Freestyle love/hate relationship
Short presentation, I've started swimming around a year ago. I did for two reasons first and foremost I discovered (late 40 at the time) that I liked it and because my health was calling for it (poor shape with some health issues). When I started I was out of shape and over-weighted (1.78m 90kg now 76kg). I swim alone , so no external feedback :(
During that period I work on all four (/five) strokes, sort of I would add. I started with a strong focus on breaststroke and dolphin kick&whole body dolphin. I tried to focus on freestyle later through the year and even later I introduced backstroke.
I'm comfortable with breaststroke. Butterfly is a work in progress, still "butter-struggle" but I sense it is coming together, slowly extremely slowly... Even though I came to it last and contrary to my early impression, I like backstroke a lot.
Then there is front crawling/freestyle. I've a love/hate relation with it. I can perceived the beauty of it but I still fail to fall for it. I fail to invest much swimming time into it.
At the core of the issue is breathing. The breathing pattern seems to have an impact of the technique. A part comes from my technique but I suspect another part is "built" into the stroke. When I'm using a FQS (/catch-up?) approach my breathing is not good, I'm ok on the right side but bad on the left. When I'm using a more "kayak" type of approach to the stroke breathing works a lot better and on both sides.
The kayak approach increases slightly my stroke rate which gets me to my real issue with front crawl (at least for now): the breathing pattern.
Using KayaK style I can try to breath every three strokes but truth be told I still want to breath every two strokes. As I start breathing every two strokes I tend to drift from the kayak approach into FQS which I think I'm less comfortable with (contrary to early feels), the stroke feels less connected, and the stroke gets "asymmetrical".
From what I see in competition more and more swimmers swim every 2 strokes and as such they develop an asymmetrical stroke asymmetric arm movements as well as kicking).
Many people says that breathing should be decoupled from stroke somehow and that one should be able to breath every 2, 3, 4 etc strokes as if breathing had no impact on the stroke fundamentals, it does or at least it seems to me at my early stage of learning.
Whether you are a competitive swimmer or not it seems that most people wants/needs to breath every two strokes /as much as possible at any level of exertion. Most of the modern day swimmers seems to have to various extend built that constrain into their stroke.
Modern competitive freestyle is no longer a symmetrical stroke but that should not bother me at my level of practice, what bothers me is that I feel like something is not OK when I try to deal with the stroke as symmetrical one while breathing every two strokes.
I swim for pleasure and leisure but I also want to do my back some good as well as correcting a really bad posture and associated issues if the stroke is not symmetrical it means that one has two practices both sides in equal quantity to prevent possible health issue. When it comes to "feeling" whereas in "kayak-ish" the stroke feels "good" (it still may never be my favorite stroke, anyway...) with a breath every 3 strokes, I fail to enjoy and really get into any front crawl while breathing every 2 strokes.
I'm not sure what to think or which approach to follow both practically and somehow aesthetically. I watched some race between Laure Manadou and Kate Spiegler yesterday, I "understand" the logic and the aesthetic of their technique: kayak-ish, 2KB, breath every 3 strokes (for most part).
Now I think Ledecky is onto something with her completely asymmetric stroke, Sun Yang's stroke is asymmetric but it does not look as "well though out" as Ledecky take on the stroke. Ledecky seems to have built its stroke on the necessary asymmetry introduced by the breath every 2 strokes pattern. I suspect from there she also takes more advantage of her stronger arm and "jumping" leg whereas in a symmetrical approach to the stroke you want to balance things out. Like other non symmetrical sports it might for specific training to maintain the body "balanced".
So to sum-up it up I fail to get comfortable with the stroke as I lean toward a breath every two strokes and I feel like I'm trying to make symmetrical something that is not and can't really be (I'm not kicking symmetrically, I'm not sure what I do). As I do I feel like I do not "wear/work" my body in symmetrical manner. Whenever I try to breath on my bad side I feel like playing football mostly with my left foot or play tennis with my left arm but at a "whole body level"... lol
I'm not happy with the aesthetic of the stroke either or more precisely the way I "understand it". My gut feeling is that Ledecky approach will impose itself as the gold standard and that as sidestroke front crawling will become an asymmetrical stroke and thought-out as well as analyzed as such. As for now I don't know if her approach (/technology) to the stroke have been formalized, at least in public manner.
End result whether my understanding is correct or not, I fail to take pleasure in it :(