View Full Version : old dog - new tricks?

July 11th, 2005, 04:03 PM
Despite the fact that I have been swimming forever (played Div I water polo in college) I never learned to swim butterfly very well (at all). I'm recovering from shoulder surgery (old injury -- torn labrum/stretched capsule) and eager to begin swimming again. When I am as close to 100 percent as possible, is it still possible to learn to become a decent flyer? I'm 46, pretty overweight, and want this comeback to be my last one. (I think the local team must be fed up with me showing up every other year for a few months then disappearing). And I'd like to be somebody who does every stroke, every set, finally.

Any and all advice is welcome.


Bob McAdams
July 11th, 2005, 05:03 PM
I learned butterfly from the drills in the Total Immersion Four Strokes Made Easy DVD and the book Swimming Made Easy. You can order them at:



July 11th, 2005, 08:19 PM
healed enough to swim--you might want to check with the surgeon BEFORE starting to learn Butterfly.

My surgeons were THRILLED to hear that I DID NOT want to learn butterfly after a total of 6 surgeries. My last surgery was when I was 45 (almost 46).

While learning the butterfly, you may also learn how hard it is to recover from a 2nd or 3rd shoulder surgery.

old dog
July 11th, 2005, 10:12 PM
If you are motivated, do your homework, get a good coach,
listen to your body, and go for it.

July 11th, 2005, 11:32 PM
Unless you really want to give your surgeon more work - go really slow with fly. If you really have to - start with drills and a strong kick. I have found that doing a multiple kick set helps get me into fly shape. For example - 12 x 100 with every third 100 fly - start the first 25 with one stroke for each 5 kicks the the next 25 with 4kicks per stroke, then 3, then 2.

Bob McAdams
July 12th, 2005, 02:16 AM
Originally posted by battle
Unless you really want to give your surgeon more work - go really slow with fly. If you really have to - start with drills and a strong kick. I have found that doing a multiple kick set helps get me into fly shape. For example - 12 x 100 with every third 100 fly - start the first 25 with one stroke for each 5 kicks the the next 25 with 4kicks per stroke, then 3, then 2.

If you follow the Total Immersion drill sequence, the first thing you will do is learn how to do is a body dolphin, which is the core body movement for butterfly. Body dolphins don't use your shoulders at all. I would recommend that anyone who is learning butterfly spend about a month doing nothing but the first three drills, even if they have no shoulder problems. The principle reason people have trouble with butterfly, IMO, is because they start trying to use their arms before they've totally mastered body dolphins.


July 12th, 2005, 07:22 AM
I sometimes do the TI drill--slide to the corners (think that is what they call it) slowly during cool down.

I agree, find a coach, don't try to do it on your own and go slowly. Those two things are probably the best way to avoid more shoulder problems.


July 12th, 2005, 10:52 AM
I say Go for it!..

As others have stated, listen to your body and go slowly paying attention to correct form etc.. but other than that, I don't see why anyone at any age couldn't at least try to learn new strokes.

Nice gusto!!! Go for it and have fun!


July 12th, 2005, 11:01 AM
It is not in every case you can get back to swimming after shoulder surgery, my sister was lucky she had surgery then raced for 5 more years in the professional marathon swim circuit.

July 14th, 2005, 12:42 AM
I can't speak about the surgery part. As far as learning butterfly, it is possible to learn new tricks, but you may have to completely break down your stroke before you can build it back up.

I bought the Swimming Made Easy book (like Bob recommended) around the new year. My first try at body dolphin made me churn the water without any forward movement. Now that I can kick down the pool with some speed, I found out that my stroke (and kick) was not in rhythm with my body movement, which increased my fatigue rate. Then I went to Nadine's swim clinic, where video showed I was rushing the last part of my underwater pull.

It is still a work in progress. But after improving 2 seconds over the last 4 years (in the 100), I've dropped 3 seconds this past season. (Still slow compared to real flyers, but I was happy about the progress.)

July 22nd, 2005, 02:30 PM
My advice: Go for it, and be patient. I posted a very similar thread starter on 5/24 called Learning to Fly and have been at it ever since. I found the two Hines articles and the body dolphin drill to be the most helpful, and then just started swimming fly as much as my aging body allows. The other drills just never seemed that helpful for me. I used my Zoomers for a few days, but ditched them pretty quickly. They helped me get the idea of the stroke, though.

I'm pretty comfortable at 25 meters now (don't laugh, I was either gagging halfway across or would get to the wall and have nothing left not that long ago), so I started swimming 100 IM's, which are starting to feel pretty strong. But 50's still take a lot out of me, and the technique is a work in progress. I find focusing on looking straight down at the lane line helps me remember to keep my head down and get over the top on the stroke. I try not to ever do the dreaded BS (ButterStruggle), and switch to free as soon as my technique gets too sloppy. My immediate goal is to get to the point I feel I could complete a 200 IM. That goal is a good way off at this point.

I've had some shoulder and now elbow issues along the way, but there's some good info on this forum to deal with those.

I guess I'm doing OK for 2 months of effort (honestly, I couldn't do it at all when I started). It's frustrating some days, but on balance it's fun trying to learn something new. The frustrating part is that I know it's my technique (as opposed to strength or conditioning) that is the problem. If I can swim Mo Chambers workouts reasonably comfortably, I ought to be able to get through 50 meters of fly without feeling like a cardiac event is imminent. I may try and get some coaching fairly soon.

Go for it.

July 22nd, 2005, 04:20 PM
Old dogs new tricks I just opened this swim site and on his home page it is there http://www.swimmtech.com/index.html

August 1st, 2005, 11:35 AM
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who weighed in on my butterfly question. I do have a coach (Alameda Aquatic Masters is where I hang my lard every couple of years) and she is very TI-oriented, which is all to the good. I think, now after reading all the good advice, that I'm gonna just focus on getting my shoulder and body back into swimming condition. If I feel good in a year or so, and am half the man I've grown to become, then maybe butterfly gets added to my repetoire. Ihave to admit to getting nervous reading all sorts of posts from folks who seem intolerant of those of us who are not adept at all four strokes, who can't do the IM sets with any proficiency. Thus my interest -- wanting to be a good teammate, I guess. I've lasted all these years with three strokes, maybe I can last a few more.

Thanks again,

August 1st, 2005, 11:43 AM
4 strokes???

Most of the people who talk about 4 strokes cannot even swim 1 swim stroke correctly, I am only a 2 stroke swimmer and very limited as to how far I swim these two strokes now. No longer 5 miles, 10 miles, 25 or 30 mile front crawl swims. I just race 50s and 100s (not miles) just yards or meters and train 1000 meters a day.