View Full Version : What is the key to flying distance?

New Daddy
April 22nd, 2007, 11:10 PM
I am finally starting to get the hang of fly, but still can't swim a distance at one go - by distance, I mean fly-wise. i.e., more than 50 meters.

What is the key to flying distance? I wonder why I lose my wind only after 50 meters of flying when I can swim 1000 meters of freestyle without much fatigue.

Concho Pearl
April 23rd, 2007, 12:48 AM
I'm not a expert, but it takes alot to pull to pull your self up out of the water and pull your arms up and over your head and back again.

In free your not pulling yourself up and out of the water,making it less taxing on your body.
I guess that's why you learn freestyle and backstroke first when learning how to swim.

The more you can work on fly the more your build up ... making that pull less taxing..thus the farther you can go. Breaststroke can be the same,it takes alot of pull.

When I was a kid, I thought breaststroke was hard to learn, but once you learn it it's easy. And as a kid I used to think if you excelled in breaststroke I thought big deal, breaststroke, that's not real stroke..I have now changed my mind, after getting back into the pool,

I have a whole new respect for all breast strokers, to really do breaststroke it takes alot of pull, I never felt before, to pull your body up and down again - and then to race breaststroke - wow!! I'm not sure if I could do breast at race speed for more that 25yd. I applauded breaststrokers....

April 23rd, 2007, 08:52 AM
It is simple, the kick.

April 23rd, 2007, 09:10 AM
Simple for some. ;) I am just amazed when I see someone swimming a nice, easy fly. It looks as if they aren't expending tons of energy and can just swim at that pace all day. Me, I can barely make a 25 most days.


April 23rd, 2007, 09:59 AM
It is simple, the kick.

nothing is ever that simple!

i think the key is relaxation.... by that i mean finding the part of each stroke cycle that allows you to release the tension of those muscle groups that are the first ones to fatigue. not simple and certainly not intuitive for most of us.

April 23rd, 2007, 10:04 AM
Try doing a few 25's fly experimenting with your stroke. Try focusing on the pull more and the kick less, and vice versa. Also experiment with breathing. I have found that my fly is the most relaxed for longer distances if I focus on the kick and barely pull back with my arms, breathing either every other stroke or breathe 2 strokes/don't breathe 1 stroke.

April 23rd, 2007, 10:50 AM
... What is the key to flying distance? ....
Relaxation Fly

I’m 100% on the “relax” bandwagon for fly. I know now that I used to fatigue earlier in fly because I was carrying too much tension in places I didn’t need it, and at the wrong times. Practicing Yoga is a great way to get more knowledge of this relaxation concept.

Butterfly is way more sensitive to timing than the other strokes. It helped me a lot to experiment with focusing on various parts of the stroke, varying my technique, reading everything I could find on the web, watching others.

Try swimming “slow fly”. (I know there has been at least one thread here on the topic.) One of my endurance revelations came at a meet watching two “old guys” do a 200 fly. They had a slow rhythm, with deep plunges on the recovery. You can’t get speed until you flatten out your stroke, but increasing the amplitude of my stroke helped me get the timing down better, which allowed me to eventually flatten out and gain speed. When I try and do a long distance (100-200m/y) I will start reverting to my slow fly technique, but at least I can finish while still using fairly decent form.

I tend to take a long glide. Partly to rest, but mostly because I need the time to set my shoulders for the pull. I routinely get compliments on how graceful I look doing fly. Goin’ fast ain’t everything!

When you breathe, think “forward”, NOT “up”! There are times now when I go for a breath and my hips are really high in the water (as in I can feel the water washing over my butt, keeping my body flatter, not killing my forward momentum so much). But this is a very unnatural feeling, and something I’m still working on.

Coordinating the whole body (which does the kick) is a key element in fly. Core body strength is way more necessary in fly than any other stroke. I know this because as I got more proficient at fly I began to recognize core weaknesses in my other strokes, especially the crawl strokes (which I thought I was pretty efficient at).

I found this test really useful in developing my fly: Try to start doing fly from a dead standstill. That is: Without any forward momentum, and floating in the glide position, try to start doing fly. The only way I’ve managed to do this is to begin by pressing the chest down (but I’ve got arthritic shoulders, so other people’s technique may vary).

April 23rd, 2007, 03:14 PM
Fly is inherently more tiring than freestyle because you are constantly slowing down and speeding up.....you need both arms to clear the water simultaneously.....you cannot take advantage of body rotation....you cannot simply two beat kick and let them drag behind....

It adds up to something difficult to swim slow and easy. I saw a DVD with Dave Marsh (Auburn) and he said to not swim fly in practice if you cannot swim it correctly. Once your stroke breaks down you aren't swimming the same stroke.

April 26th, 2007, 11:47 AM
Speaking of which, here's someone who has discovered it (i.e., the key)
(and, in her case, distance really means d... i... s... t... a... n... c... e...).

Lake Ontario
Vicki's world record was done swimming butterfly (http://www.penguinscanfly.ca/index.cfm?page=where_is_she_now)!

Sorry the article linked is no longer there. But a Google for Vicki Keith
and the Wikipedia site will tell you

Swimming achievements

First crossing of all five Great Lakes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Lakes) (completed in a two month period)
First double crossing of Lake Ontario (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Ontario)
First butterfly swim across the English Channel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Channel)
Longest solo swim (distance) 94 km
Longest solo swim (time) 63 hours 40 minutes
129 hours, 45 minutes continuous swimming (pool record)
Greatest distance, butterfly (male or female) 80.2 km
Most crossings of Lake Ontario (six)
Circumnavigation of Sydney Harbour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Jackson) (butterfly)
Crossing of the Juan de Fuca Straight (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strait_of_Juan_de_Fuca) in British Columbia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia) (butterfly)
Crossing of Lake Ontario (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Ontario) (butterfly)
Crossing of Catalina Channel (butterfly)Notice the 'fly events.

New Daddy
April 26th, 2007, 07:03 PM
First butterfly swim across the English Channel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Channel)
Greatest distance, butterfly (male or female) 80.2 km
Crossing of the Juan de Fuca Straight (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strait_of_Juan_de_Fuca) in British Columbia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia) (butterfly)
Crossing of Lake Ontario (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Ontario) (butterfly)
Crossing of Catalina Channel (butterfly)Notice the 'fly events.

That is simply amazing...
I worship her. :bow:

April 27th, 2007, 12:27 AM
I've been known to finish the bay swim doing fly the last 100 or so meters... For whatever reason, it is always exhilirating to do that at the finish. You'd think after 4.4 miles, I'd have no energy to do that, and surely I thought the same, but I was surely mistaken two years in a row!

April 27th, 2007, 10:08 AM
some distance fly links

just google <Penguins Can Fly> to get to:
about Vicki Keith

another favorite of mine is:
about Tom Boettcher

here are a few fly threads here that are worth a look:

USMS Forum Threads

Training For Butterfly, esp. 200m

Improving Butterfly

200 Butterfly Strategy Advice?

How Much Difference Does A Good Coach Make???

these are some pretty decent articles:

Slip-Slid’n’ Away, by Coach Emmett Hines

Vive le Papillon! by Coach Emmett Hines

USMS Coaches Committee Quarterly - Summer/Fall 2000 (pg2)
Question #2: What do you find to be the greatest stroke flaw for butterfly swimmers that you coach, and what do you do to help correct it?

This back page article in the 1st issue of USMS Swimmer is a very interesting history lesson:

As always, there are a host of links and resources at USMS, starting with Technique Articles:

April 27th, 2007, 10:57 AM
All this stuff about distance fly??? I think Newdady would just like to swim 100 or 200. It is about a good kick, a clean recovery and clean entry work it up one length at a time.

April 27th, 2007, 11:17 AM
All this stuff about distance fly??? I think Newdady would just like to swim 100 or 200....

I understand.

I just thought I'd offer those up because I used to think a 200 was impossible. Then I read the stuff about Vicki and Tom and was able to adopt a slightly different perspective, which helped me a lot towards achieving my goal. It is indeed mostly in the mind. Conditioning is necessary, but you can't escape the importance of getting your head in the right place.


April 27th, 2007, 11:48 AM
Bud I am sorry I did not mean to offend it is just that I get tired of seeing something that is not even sensible. Swimming the English channel doing butterfly. It is in the same relm as Jack Lalanne swimming with hand cuffs on pulling a boat.

I can barely do a 50 fly now and have only done a 200m fly once in the 1956 Olympics and I am ashamed of that swim.

April 28th, 2007, 01:16 AM
...It is in the same relm as Jack Lalanne swimming with hand cuffs on pulling a boat....

What a wimp! Now if he’d done it for a mile holding his breath, THEN I’d be impressed. :”>

No offense taken George. I think you are one of the more practical and sensible posters on this board. Even if you are getting to be a crotchety old guy. (Don’t worry, I’m not far behind you there, and I’m a fair bit younger than you.) I realized that some of those links may have seemed a bit off topic and I just wanted to clarify.

I absolutely cannot fathom being ashamed of anything done in the Olympics. It seems like such an honor just to get there. There is a 3x gold Olympic swimmer at my facility, and even though I’ve been there over a year I still feel compelled to bow down before her just about every time I see her. (My money is on the bet that you’ve had a similar effect on a lot of people as well.) I think it is just soooooo cool to be able to have your name be a part of that elite list. Forget the awards, just getting there is enough to make me awestruck.

The only 200 fly I’ve done in competition (a few years ago) was nothing to crow about, but by golly I did it and that’s enough for me (plus there is an official record of it to boot!). I’ll never forget that moment in time. I was really hesitant to sign up for it, and trying to do a 200 fly in practice when my team’s coach happened out on the deck (I was swimming alone, as usual, at a different facility, so I definitely took it as a sign from the Gods). I expressed my doubts about being able to do the race without hanging on the wall for at least the last turn (it was LCM). He shrugged and laughed it off, “So what!? Just hang on the wall!” Best advice I ever could’ve gotten for that. And I did have to take a few extra breaths at that last turn. But there was NO WAY I was going to drop out with all those folks watching. (It was an LMSC “championship” meet, so I was somewhat familiar to a lot of the folks there.)

I’ll never forget either the first time I saw someone hang on the wall at the turn. It was at some LCM meet previous to when I did my 200 fly. Some REALLY old guy was doing a 100 fly when he hung on the wall at the turn to catch a few breaths before taking off again. I was absolutely stunned. I was sitting next to my coach at the time and I turned to her and asked, “You can do that?” She turned and looked me square in the eye and said: “That was probably the difference between him finishing that race or not.” That event made a lasting impression on me and has been a key factor in making me try things I would not have otherwise tried.

Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. For me, especially here, I try to keep it all about sharing my experience, strength, and hope. In the pool it is all about breaking down self-imposed barriers and not caring what other people think about what I can and cannot do. I recently heard a celebrity share a favorite quote they got from their grandmother: “What other people say about me is none of my business.”


April 28th, 2007, 08:13 AM
I don't have the answer to being able to swim more distance fly, but philosophically, in addition to all of the other excellent comments (I'm in the relaxed camp too) - remember where you axis is - breast and fly are short axis strokes, meaning that the axis is in your middle area, horizontally if you will (view point of person standing). Back and free are long axis strokes, meaning that the axis goes from the top of your head and cuts you in half.

Rotating the long axis is less taxing. Short axis is arms then legs - two major muscle groups.

One thing to try to make fly a bit less taxing is to try and breath fly the same as in breast - keep your my neck aligned with your spine as much as possible.