How many trialthetes don't front crawl

I have a vague plan to do an Ironman at some point, but the reasons I am hesitant are:

1. I dislocated my shoulder a few years ago and has never been right since - may or may not be a problem.

2. I can swim breast stroke for miles, but front crawl ends up with me having to stop due to coughing fits and too much water inside me instead of the pool.  This is indoor.

So in a field of an open water event how many people swim breast stoke, and in fact is it possible to with the wind rippled/wave surface?




  • I'm not really a triathele but:

    yes it's possible to swim OW breaststroke but if any wind/chop is coming straight at you (ie a headwind) then make sure your technique is really good otherwise you might end up swallowing just as much water as with front crawl

    Would you not fancy learning crawl, though? I imagine doing breaststroke isn't the most popular idea with the other swimmers, simply because of the kick-action...

  • People do swim breaststroke but your legs will get tired much quicker than swimming front crawl and you need your legs to be feeling good for the bike and run.  I couldn't swim front crawl two years ago and did IM this year so why not get some lessons?

  • CW - if you do an IM at some time you will have to learn to swim in a wetsuit - and for many mon-confident FC'ers this can make a huge difference as you no longer have to think about survival due to the extra buoyancy the wettie gives...and can focus on your stroke

    it's perfectly feasible to do an IM swim b/s but for many it's too slow so you risk missing the cut off, whereas f/c is faster - also b/s is more difficult in a wetsuit anyway due the way the suit flexes....

    I have been overtaken by a breaststroker in an Olympic tri (Cambridge recently) and I'm not a bad swimmer, not great but not the slowest either.....

  • Good points about the tired legs, wetsuit and cut offs.

    I think I may have to go for lessons - although this goes against my independant approach to doing things.  I don't like paying for things I can do myself but I recognise that there will be benefits having someone who can see what you are doing in the water.

    No rush for this, because I won't be doing it next year, so plenty of time to get the hang of it.


  • In an Ironman id say around 2% breast stroke, its perfectly feasible but as already said unless your a very strong breast stroker its going to take a while, it will also be more tiring.  

    Ive also been told (not sure if its true or not) that breast stroke can be prone to causing injuries/strain in the groin area.

    My advise would be to see a physio, and get some advise re the state of your shoulder and begin learning crawl with coached one to one lessons and see how it goes.  Im sure many people before you with dislocated shoulders have managed ok?  

    Not the same as a dislocation but I broke my elbow 2 years ago (radius bone)  It took perhaps 2 months before I had any reasobable movement and then 2-3 months of pyhsio to get movement back, in total it was 6 months before I could fully straighten my arm again.  During the physio I was advised to start gently swimming again as this would help my recovery.

  • Colin,

    If you decide to learn front crawl (which I would highly recommend!) .. and you are reluctant to take lessons, it's worth getting a hold of the Total Immersion swimming book.  I too used to swallow pool loads of water, but the TI books concentrate on balance and body position in the water, and though I didn't follow their drills religiously I'm now more than happy and confident to spend my sunday mornings face down in a murky lake ;o)

     PS: You need to persevere with this one, the learning curve is incredibly steep as swimming is a technique based activity .. I felt I was getting nowhere for ages (struggling to do a length at a time), then one day that breathing thing just clicked, and I swam my 1st mile, just like that!!!


     Hope that link works, the same guy has done some books specifically on open water/ tri swimming too, though I haven't read those .... I'd say though that once you get your breathing straight in a pool, find a local tri club and get some open water sessions in .. nothing beats experience ...

  • BB,

    I have not seen a physio about my shoulder for a few years now, so it would be worth seeing one as I have a specific reason to now. 


    thanks for the link, one should be arriving in the next couple of weeks that was £0.33, what a bargin.  I doesn't really matter if I still stuggle at that price.


  • I'd second learning front crawl - I was totally rubbish at it until I got injured this year and couldn't run.

    I didn't have any lessons, I just persevered with my crawl, and now it's not too embarrassing speedwise, and I actually feel more comfortable doing it than breast stroke - the breathing/swallowing water thing sorted itself out with time, but having a good pair of goggles also helped me with my dislike of sticking my head in the water!

    Give it another go!

  • I have known breast strokers to do sub 90 at IM.  Er which is about the same speed as me front crawling, but I am a very lazy swimmer.

     FC is best, but there are people BS'ing it.  I like this because this means I can sit on their feet and let them do the sighting for me. So let me know which events you are planning on, and a brightly coloured wetsuit helps me spot you in the throng ! image

  • I dont think you can learn to swim front crawl from a book, basics perhaps but you really need someone to see what your doing and point you in the right direction.
  • A book or teaching yourself can work I guess but there is so much potential for learning bad things or picking up bad habits. Given that for an Ironman you should aim to be efficient as possible it makes sense to start properly and minimise the potential of having to resolve bad habits later.
  • In IMUK recently, there was a guy near me that I kept overtaking as he was breaststroking for a minute in every five or so. It p*ssed me off after a while and I finally left him behind!!

    I couldn't swim f/c a year ago and nearly drowned every time I tried until I slllooooowwwwed right down. Once I'd done that, breathing became easy and within two weeks I could do 100 lengths no probs. Then comes the speed. No lessons, just sensible stuff.

    Good luck and remember that the swim's just a mild inconvenience to get you to the start...

  • Good luck with the book ... there is also a website (Google for it) with some really helpful forums on there (the author frequently contributes and answers questions) .. It's also good if you learn with someone so you can watch and comment on each others styles .. and there's always people on there looking for a "buddy" as they call it....

     Kinsey: Good goggles = Aquasphere (well in my opinion anyway!)

  • I started off with the TI book and found that it got me so far then I was stuck.  I then spent a day with a coach, which helped me progress a lot further.  I'm now thinking about getting some more lessons so I don't have to be last out of the water any more.
  • LoR: a friend had his shoulder dislocated by a breaststroker 5 mins into IMUK this year ... six months of training down the pan!

    Barlist: Half agree with what you are saying, but I found the book got me to a point where I could actually swim, and build on technique from there, the book is also geared towards slow efficient swimming, not flat out sprint efforts ...

  • I couldn't swim FC at all in December 2005 and taught myself. I'm not a great swimmer but I'm not completely useless and still improving. I did a 1:18 swim at IMA (3.8km) and 39mins at the Vit (1.9km). I found the TI book quite helpful at the beginning because it gave me ideas about how it should feel. Also I spent the first few weeks just doing a few hundred meters of kicking drills (from the TI book) which helped me get a feel for the water and learn to balance.

    That said, I'm sure I would benefit from having lessons.

    I much, much prefer FC now and will never go back to BS.
  • I joined a tri club organising coaching sessions and it made a huge difference to my FC.
  • I did one tri, a sprint one, and can only do breast stroke... I overtook 2 guys in the pool... and it was only 300 metres swim! Not sure how long I could keep up with it mind you, but I can swim just over a km in 30 mins breast stroke, without training or having to stop for a breather...
  • I used to be fairly good at breast stroke before I learnt FC, im pants at it now but often do a couple of BS lengths on my cool down or mid session just for some variety.
  • I have swum breast stroke of about 1500m at lunchtime, so in an hour.  I say 'about' because it's only a 25m pool and I keep losing count, but tended to go back to the last number I remember counting, so if anything it could be a bit further. I certainly counted to 60 lengths.  Now if this would make me a world class swimmer I must have my maths wrong, but I am fairly sure that this was it.

    And this is swimming continually, no touching the bottom, sides or ends.  At the end of each length I swim around.

    I have in the past swum 3000m in an outdoor pool, not in open water. So i do not have a problem with distance, but these were all breaststoke.


  • Easy way to find out......Get a mate and a canoe and find a lake.

    If thats your way to do things colin?

  • Colin - 1500m sounds about right - but thats slower than even me !

    I'd give FC a good try though - its a bugger to begin with and then you just make a break through and its not so bad.

  • TT,

     I don't think I'd bother with the canoist, far more 'on the edge'


  • it just takes a while to get used to it Colin, gotta stick at and have a few good drowning sessions, you soon learn to close you gob at the right time!

    On my first OW swim I tried (and nearly succeeded) at drinking the entire Irish sea.

    Unfortuantly its more technique, get a book and watch others (not too closelyimage) and get practising...

    Even Cougie who was once described as  human brick does it well now!

  • ...and please don't swim in open water on your own.  It's not clever.
  • I swam alongside a breast stroker at the Big Woody. He was able to do all the sighting for me and swim in a straight line and I followed and avoided my usual zig zagging.

    Got out of the last lake in 1.06 but couldnt help thinking that he had exerted himself more than me with my lazy FC technique     

  • Colin take some one with you.

    Water is the one place back up is hard to arrange when it goes wrong.

    Running and biking you have hard surface to get your wits together.

    water you can have 100fts of water you don't want to be in at the moment.

  • I been swimming for 30 odd years and coudl never get crawl right for more than 2 lengths. The swim golf thread REALLY helped me. Now a mile is not really an issue. And that is since April this year. And I am still rubbish. But it is easier now.
  • Dustboy - 30 odd years that's a long time..... aren't you tired? image
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