While watching the NY city marathon an athlete I coach texted me “I love watching the marathon majors, I may be a bit weird that I can watch start to finish and be more complete than any other sport!-Ha-Ha. Love it!!”
My response “Because you are a “normal, not weird, athlete, a runner in your youth – college” Then I preceded to explain to him how much more enthusiastic I am watching Michael Phelps and other swimming events in the Olympics more than triathlon (my sport for the past 26 years) because I was a swimmer, from K-College, and understand the sport of swimming. Despite being a triathlete for 28 years, my athletic and career success originates from being a competitive youth age group swimmer through college.
I loved swimming at a young age through high school but while swimming in college, I lost my passion. I become a triathlete after my freshman year and wanted to quit swimming. I continued to swim to keep my scholarship.
Even though I kept swimming after college to train for a triathlon, over the past few years I did not have enthusiasm for it. Therefore, my excuse not to swim become larger, and swimming became less of a priority. I know I could get away with about 8 weeks of swimming to get me ready for my peak triathlon event.
Since moving to Georgia in April 2016, due to injuries and not running, it was suggested I swim more. Having access to an outdoor pool, I found my joy and enthusiasm again.
I believe many athletes find swimming to be boring because they only swim their main stroke, freestyle. Staring at the black line for thousands of yards and hundreds of laps is boring. I get it. I swam primarily freestyle Monday-Saturday most of my age group swimming days. Now, I mix up my workout by including the other three strokes, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and understand all the benefits the variety of strokes can provide triathletes.
- Learning a new skill: Always a fun challenge to do something new in the off season
- Preventing overuse: The major problem with training just freestyle is shoulder problems that can develop. Too much of one stroke can be problematic, especially if there are any flaws in your stroke.
- Variety of workout: When you are fluent in all 4 strokes, it gives you 4 times as many options when completing a swim workout. So you can recycle a freestyle swim workout to 4 more.
- Crosstraining: Swimming different strokes in your workouts not only makes it less boring, you are working different muscles so it’s like cross-training while still becoming a faster and more skilled swimmer.
- Building strength in lats and focused core workout. Besides strengthen your shoulders, chest and lats, the dolphin kick and give you a nice ab and hip flexor workout.
- Open water swim skills. Another transferable skill for the open water swimmer is the dolphin dive technique, used at the entry and exit of an event. Repeatedly launching off a shallow bottom and diving forward with arms extended, swimmers call this drill Superfly, will move a swimmer more quickly in shallow water than simply swimming.
- Creating ease of freestyle swimming. The power of the butterfly builds strength and endurance more than any of the others and can expend a lot of calories and give you a high heart rate workout. By incorporating fly into your workout every time you step into the pool, your main freestyle stroke will feel easier and you are strengthening the same muscles.
- Focus balance and rotation: Backstroke is great because your face is out of the water so you take the breathing element out, yet, just like freestyle has a balance and rotation component, proper flutter kick and increase ankle flexibility. Backstroke is a great recovery stroke to include in your warm-up and your cooldown every day.
- Strengthening smaller leg muscles: Breastroke is the easiest of the 4 strokes due to the frequent breathing and gliding. I like to use breaststroke kick to help strengthen the adductors and abductors (inner and outer thighs) and hips. A few hundred meters of breaststroke flex your groin, thigh, and calf muscles and keep your legs flexible.
- Relieve Boredom Individual medley (IM: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) can really give you a good aerobic workout, take your mind off of counting laps or yards for a bit, and relieve the boredom of staring at the line at the bottom of the pool.
I suggest incorporating the three non-freestyle strokes into your daily workout routine. Butterfly for endurance, strength, and cardiovascular improvement, backstroke for stretching and recovery, and breaststroke for leg strength and stretching.
If you decide to take on one or more of the other strokes, take your time. Think of it as a form of cross training. There is no hurry, and keep in mind the results will be improved freestyle technique, more speed in the water, more fun training and fewer injuries.
“This t is really a great article. It describes exactly how I feel. The funny thing is that I read articles in the past about the advantages of learning new swim styles. But when I decided and discovered my self, that is really when I understood the benefit. It is the same when I try to tech something from my past experience to my daughter she does not totally pay attention. But then when she experiences herself even if she first fails or succeeds its really when she learns.” -Jeff
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