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Thread: Distance Butterfly

  1. #1
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    Distance Butterfly

    This is a response to Matt Shirley's post in the thread 'A sad backstroke story':

    After reading this post, I have three thoughts:

    1) I'd dearly love to hear you expound on swimming distance fly. I have just worked myself up (or learned how to gear myself down) to do a 200 fly without dying at the end. The idea of learning fly well enough to swim it continuously, like say freestyle or backstroke, is tantalizing. However,

    2) After doing a fly workout, TWICE, which has a primary objective of piling up "garbage yards" (your term, I'm just repeating it back to you), I have to wonder if maybe we need to find you a hobby (or a job, or a girlfriend,...)

    3) After reading my first two thoughts, I'm beginning to wonder if the 8 hours I spent in the blazing sun today at my kids' Conference Championship meet is beginning to affect me.

    OK, I'm going to take my nap now.
    Hi Matt! My distance fly is not my normal fly, though my stroke is developing and I am working on a style that I can use in all my events. Briefly, while I learned fly as a youth, my form was an object of derision and laughter. I was only able to swim a 'good' fly when I was about 19 years old (and swimming for a summer on my first AAU team) and that was by letting my timing be determined by my arms, rather than my kick, and having no kick at all in any stroke that included a breath. While I was able to do a :52 100 y fly and a 1:58 200 y fly, I was young and strong and really fit.

    I am now neither young nor strong, and 20 years of indolence have taken their toll. A 200 fly is an object of fear for me (I swam a 200 LCM for the first time in my life a couple of weeks ago). When my arms shut down at the end, I realize that I can no longer afford to just *pull* my body through the water.

    I still find a simultaneous two beat kick and breathing very difficult (is this like rubbing your tummy and patting your head?) but 'distance fly' may be my ticket to an improved stroke. By slowing my tempo down, adding a significant glide with my arms forward, and mentally 'prepping' for a kick, I can actually get the kick in - more important, my feet aren't three feet under water when I take my breath. And I don't get tired. It is still very slow compared to my 'no breath' stroke (now sub 25 s for a 50 y), but the hope is that after a year of swimming it, I will no longer have to 'prep' for the kick and I can speed up the tempo.

    So this spring I swam a 1650 fly in 22+ minutes. That is not as fast as I hope to swim it later, but I was pretty pleased, and it was not nearly as hard as a 200 fly (but more boring). If you're interested, it was about 6 strokes/length and quite legal. No, it is not like swimming freestyle or backstoke (yet). But you should ask the woman who finished the 1650 about 2 minutes ahead of me, maybe it is for her.

    And Matt, it is not 'garbage yards' but 'garbage yardage.' I'm sure a poet like you can hear the difference! So the purpose for me is stroke improvement, and while I appreciate your concern and willingness to help me, I have a job and a wife and a couple of kids, and my hobby is . . . . well, swimming. (and posting here). And, you know, I like challenging workouts!

  2. #2
    Participating Member LdyofShadows's Avatar
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    Oh my...

    Good lord...a 1650 fly? :asses out on the spot, quickly recovers:: My old coach thought i'd be a great flyer...but...a 1650 of it?! Gaah. Granted, I was also 11 or 12 the last time I was on the swim team. I was determined to do backstroke, he wanted me to do fly. Unfortunately, I was already a little plump, and that made it harder.

    Who knows, maybe as I get fitter, I'll be able to finally see if Tom was telling the truth. Right now, I'll stick to my back. I can breathe with NO problems that way. Congrats on a 1650 fly though!

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    Rinconada Masters, in Palo Alto, CA have been hosting this event for several decades (!) Here is a web site with information:

    [URL=http://www-ee.stanford.edu/~darosa/]

    But the information from the race this year is not on it

  4. #4
    Active Member GZoltners's Avatar
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    I've always thought it an interesting thought experiment to imagine giving yourself the following practice:

    1000 free

    1000 breast

    1000 back

    1000 fly

    The first three might seem boring, or useless, or a hassle, but for most people (including me) the last one seems nearly impossible. But why? It's just a different stroke.

    Swim fast,
    Greg

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    Very Active Member Ian Smith's Avatar
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    This must have been mentioned before.... the Australians keep national records for long distance in each stroke e.g. 1500m Back.

    See under 'records' in: http://www.aussimasters.com.au/

    However, they appear to have chickened out with fly and only have to an 800 meter national record.

    The men's record for 40-44 SCM 800 fly is 10:43.14. Since this is an inconceivable distance for me i.e. longer than 50m (never mind doing it fly), I have no idea if it is good or not.

  6. #6
    Participating Member Tim Hedrick's Avatar
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    As Greg said, "it's just another stroke". But it sure seems like it's more of a "whole body" stroke than the others. Ask yourself, when (if) you crash while swimming fly in workout or at a meet, what hurts? If you're like me, the answer is "everything"!

    The Rinconada 1650 fly race is intriguing, if not somewhat maniacal. Here's another challenge. When my club, Ventura County Masters, swam the 1-hour postal event last January, we thought it would be great "fun" to try to put together a 4x1 hour medley relay, with each of us swimming for an hour of a stroke. Our primary goal was to finish the swim, but the ultimate prize was to better the Phoenix team's record from the prior year (we weren't the first ones to come up with this, and neither were they. I think a team from New England preceeded them).

    To make a long story short, Jim McConica and I both swam the fly leg, mine for the younger squad and his for the "geezer" group - all 50+. Jim went an astounding 4330 yards in that hour, and I tired into 4275 yards. (For what it's worth, at the 1650 mark, Jim was 22:16.5 and I was 22:09.5).

    That swim hurt like nobody's business, and my wall breaks became more frequent and longer in duration as the hour progressed. I've swum some long distance freestyle - none of those swims hurt nearly on par with the fly hour.

    I've always thought of butterfly as a great barometer stroke. I can get a good idea of the kind of overall shape I'm in by how much workout fly I can do in terms of distance, repeats, etc. Also, the longer swims are a test of one's mechanics and efficiency in addition to basic conditioning. Fortunately, I'm not interested in finding out too frequently!

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    Another tough event to do distance is breastroke. That's why there are few breastrokers that have butterfly as their second best stroke. And most flyers usually have either free or back as their second best. I think Lynn Colella-Bell was one of the few that placed at nationals in both events at the two hundred distances. On this board just me and another person had both breastroke and butterfly as their two beststrokes. In my first meet since 1977, I did the 50 meter breastroke at 44.94 but the 100 meter at 1:53.10. Usually women who do at 44.94 in the 50 meters at the 45 to 49 age group do the 100 meters in the 1:40's or better. That's why I think breastroke also takes more conditioning than back or free.
    Last edited by cinc3100; August 2nd, 2002 at 11:29 AM.

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    Greg Lundquist, the great breaststroker also was nationally ranked in the fly when he was a kid. In fact, in my experience most breaststrokers can do fly pretty well. I also agree that it is rare that someone who is primarily a butterflyer also is a very good breaststroker. The problem usually is a lack of a good strong breaststroke kick. Otherwise, the strokes are pretty similar.

  9. #9
    Very Active Member emmett's Avatar
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    His brother, Steve, was no slouch at at the short axis strokes either!
    Coach Emmett Hines - ASCA Level 5
    Gulf LMSC Top10 Chair
    http://H2OustonSwims.org
    emmett@usms.org

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    i was a breast-stroker then did my knees in and turned into a butterflyer. my f/c and b/c have always been terrible!

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    Welcome to the club unfit. I too did breastroke and fly was a kid. I was terrible at backstroke. The only time I swim it half decent was when I was 13 to 14 because I was on a team then that did a lot of it. My Freestyle is mediocre. Image doing a 1:05.8 for the 100 yard butterfly and a 1:03.7 freestyle for the 100 yard. That's only two second difference and most people swim their freestyle 3 to 4 seconds faster than their fly. Now in my 40's I'm starting out with breastroke, need to get into better shape for fly.

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    i can go one better at that - when i was about 12-14 my 100fly was actually faster than my 100 f/c!!! no-one could understand it at all!! i can't remember what my times were though - i'll have to ask my mum, she'll remember!!

  13. #13
    Participating Member dhurstell's Avatar
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    But it sure seems like it's more of a "whole body" stroke than the others. Ask yourself, when (if) you crash while swimming fly in workout or at a meet, what hurts? If you're like me, the answer is "everything"!
    Everything will hurt because you are running on lactic acid ;-) In butterfly, you probably suffer from having a stroke that just isnt as efficient as your others... you are not alone in this.


    I was a 200 butterflyer in highschool and college and while I was also a middle distance-distance freestlyer, I could never concieve of doing anymore than say 300yards of SLOW fly.

    Its been my experience that butterfly is an ABDOMINAL stroke moreso than any other of the others. This is because SO much of butterfly comes from your legs. The trunk of your body has to transfer the power. It takes abdominal strength and endurance to use the momentum generated by the lower legs on both the down and upbeat of the kick to transfer that energy to the upperbody. Without the proper abdominal conditioning much of the momentum you are generating with your legs is bleeding into vertical movement of your upper body rather than being used to move your whole body latterally (forward) in the water.

    Granted im not a coach or anything, and Im not sure about the physics here, this is merely based on intuition, understanding my own stroke and the strokes of my teammates, ... and alot of reflection and self-analysis after a failed college swimming career. The reason I could never swim more than 300 or more fly, yet could swim a 3k in 31ish minutes was because I never dedicated myself to developing my abs.

    It was raw endurance and strength that made me a butterflyer, not an effecient stroke, and I think thats the problem 99% of the world has with fly. To be a great flyer, you have to have the strength and endurance of a middle distance freestlyer with the rythm and feel of a breastroker and *fantastic* abs.

    I could be wrong, but heres a link to a guy that isnt, and his results prove it.. He went from doing 1k freestyle workouts to swimming 5k fly in one year.

    Thomas Boettcher

    Tom talks about using the upbeat of the kick and using your hips to drive your body through the water, and relegating your arms to keeping time.

  14. #14
    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Fascinating

    Doug,

    Thanks for the article. This is PRECISELY what I was trying to find when I asked the question of how people do long distance fly. The encouraging part is that his drills sound an aweful lot like TI head-lead dolphin and hand-lead dolphin. (The dolphin debutante is a new one on me, and I'll stick that in my bag of tricks.) It sounds like I am on a similar path in trying to turn myself into a 200 flyer. Does anyone know where I might find other articles on these kinds of training techniques? Anyone have any experiences with them they'd care to discuss?

    Matt

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    This doesn't concern distance fly but fly period. When I was 20 years old I could do a 30.8, 50 yard butterfly, now at 45 I swam a 50 seconds in a 50 meter short course race. I'm between 15 to 17 seconds slower even in a 50. On the other hand, the breastroke is only about 14 seconds off in a 100 meter. Maybe,its because I lost upper-body strength with age and lean muscle mass. Also, I waited about 25 years before I did light workouts at 2 times a week at 30 to 45 mintues. And just last summer started I started at 4 to 5 workouts a little over an hour in July, So it probably is conditioning too. I notice that my breastroke is similar at 12 years old in a 50, so I also went back to 12 years old when I first started as a kid, and my fly wasn't that good at that age.

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    Hey Matt - how did you go with distance fly?

    We have a 2250m charity swim over here (UK) in July and I'm currently figuring out if and how I can swim it butterfly next time. If you had any success and have got any tips I'd love to hear them.

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    The structure of fly seems to me to be the most natural! I truly enjoy doing it now. I don't do anything in great distances. At the Chicago Big Shoulders, there is a guy who does the whole thing fly. I've never seen it but people say it is amazing!

    You must do a two beat kick. I don't believe the person who said that they don't kick when they breath.

    I also use my arms as my "guide" for stroke tempo. It seems to help with the wave motion.

    My breast stroike is terrible. It is slow and ackward. I never really get a good rolling short axis motion that is necessary. My experience is that long distance swimmers make good flyers. LUNG POWER RULES!!!!!!!

  18. #18
    Bigger than a breadbox mattson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by craiglll@yahoo.com
    At the Chicago Big Shoulders, there is a guy who does the whole thing fly. I've never seen it but people say it is amazing!
    Tom Boettcher. He has done it for a couple of years now (6). There was an article in one of the swim magazines a while back, if I find it again, I'll post which one.

    But keep in mind that it can cause you to look like death-warmed-over. Evanston coach Dan Projansky, bless his soul, joined the 5K fly club this year. Question is, has anyone heard from him since? (I tried to get his teammates to tell him that he was DQ'ed after the first 200 yards, but they wouldn't bite.)

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    The article about Tom Boettcher is very interesting. I have to reevaluate my fly stroke in my workouts and add some new drills. Butterfly seems to be a whole body experience but abdominals, a strong kick to bring your torso out of the water, and lung capacity are the most important. At least that what my body tells me every morning.

  20. #20
    Participating Member sadet's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ian Smith
    This must have been mentioned before.... the Australians keep national records for long distance in each stroke e.g. 1500m Back.

    See under 'records' in: http://www.aussimasters.com.au/

    However, they appear to have chickened out with fly and only have to an 800 meter national record.

    The men's record for 40-44 SCM 800 fly is 10:43.14. Since this is an inconceivable distance for me i.e. longer than 50m (never mind doing it fly), I have no idea if it is good or not.
    Hi Ian,

    your comment is very interesting about Australia. I am from 'down under' and swam the 1500m Butterfly 34:28.41 2005. Age 55 years. Not bad for an old chook aye? Wouldn't like to do it again though. The best training advice I received was from Coach Jim Richardson, Head Coach of the Michigan Womens Swimming Team. Parametric or 'Interval Training' is FANTASTIC. I was very fit after that training as you can imagne.

    Happy Laps, Dawn
    Dawny

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