View Full Version : Training for the 200 fly

August 26th, 2003, 05:27 PM
One of my goals in the 2004 short course season is to swim the 200 fly and complete it without embarassing myself. I am looking for anyone who can provide me with some training guidelines / tips.


August 28th, 2003, 02:53 PM
That was one of my goals last season, and I'd like to think that I at least came close to succeeding. One thing that helped me a lot was working on my underwater dolphin kick (since I'm a backstroker, it was beneficial to my main events too). Some people will probably scream that this is unfair and not swimming, but it's still legal as long as you pop up by the 15-meter mark - not that I ever got anywhere near that after the first length. If I kick 10 meters off each wall, I find that I am less likely to have a piano fall on my shoulders somewhere around the 150.


Matt S
August 28th, 2003, 05:47 PM

I too aspire to completion of the 200 fly at 2004 SCY Nationals. I'm in the evil 40-44 age bracket. How about you? Will we be in the same heat together?

Since I am not one of the naturally gifted swimmers who can just power through a 200 fly any old way I chose, I am trying to learn the crafty way to swim the stroke that relies less on pure conditioning. I ain't there yet, but I can see my destination on the road map.

First, learn how to swim fly with your body. The best articles I have found for this are Emmet Hines' "Slip Slid'n Away" and "Vive le Papillon." You can find them on his club's web site (http://www.h2oustonswims.org/) in the "Articles" section. You can also find lots of technique drills from the Total Immersion folks. I would strongly recommend Terry Laughlin's book "Swimming Made Easy" which has excellent drills for all 4 strokes. They have other products and do-dads. You can get them or not as you fancy. The book has the essentials for their approach. Finally, whether you follow Emmett's or Terry's approach (or someone else's for that matter) the key tool for learning the proper body dolphin technique is a pair of fins, any ole' fins, full-length, short-blade, cheap, expensive...it does not matter so long as they are comfortable and stay on your feet. They are NOT cheating; they are essential to getting the feel for what you body should be doing. After you get that, you can progress to the same feeling with just your feet.

The key problem with fly is being on the horns of a trilema. What do I mean by that? Well, you gots to do 3 things to swim fly. (1) Get your shoulders high enough on so you can recover your arms out of the water every stroke, and so you can inhale on the strokes when you breath (usually every other stroke or 2 out of 3). (2) keep you hips high enough so that you stay horizontal, and avoid having your back end sink down to the point of increasing your drag through the water. (3) Breathing often enough to be able to complete the race. Like many trilemas in life, you can usually get 2 out of 3 (as in “good, cheap, or fast; I can give you 2 out of 3”), but all 3 takes a lot more imagination. Since lifting your head enough to breath in most swimmers makes them lift their shoulders even higher than they would otherwise, a lot of them solve this puzzle by breathing less. Shoulders stay down; hips stay up; it works for about a 50. Once you get to a 100, it is a tough strategy to follow, and completely out of the question for a 200. A variation on this strategy is to simply swim faster. You breathe as you normally would, and you keep your hips up by increasing the velocity. This works a little better for a 100; moreover, since it is something you can improve with conditioning, it leads to the solution of doing lots of grueling fly sets while you are working out. Again, it is feasible up to a point. What happens when you cannot maintain this pace for 200 yards? You slow down, your hips sink, and you begin what Emmett so eloquently describes as butterstruggle. So I asked myself, is there a way to SLOW DOWN to a 200 pace, breathe as much as I need, and keep my body horizontal? I think there is with proper pacing. Let me explain below.

Why is it so hard to slow down? If you are only breathing every second stroke, you could turn blue waiting for you next breath when you hit the 125 yard mark. That is why you see some swimmers try to make their turns in the 200 fly as SLOW as possible, so they can cram in two or three big breaths before they start the next length. OK, why don’t we breath every stroke? Our hips will sink. So, how can we breathe every stroke, and keep our hips up? I think the answer is, at least for me, is to put a glide in my stroke, and put it in when I am pressing my chest, and floating my hips. So, my distance fly stroke is pull, recover, glide, pull, recover, glide, and I breathe every stroke. Normally, that would not let me get my hips up, but with an exaggerated glide, I wait until I feel that they have refloated to the proper position. In fact, that is my cue for starting the next pull. The other key to stretching this stroke out is to de-emphasize my pull. I am focusing on a good body dolphin motion, and let my arms tag along for the ride. That helps me use the larger muscles in my body core, which are slower to tire than my arms, for more of my propulsion. I suspect that I have always put a glide in my stroke when I tire in a 200; however, I think I have been doing it at precisely the wrong moment for an efficient fly—when my shoulders are up and I am trying to gasp in as much air as possible. Does this sound familiar to you? I think the key may be to glide on purpose, from the very beginning, in the best, streamlined part of the stroke, and to avoid going into extreme oxygen debt and prematurely fatiguing key muscle groups before the race is over.

Now that I’ve found my stroke, there are a few key concepts I want to follow in the training part of my preparation. ONLY practice technically sound butterfly. If I feel myself slipping into butterstruggle, I cut short the distance, catch my breath, and begin again. Emmett’s two articles talk about his “Easy Fly” drill, i.e. swim a 200 or 500 or whatever, swim the first 2, or 3, or 4,…strokes of each lap butterfly, and the rest of the lap freestyle (or body-dolphin). The idea is to pick a number of strokes so that you can swim them with good form at the beginning of each of the 20 laps that comprise a 500. Start with 2, and work up to the point where you can do the whole thing fly. Also, this is where my “pull, recover, glide” stroke fits in. I can vary speeds, and fall back to a slower fly that lets me “recover” (instead of simply tiring out more slowly). I can swim longer when I am tired without lapsing into butterstruggle. The key is to build up the yards I swim of butterfly in good form. Gutting out more yards of butterstruggle in poor form does not contribute.

The second key concept is to build confidence in my ability to swim fly when I am tired. Externally, this appears to be not much different from swimming longer fly sets to build physical endurance. However, the idea is to convince myself I can swim a 200 and it is no big thang. One set I have used before training for a 200 is as follows:

4x broken 200 fly:
1x 200 on 4:00
1:00 rest
1x 125 on 2:30, 1x 75 on 1:30
1:00 rest
1x 100 on 2:00, 2x 50 on 1:00
1:00 rest
3x 50 on 1:00, 2x 25 on 30
(please note the intervals are not sacred; they are simply what I needed to maintain good form)

Note how the set starts with a 200; if I do it in practice every time I use this set (and I tried to use it at least once a week), how big a deal could a competition 200 be? Then I do 3 more broken 200’s, but I step down the distances to avoid lapsing into butterstruggle. I am practicing fatigued fly, but in a context where I can still keep the stroke mechanics together, and in a format that approximates swimming 200’s. This set works simultaneously on mechanics, conditioning and confidence.

The last key concept is to continue to use stroke drills to maintain good mechanics, and otherwise ensure I have a well-rounded training program. I have found in most of the masters teams I join a tendency in many swimmers to indulge in mindless yardage pounding on the lowest sustainable interval, and give short-shrift to stroke drills, speed work, or even avoiding boredom. I do not understand why this aerobic rut is so popular (I have felt is siren allure myself, almost like some irresistible test of manhood, but I digress…). However, I do feel I need to consciously resist it by ensuring I have the other essential elements of conditioning in my workouts. If you practice with a masters team, as I do, this may require an exercise of discipline. It can be very attractive to switch from drilling to swimming, or blowing off what you should be doing to keep up with your lane mates who want to use a faster interval than you can maintain. It’s your conditioning program; you made need to move over to a slower lane, or modify the workout to ensure you reach the training objectives the coach intends for the particular workout. (Note: this requires from me that I actually UNDERSTAND what the coach is trying to do. That can be a dicey proposition for me at 5:00 am, if I do not make a conscious effort to do so.) Take control of your training program.

OK, if you are still reading this, thanks for your patience. I expect most folks would have moved onto another post (or had their eyes rolled up into the back of their ends, and a little trail of drool leaking out the side of their mouth, but again I digress…), rather than wade through my semi-coherent ramblings. Please let me know how things work for you. I’d be interested. Oh, BTW, here is another interesting article on training for distance fly (http://www.thomasboettcher.org/RecordFly/default.htm).


August 28th, 2003, 06:34 PM

Thanks for the training tips. In my research I have come across some of the articles you mentioned and I will be incorporating them into my training. I liked your comments about gliding and stretching out the stroke. I will work on that as well as the use of fins when I do the "Easy Fly?".

By the way, I am also in the 40 - 44 age group and you got it right, down right evil! I will only swim the 200 fly at the 2004 SCY Nationals if I make a NQT. Out here in the west, there are two meets I am shooting for to make an NQT; 1. USF Valentine Meet and 2. Pacific Masters SCY Champioship.

Again, thanks for all the info, much appreciated, good luck in your training and keep in touch.


September 1st, 2003, 03:50 PM
Warning, another rambling post. I am a 210lb ball of lard, so people who get bent out of shape about us lard balls can go ahead and ignore this post and save us all some grief.

Matt, great post. I am someone who has never had a decent fly, but I am working towards completing a 200 fly with good form. I too am in the evil 40-44 age group, but you don't have to worry about me providing any competition to you. I was a nordic ski racer and not a swimmer in HS and college.

The approach I am using to get there is extremely similar to the approach that you are using. When I started swimming again last October, (after a 28 year layoff from the swimming), I couldn't even swim a 50 Fly without butter struggle. By last spring I made it up to around 85 yards before it set in. So Progress is being made. (Even on the weight front, being a 210 lb ball of lard is a lot better than being 320lb ball of lard)

I am not doing very many long fly swims, since the longest sustained fly I have been able to do so far is only about 115m. (I do this as part of my IM day). I am still an emerging flyer, so I try to maximize the number of stroks of good fly emphasis workout. If most of those good strokes have a lot of intervening freestyle so be it. It is the number of strokes that count.

My technique for when I fall into butterstruggle is to keep going, but do a 2 one arms on each side and then pick it back up. That seems to be enough for me to clean out enough lactic acid to keep going for a while.

Here are some workouts I am doing to work towards my goal.

A typical fly emphasis workout is..
500m (alternate 3,5 BP by 100)
10X(50Dr, 50 Sw)
Every 4-8 weeks I have my coach take a look at my stroke and he tells me what drills to do.

500 Superfly(6)
(6 strokes fly/length, I worked up to this starting from 1)

5X600 (Superfly pyramid)
200( rev IM dr/sw by 25), 100 kick, 300 superfly(6,7,8,7,6)
(I start with what I can do a 500 superfly in and then increase by 1 to the top and then go back down). I find that the dr/sw and kick help me stay loose.


I tend to do my longer fly swims on the IM day. A typical IM day for me is shown below.

1000 (3,5 BP by 100)
500 Superfly(6)
10X50(odds 1,3,5,7,9 BP, evens drill)

Broken 300 Fly
When I can finish a distance, the IM pyramid is made taller. I would like the pyramid to peak out at 600m.

IM Pyramid(1600,3600)
100,200,300,400,300,200,100 IM (20s rest/hundred)

Strength work(1600m,5200m)
200 IM 40s rest
4X50 Fly 40s rest
200 IM 40s rest
4X50 Bk 10s rest
200 IM 40s rest
4X50 Br 15s rest
200 IM 40s rest
4X50 Fr 10s rest

5X100 IM work the turns cruise the rest hard interval

300 Warm down

Since I will probably never swim an NQT, a sensible thing to ask is why I do this to myself? Fact of the matter is I grew up doing very long power-endurance workouts, and I got to the point where I enjoyed them. Since I can't XC anymore because of very unstable knees, doing all this long distance stroke work gives me a similar feeling to sking 50 km workout, the switches in technique are similar to the switches in technique that happen during a long ski. So the answer is that I do it because doing those types of workouts is fun.

Matt S
September 18th, 2003, 06:10 PM
Thought I would drop an update.

Yesterday I demonstrated to my satisfaction that my new fly actually works for me! (Please see previous post to this discussion thread.) After doing multiple fly drills to find the stroke I wanted, I tried to do a 200 SCY fly in practice. Not only did I complete the 200, I felt like I could have done another 50-100 yards more. After waiting less time than I needed for my set of broken 200's (again, see previous post), I then did the 125/75 combination, also feeling less fatigued than what I expected.

I had previously been a bit intimidated by this set. The last time I used it was 4 years ago and as part of a program with more aerobic work and more yardage. I figured out the reason for my intimidation at about the 75 yard mark of the first 200. I noticed I had a subjective feel to my stroke that I had previously associated with having about 50 yards left before falling into butterstruggle. This had previously caused me to cut it short. During yesterday's swim I convinced myself that my changed stroke meant that I would use less of the energy I had left (that is, after all, the reason I made those stroke modifications) and be able to go longer with it. Correct answer.

Will it work for you? I don't know; everyone is different. But, if you'd like to try it, the keys are:
1) Undulate your body in a short axis pulse,
2) Easy pull, swim with your body, not your arms, let the arms kind of come along for the ride during your pull,
3) Breath every stroke,
4) Bring you hands together in front of you, and glide in this position. When you feel your hips float back towards the surface, that is your key to start the next stroke.

I want to emphasize, I am not saying this is the stroke of the future. It is designed to let people who cannot do more than a 50 or 100 with their "normal" fly swim substantially longer distances with good form. It is a way to SLOW DOWN your fly so you can chose how fast your swim, just like you do with the other three strokes.


September 19th, 2003, 11:28 PM
The best 200 yard fly I swam,. When I was 18 years old, I swam a 2:31 200 yard fly and went out faster in the morning swim. I made the consolation heat of the 200 yard fly in the JO's and swam much slower spliting at 1:13 in the first 100 yard and doing the second at 1:16, now for our age groups in the 40's, the 40-44 and the 45-49, anyone who does a 2:29 butterfly is not that bad. Not that great if your a guy, really good if you are a gal. Try to almost negative split it or swim your second 100 yard not much slower than your first 100 yard.

September 22nd, 2003, 04:40 PM

Thanks for your post. Glad to hear you completed the 200 w/out too much of a problem. I've been working on the fly as well IM's and distance over the past couple of weeks. Don't want to burn out on too much fly.

In any case I did a 150 to open a fly set the other day and I really felt good. In fact when I finished I told my training partner (who will compete in the 55 - 59 age group in the 2004 SC season) that I could have done another 50, easy. Didn't really worry about the speed, just kept the body stretched out and glided all the while generating most of the power from my legs.

I will work on more of your suggestions and look forward to your future posts.

Take care,

September 29th, 2003, 12:43 AM
I agree with the breathing everystroke. I did it in workouts and didn't swim much slower than the breast time at 200 yard. Now that sounds bad to people but at my age the breast and fly are even at speed for me. About 3 months there was a wider gap and a year ago I even swam a fly about 3 seconds slower than the beast at a 50 meter short course race. I think at our ages the breathing every other stroke on the 200 yard takes too much oxigen. As for NQT's, the meters times are easier and the next up age group the 45-49 is not as hard as the 40-44 age group. I even made two NQT's in 50 meter and 100 meter breastroke. Maybe, for the guys once you get into the 50-54, you'll probably make it. The women age groups are not as bad as the men's since a lot less women in the 40 plus groups swam in their youth or started masters swimming in their 20's or 30's.,

October 2nd, 2003, 12:00 AM
Since fly came from breaststroke, no one excepts breaststrokers to breath everyother stroke in a 200 yard breaststroke. That would take too much oxygen. So, why are we taught to breath everyother stroke in fly which also has another underwater pullout as well.

October 2nd, 2003, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by cinc310
Since fly came from breaststroke, no one excepts breaststrokers to breath everyother stroke in a 200 yard breaststroke. That would take too much oxygen. So, why are we taught to breath everyother stroke in fly which also has another underwater pullout as well.

Because breathing in fly forces you to raise your head and results in dropped hips for most swimmers. Whereas, breathing in breaststroke doesn’t throw off your stroke like it does in fly.

Speaking of breathing every other stroke in breaststroke, I remember a high school swimmer in the early 80’s who would breathe every other and was quite good at it. Although, I'm not sure because of it or despite of it.

October 3rd, 2003, 12:09 AM
This is usuallly the agrument against breathing every stroke. But some of us don't have the conditioning in our 40's to be able to do it everyother stroke in a 200 yard or in my case even for most of the 100 yard. As for the breaststroke,many of the swimmers in their 50's will tell you in the late 1950's and early 1960's,people were swimming 100's and 200's almost totally underwater except for coming up for breath at the turn. The AAU ban that because it pose a risk. Remember it wasn't long ago where swimmers where doing dolphin kick almost for the while swim in back and fly. I don't know if the reasons were similar to the ban on breast in the early 1960's or because they felt it change fly and back too much.

December 29th, 2003, 03:58 PM
I found the training tips and articles in this thread very helpful. One thing that I think was missing, however, was discussion of the head movement in the stroke. The articles spoke of starting your undulation by pressing down with your chest, then hips. While this is an OK discription, I think it misses the starting point.

Proper fly undulation starts with dipping the head as the arms are coming out of the water. This actually pushes the shoulders up during the recovery which makes the recovery easier. The shoulders then follow the head as the undulation passes through them and down toward the hips. As the hips are pressing down the head is coming up. The breath is taken just as the arms are completing the push and the head dives back down.

Thinking about the head, at least for me, becomes very important as butterstruggle sets in. I find that when this is happening, my hips are dragging and my head is tilting up. In this position getting my arms out and over the water is very difficult, hence the struggle. By focusing on dipping my head it forces my shoulders up and parallel to the water and then my hips come up as well, keeping my body in a more streamlined, though also more undulating position.