BREATHING: Freestyle vs Breast Stroke.
What conclusion do you draw when you can swim 1 MILE non-stop in Breaststroke.... but barely 100m in Freestyle?
My guess is that the following check-list is needed to be able to swim 1 MILE in Freestyle:
1. Good technique & balance (to minimize energy consumption per stroke cycle)
2. Good breathing technique (inhale, exhale)
3. Good breathing stamina = fitness
4. Good muscular endurance = fitness
I used to think 1 is good enough, but I fall short in 2,3,4.
But then, the breaststroke thought crossed my mind: "if I managed to have the exact same relaxed breathing pattern in FS as I have in Breaststroke... would I also be able to Swim a MILE in Freestyle?"
Or does the Freestyle stroke require more energy and therefore a higher fitness level than breaststroke?
Thanks for your comments. ALEX
All things being equal, font crawl should be more efficient and less strenuous than breaststroke but all things aren't always equal.
I spent most of my swimming life (from 1947 to 2006) only able to swim breaststroke with any degree of ease. In 2006 I discovered Total Immersion and since then I can swim all four competitive strokes ( butterfly only after a fashion but I can swim it for 50m or so). I have swum several 1500m races, very slowly even for a man of my age, but nevertheless I have finished and lived to tell the tale.
A few years ago I could only have swum them breaststroke and my times would probably be even slower.
In my case it was mainly the flutter kick that was the obstacle and the first progress I made was when I read somewhere that the kick created more drag than propulsion for many unskilled swimmers and I began to swim freestyle without a kick.
Breathing has never been a real problem for me but there is still plenty of work to be done on it. I still find it difficult to breathe on the 'wrong' side.
I think that your fitness must be OK if you can easily swim a mile with breaststroke, therefore I conclude that your difficulty with freestyle is mainly to do with breathing and not fitness.
I suggest you do plenty of 25m and 50m repeats concentrating on easy breathing , making sure you're exhaling while your face is in the water and not holding your breath at all. Then move to 75m repeats and 100m repeats and soon it will be easy.
The earliest evidence of man swimming -- an Egyptian clay plate, bas-reliefs from Babylon and wall drawings from Assyria, all dating from 5000 to over 10,000 years ago -- depicted "dog stroke." Head up -- i.e. unbalanced -- and all four limbs paddling.
This is strong evidence that terrestrial mammals -- humans as much as dogs and deer -- share an evolutionary disposition to behave similarly in the aquatic environment of water.
Aquatic mammals -- seals, dolphins, penguins, manatee -- swim in a distinctly different way because they evolved in water. Balanced, streamlined, relying far less on their (water-adapted) limbs, minimizing turbulence.
Swimming technique first began to be formalized and documented about 500 years ago. Swimming books appearing between 1538 and 1794 in Germany, France, Italy and England showed two styles -- sidestroke and breaststroke.
Both - though still performed with the head up, and thus not fully balanced or truly streamlined - permitted restful glides not possible with the ceaseless limb-churning of dog stroke. This evolution in form led to growing popular interest in endurance swimming, from Lord Byron swimming the Hellespont in 1810 to Matthew Webb swimming the Channel in 1875. Both used side/breaststroke. Though some speed records were noted, there was relatively less interest in feats of speed.
While Europeans stayed with gliding strokes, natives of the Americas, West Africa and South Sea islands had developed an overarm stroke with an up-and-down kick, a forerunner of Front Crawl.
When Europeans encountered that stroke they immediately recognized it as much faster, but recoiled from it as 'uncivilized.' In 1844, the Royal Swimming Society brought two Native Americans to London for an exhibition. Flying Gull outswam Tobacco, crossing a 130-foot pool in an unprecedented 30 seconds, then defeated the British champion, swimming breaststroke. Newspapers dismissed Flying Gull’s stroke as “grotesque antics,” and "barbarically un-European." An observer described "windmill thrashing with their arms and beat downward with their feet."
(Sounds a lot like non-TI freestyle 170 years later!)
Even so, crawl stroking exerted an increasing pull and from the 1870s to 1900s an evolution from Trudgen to Australian to American crawl took place with speed records improving dramatically. Charles Daniels swam 100 yds in 54.8 sec in 1904 -- a time nearly anyone would still consider respectable in 2011.
There was little further evolution in the crawl for nearly 90 years -- until Matt Biondi and Alexandre Popov opened eyes with a more balanced (head down) and streamlined (longer strokes) style in the early 90s.
But for most people, front crawl was essentially unchanged for the entire 20th Century. Everyone recognized it as the best way to swim a short distance fast and therefore coaches used it heavily in training competitive swimmers.
While many self-coached swimmers were able to learn a ‘sustainable’ form of breast or sidestroke, without formal coaching and grueling workouts, few could swim crawl for distance.
It wasn't until TI began to refine a new teaching methodology of Balance>Streamline>Propel -- in response to the large numbers of 'adult-onset swimmers' (mainly triathletes) who began attending our workshops -- that a new and formal adaptation of crawl for distance swimming emerged.
Balance enabled the comfort of breast/side strokes and a much more leisurely -- i.e. sustainable -- stroke rate. Call it the swimming equivalent of the 'walking/slow-jog option' available to runners.
Streamlining allowed for far greater speed potential than breast- or side-strokes, which was important because so many of our students planned to swim in races, not just for fitness.
Many non-TI coaches and programs have copied our language, ideas and - to some extent our techniques - in the last 10 years. But I think no one can deny that the 'revolutionary' adaptation of crawl from a stroke that allowed short-term speed for many, but long-term endurance only for the few, was historic in nature.
If you remain unable to swim freestyle with the same ease, and for the same relatively limitless distance, as breaststroke, it's because you have not yet truly mastered Balance. If you want to overcome this limitation, I suggest you devote 100 percent of your practice to Balance driils and whole-stroke with Balance thoughts.
To extend your freestyle whole-stroke, alternate with a length of breaststroke, focusing on getting into a fully extended, full-streamlined (i.e. head hanging between shoulders) position during the glide. Then take that imprint and sensation of balance, minimized resistance, noise or bubbles back to freestyle.
Swim 25FR25BR until you can swim 1km or more, easily recovering from any sense of breathlessness that occurs during the 25FR during one length of BR. Then progress to 50FR25BR until you can do a sustainable 1km that way. And so on -- 75FR25BR . . .100FR25BR -- until it's no longer necessary to swim BR
I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am to have recently discovered TI. I have been swimming recreationally most of my life and thought there was seriously something wrong with me because I could swim breastroke all day long but was completely exhausted after a single length of free. The few things I've learned so far about TI have already helped me make progress - beginning with recognizing that my kick only provides 5% of my propulsion therefore only deserves about that much of my effort and then moving my attention to my breathing. Thank you so much for your commitment to the principles of TI. I feel encouraged that progress IS possible!
I have not done any breathing drills for quite some time. Will have to try to have relaxed breathing as my main focal point in the coming weeks and see if I can go from 25->50m->75m sets. Thanks. ALEX
I had to read Terry's post out loud to the rest of the household. Some history leading into a helpful technique to improve ones swimming.
Being a new swimmer, for the most part improper breaststroke, a lousy kick and a high head, I can really appreciate the story. Only in the past couple of months have I realized I need to streamline my breaststroke. I came to a conclusion that I can practice Superman Glide while doing the bs, due to the depth of the pool. The pool I swim in is too deep to push off from the bottom of the pool. Just the other night my daughter convinced me to try the shallow kids side of the pool where I am able to performed SG much easier. But I will continue to do the breaststroke superman glide in the deep section, the kids side is usually busy.
So much information here, thanks, it is wonderful input.
Isn't it true the butterfly derived from the breaststroke?
BALANCE being the problem for sustainable Freestyle?
For sure it is one of the 2 problems. When I hear of people feeling perfectly supported by the water, I think about how easy it is to paddle with your hands while lying on a surf board. You feel as if there is no Drag at all.
That is not at all what my Freestyle feels like.
I only achieve that feeling after Balance drills for 10x50m.
I like the idea of mixed FS-BR intervals. Doing FS + Pause intervals allows you to rest so that your next interval feels as relaxed as the previous one.
Replacing the pause with Breast Stroke also helps to lower the Heart Rate but at the same time it gives you the opportunity to transfer the smooth Breastroke breathing pattern to Freestyle.
Will keep everyone posted. ALEX
Terry, great overview of the history!
I am wondering if Popov (et al) also contributed to establish the body roll or rotation in freestyle. It was introduced by Mark Spitz, I think.
90 years of unchanged freestyle technique seems to have an impact.
I found the following in a German Q&A forum (where anyone can ask and anyone can answer), these were I think from 2007 or 2008, and I post it here (from my memory) for entertainment:
Q: Do you rotate in backstroke in the same way as you do in front-crawl?
A: No. You don't rotate in backstroke at all. In frontcrawl you only rotate with the shoulders, not with the hips.
Q: Unfortunatley I got the good advice that I am rotating too much in freestyle. What can I do to prevent rotation?
A: No problem, take a pullbouy, but it between your legs and then you are stable like a board in the water, resp. you can keep yourself straight. You can practice a straight position in water like this (I also use arm paddles at the same time to train my arms).
The freestyle I watch in German pools is to a astonishing large extent devoid of any modern influence on freestyle technique. Since we talk about the last 20 years of freestyle development this is not only surprising but also a shame.
My breathing problem (which I also don't have in breaststroke) is IMHO more related to the breathing technique itself. At the moment I practice balance and breathing only, no practice with TT. I do rather slow strokes and put my focus on a non-lifting rotation to air, which often ends in not getting air, but water. If I make it to the wall and had a good 'bite' of air in each breathing stroke, I am not winded at all and can start with the next lap right away. But if I missed air a couple of times I get winded. Also it took me some time to get used to getting a certain amount of water in my mouth while breathing, not trying to avoid that but simply to 'spit' it out under water and keep going. But I certainly don't like to get water in my mouth while breathing.
So I changed my approach. I now try to maintain a 'good' breathing technique and try to enlarge the number of times where I get air and not water instead of trying to get air no matter how the technique is. I have the feeling that having a good and stable breathing technique is crucial for swimming longer distances.
And of course not getting air is to some degree related to balance issues. But also I think just practicing balance alone does not resolve breathing issues, practicing a good breathing is also essential. This might of course be different for different individuals.
But I will try the mixing of FR and BR, that sounds interesting.
I think rolling in freestyle is as old as the style itself and is probably a natural part of the stroke but for years coaches tried to eliminate it under the impression that it was wasted motion. I will find documentation for that statement later and post it.
Spitz was not the first to roll but Counsilman was one of the first coaches, if not the first, to recognize that it was actually helpful.
In the very early days of the Australian crawl, as it was first known, it was thought that it was suitable only for sprinting, but after Gertrude Ederle swam the channel using the crawl it was obvious that that was not so. Apart from a few strange and eccentric swimmers, such as the lady who swam it butterfly ( I'll find her name later) I think everybody since then has swum the Channel with the crawl.
It's hard to tell without seeing you swim, but if you feel you're rolling with good alignment, and in balance, yet your ability to get enough air is inconsistent, my guess is that your roll to air may be a bit too tentative? The answer seems self-evident - you're not taking your mouth quite far enough.
There are two possible answers to that:
1) Energize your rotation to breathing. Use the energy of the arm spearing forward to take you to air. For a left breath, it's the right arm spearing to full extension that propels you to air. Tune in to this dynamic
Right arm spears forward . . .
Moving left shoulder back . . .
Follow left shoulder with your chin.
2) Body rotation by itself isn't quite enough to clear your mouth. After you've completed rotation - OFF your stomach, but short of being ON your side - your head needs to roll a bit farther independently. And following the breath, your head will start the return a moment before torso.
Try these and let us know if it makes a difference.
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