 'fly in yer typical ow swim start.
    Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

  7. #7
    TriBob
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    I have seen breast, back, elemtary back and side stroke in most races. Yes even up to IM.

    Most of us will be entering the off season and it is a great time to learn or increase swim levels.

    Fly is legal; but, if you can do this you most certainly can do the other strokes with less energy.

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    the fly can be very efficient if it done correctly. the difficulty is balance. beginners to the butterfly tend to mimic the arm and leg strokes but become very tired very shortly because their body is not correctly balanced in the water.

    ill try and give a short example assuming that you know the basic stroke principles: when your arms are out of the water, the idea is to keep the rest of your body from sinking downward. to do this, your hips need to be as high in the water as possible. as your arms come around and meet in front of your head, a large kick is done and at the same time you are forcing your upper torso at the waist downward. this will create a undulation that the rest of your body will follow and is essence give u a dophin motion.

    so, its really hard to do well and even the best fliers wont be able to finish a tri leg. if you work at it, its a lot of fun and oddly impressive to other people. hope i shed some light on the subject for you.
    There are two types of people in this world: those who eat hot dogs whenever it is possible to do so, and those who opt to do other things with their free time.

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    One day at a time H2OChick's Avatar
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    I'd say that 99% of swimmers find fly the most tiring stroke. If you see somebody doing it in a tri, they're likely showing off!

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    Senior Member jennings780's Avatar
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    try total immersion
    www.totalimmersion.net
    buy triathlon swimming made easy book and the freestyle made easy dvd

    Also, your stroke is not "fine" for a few reasons: (1) everyone can improve their stroke, even Olympic swimmers, (2) if you are discussing maybe not doing freestyle in a tri, you obviously have some stroke issues to work on - which is great - we all have stroke issues to work on. Swimming is first and foremost about form and secondarily about conditioning. I would highly suggest using the off season to focus on form and drills. Don't worry about conditioning until the spring.

    Try total immersion.

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    One thing I noticed is that it is hard to do breast stroke in a wet suit.

    Does anyone have the same feeling?

    Rick

  12. #12
    TriBob
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    Quote Originally Posted by rick_ys_ho
    One thing I noticed is that it is hard to do breast stroke in a wet suit.

    Does anyone have the same feeling?

    Rick
    Although I havn't tried. It seems like it would be harder because breast is a short axis stroke and the boyancy of the wetsuit would mess up the mechanics.

  13. #13
    Just give'er. hooligan's Avatar
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    Seconds will count, but you can't rely on records. People get tired and their performance decreases. Using crawl will be slower but you will conserve energy while front crawl will give you the upper hand. However, seconds gotten now through loss of energy could cost you a lot, later.

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    Reasons to skip breast stroke in races

    1) You will inevitably kick me in the face. While this reason is mostly selfish, I'd like to spare someone else a black eye/cut eyes I've suffered. (Also a reason to skip the sweedish goggles for the swim)

    2) Have you ever tried breast stroke wearing a wetsuit? Try it. Its really really fun. Its also exceptionally ineffective because you float so high that your heels come out of the water and you loose all your kicking power. (For the same reason try butterfly in a wetsuit. You'll feel like the Michael Phelps in the comerial where he does laps from Australia to the Statue of Liberty. The whole swell thing can complicate things a bit though.)

    3) Breaststroke is not even close to the speed of freestyle. It is unlikely that over a 1/2mi even a college breastroker could keep up with the front pack swimming freestyle, esp since the front swimmers probably swam in college too.

    To practice breathing side to side, try doing the 6-kicks on every side drill. Swim freestyle but pause fully extended and do 6 kicks/stroke. You should be kicking completely on your side with the bottom arm stretched out in front of you.

    Or just take a swim skills class to work on your stroke. In the meantime, H20girl's recommendations are right on target. Breastroke might be a good break from freestyle.

  15. #15
    Senior Member peterm5365's Avatar
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    Not the best option, but swim snorkels are allowed in triathlons, as I understand. Proper breathing technique comes with practice but in the mean time a swim snorkel may help.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Butterfly in a tri would have many of the same problems as breast stroke, but in a way worse. Get bumped on the side in fly and the whole rythum is thrown off. Now if you were near the best it would be possible. One can do fly for long distances. I've done at least 1000 yards several times (one should never piss off your coach, not that i did but sometimes all suffer for the few).

    It could be good for a few strokes when starting from a beach. Also it would be rather demorilizing, but I doubt it would be worth the energy put in.

  17. #17
    Swimdownhill
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    Her are some swim drills http://www.teenbodybuilding.com/jeff8.htm from www.swimdownhill.com

    I only swam front crawl in my races, the short races were 10 miles the long ones 33 miles, never took a stroke of breaststroke, fly, or backstroke.
    Last edited by Swimdownhill; 11-09-05 at 04:59 PM.

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