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Do I continue to prioritse Front Crawl over Breaststroke

YKWYKW ✭✭✭

Hello Forum,

It's been a while since I posted. To give some background I started learning to swim properly (previously could only 1 length) in June. I have been taking one 1-2-1 lesson and also doing 1 session by myself on most weeks. After 4-5 my breaststroke (which previously I could not do) seemed to come along nicely, it "clicked".

However I have been trying to improve my front crawl which is a mess. So rather than progressing the breaststroke too much I have been trying to improve the front crawl - to the point where I have  missed other sessions (running or cycling) to ensure I get my 2 swim sessions in per week. 20 lessons later I am not much better than I was at lesson 5. I have read countless articles, watched huge amounts of videos on swimming technique and even tried 4-5 different swim teachers. Nothing has helped. My technique is all wrong, it reminds me of when learning to drive and feeling like there isn't enough time to do evyerthing. 

I originally wanted to do a sprint tri (400m swim) in September, that date has come and gone and now I am looking at early next year (pool based tri by the way). I have stopped my lessons for the year (financial reasons) and am now wondering how to proceed.

I do feel that if I had continued with my breaststroke I would be able to do the 400m in 10-12 minutes which I would have taken for the Sprint Tri. But "we are where we are".

Everyone I speak to, seems to say either:

a. breaststroke is fine, but space and kicking other people can be a real issue - you should really learn the front crawl 

b. you should learn front crawl

 

Do I now:

1. Continue with trying to learn front crawl and possible put the April date in jeapordy

or

2. Accept that my first one(+) tri's will be Breaststroke, accept it and practice more on that.

«1

Comments

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    Have you tried another instructor?

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    Pool based tris are quite claustrophobic with often 4 people per lane.

     

    My suggestion is the same I would take of learning anything if after all this time you aren't progressing find someone new to teach you. 

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    YKWYKW ✭✭✭

    I have had

    10 lessons with Teacher #1.

    5 with Teacher #2

    2 a piece with Teachers #3, #4, and #5

     

     

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    Can I ask what you're struggling with? I had private lessons which managed to get me from non-crawler to less than 2 lengths and then I had to "play with my technique o get any further. 2 years down the line I can swim front crawl, but I'm struggling to go faster (working on that now with a different coach). Perhaps if you can tell us more about what you think the problem is we might suggest solutions - mine was initially getting my breathing out right (timing and intensity) and overusing my legs.

    I'd persevere with the crawl if you can, but book a tri anyway - you can always start  using front crawl and switch to breast stroke when you get tired - don't let your stroke stop you.

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    Short answer - do what suits you image

    (Read on for longer answer if you still want to learn front crawl...)

    1) I'm surprised at the number of instructors you've had over a relatively low number of lessons, especially instructors #3, #4, and #5.  Have you given them enough time, both to assess you and then refine your technique?

    2)  You don't say what you're finding difficult; you say 'my technique is all wrong'.  How do you know?  Who's telling you this or are you going by feel? Is it your breathing?  Is it kicking? Are you perhaps swimming too fast and therefore sacrificing technique for speed?

    3)  You also say 'there isn't enough time to do everything'.  Are you perhaps trying to resolve all issues at the same time (subject to your answer to 2) above)?

    4) Most people would recommend at least 3 sessions a week to see true progress so are you training enough in the first place?

    I am raising these as hypothetical questions rather than make any criticism of your original post/actions so please don't be offended at my approach

    For me I find progress in swimming can be slow and also stop/start.  I can work at a particular technique for weeks (and I mean weeks) and then one day it clicks.  A couple of weeks later it is embedded as muscle memory and I move onto correcting something else.  Then I can feel as if I am plateauing until I reach the next improvement and it becomes muscle memory.  Rinse and repeat as necessary

    For example (going back to 2) and 3) above), I wouldn't work on kicking, breathing and stroking all at the same time.  I would perhaps work on my stroke for 5/6 weeks and once I was comfortable there had been progress, I would look to improve my kick a little

    If you're happy to, post a little bit more about what your current abilities/difficulties are and I am sure others will give their views and opinions and offer whatever advice they can.  If you don't want to do that, feel free to PM me and we can talk offline. 

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    My tuppence worth

     

    2 sessions a week is not enough to embed a good technique/learn from
    3-4 swim sessions a week of 30 mins or so practising what you have learnt will serve you better.
    An average 400m time of about 7 mins is what you will be upgainst in your average tri

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    M...eldy wrote (see)

    My tuppence worth

     

    .
    An average 400m time of about 7 mins is what you will be upgainst in your average tri

    Thats why I never do sprints..

    It does depend on your problem.....My pool swimming is crap as I cant keep my legs up.so i gave up on that and swim with a pool buoy so I have one less thing to think about.....I had a one to one and they gave me 3 things to focus on and to improve......

    Its just a matter with sticking to it.......

    when you say you are not improving ... does that mean you still struggle with a length....

     try going every day for a fortnight..the constant repetition will improve your swimming no doubt

     

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    Surely the improvement will come when you've practiced outside of the lesson. It sounds like at least 50% of your swimming is the lesson itself. There is probably little point in having another lesson until you've had time to practice what you've learnt. 

    You're bound to be taking on lots of information in the lesson, making it difficult to relax. I like the Fairy's advice of sticking to improving one thing at time until it clicks. I'd apply that to the lesson, I'd want to have at least 3 sessions on my own before going back for another lesson. 

     

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    YKWYKW ✭✭✭

    Thank you for all the replies .. I will provide some answers to the questions image

    The responses can be categorised as:

    1. Number of lessons/teachers
    2. Problems during breaststroke
    3. Number/Frequency of Lessons/Training Schedule


    1.)

    I originally rang my two local pool for one-2-one lessons, I rang them every twice weekly for 3-4 weeks - each time it was an teacher will call you back and never did. After 2 months of not getting replies I signed up for regular Adult lessons at the "Intermediate 1" level. I have no fear of the water, the level below this was for non-swimmers to get used to water and not be scared. Intermediate 2 was pitched as stroke improvers who can comfortably swim lengths.

    Anyway, when I turned up for lessons I was the only person in the class - so effectively I was getting one-to-one teaching (from the same people who failed to call me back) but as a regular class price. This started around June, after approx 6 lessons however in July the teacher went off work for the summer holidays. During July to September they drafted in additional "supply-teachers" to cover the gap. I found this quite helpful as different people were looking at my front crawl, and making different suggestions. Hence the 2-3 lessons.


    2.)
    What I find difficult ... ha ha - here goes.

    I see-saw in the water, I find the breathing difficult. I have tried bi-lateral breathing, breathing every 2 and 4 strokes and 2 seems to be the only one that allows me to do a full length. My breathing is wrong, i.e. my head comes too far out of the water. Apparently when you swim faster/efficient there is a bow wave created which allows a pocket to breath in - I don't have this, so I raise my head and then my legs sink and they never really recover.

    The teachers have suggested a fair few points in this regard, only turning head, swivelling upper body, looking at 3'o'clock, looking at 5'o'clock and I struggle with it. The moment I think about my breathing something else happens i.e. my legs stop kicking, or they start sinking, or I raise my head too much -normally all of the above. I even forget to breath often, my head will turn and not breath or I will take on water, and everything goes to pot.

    I have swam front crawl face down (no breathing) for about half a length with the technique they want, body position straight, kicking from hips, feet slightly floppy, breaking surface every few kicks, pulling with arms way down to hips and in a S-shape - but I can't do all of that WITH the breathing. I asked if I could use a breather/pipe thing so I can work on technique and add the breathing after but it's not permitted in the pool.

    Apparently my pool technique means I get tired quickly too, so I can swim a length but then I will need a breather.


    Not sure if that accurately explains it. In contrast, my breaststroke. I originally started breathing through my nose, and then from my mouth for comfortable but most of the time I am not thinking about it - it just happens.

     

     

    3.)
    I wouldn't really call myself particular fit, I am a middle-to-slow runner. Typical 10K times are 60-65 minutes. I have ran a couple of HM's this year.

    My current training schedule is similar to the below:

    Monday : 4-5 mile steady run
    Tuesday : Swim (normally 25m in 35 seconds and 15 second break) x16 = 400m image
    Wednesday: Day Off
    Thursday: Swim Lesson (lunchtime) and Run Club in evening (normally 500m/1k laps x5-8)
    Friday: 10-15 mile bike ride
    Saturday: 5k run if possible.
    Sunday - Day Off.

    My weekends are very busy. I am only home approx 1 weekend in 5/6 so most of my training is during the week.

    To get all of the above in, I leave at 5.30 and normally train through lunch hour. If something needs to be added, will mean something else needs to be dropped

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    I know lots dont like pullbuoys.....but i would use one to keep you in position so that you can get used to the breathing and stroke....when you have that sussed remove the pullbuoy

     

    dont give up....I never kick my legs...I cant keep my legs up without a pullbuoy or wetsuit.... I cant bilateral breathe.......I cant do any crawl without a noseclip .... 

     

    But I have done numerous Ironman events with all my swim times being well within the cutoffs

     

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    I struggled with swimming initially and still do compared to running and cycling. My major problem was not relaxing and kicking too hard to keep moving.

    My technique and body position, breathing and all that other stuff wasn't great either but the starting point was relaxing and not kicking too much. At least then I could breathe and not panic.

    Once I slowed down and relaxed I started to improve and I could do more than a couple of lengths without gasping for air. 

    It won't be fitness that's stopping you, I was running 36 minute 10ks and still struggling to breathe after two lengths.

  • Options
    As I said in the other thread - stop kicking like Seren says too.



    You'll not be as much out of breath and can focus on the stroke, Sorted.
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    like others have said "stop kicking"

    If you need a breather after each length, you are trying to swim to fast

     

    When I started I couldn't put my face in the water as I couldn't breath, I had to slow it all down and I mean right down, once I got the breathing right I found I could swim for many lengths before I needed a rest

    DON'T GIVE UP

     

    It will happen, it just takes some time for some of us

     

     

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    With regards to your breathing - I had the same problem. A few things helped me are.

    1) make sure you breathe out fully whilst your mouth is still underwater - this makes sure you are ready to take your breathe as soon as air is available.

    2) I only every breathe on one side and my crawl is poorer for it. But I took the time to improve this way first and now I'm learning to breathe on the other side too.

    3) As I roll to take your breathe, I look at about "2 o'clock" (midnight being straight on, 6 being straight back) to find my sweet spot for the bow-wave you talk about. I think it varies slightly for everyone so start by swimming slowly adjusting your position until you find what works for you, then speed up.

    For the legs - initially I stopped using them altogether as I over kicked and knackered myself out. I just let them trail behind using them for balance. Again, now I use a slight flutter kick for balance but not for propulsion.

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    This sounds really familiar with me learning Front Crawl this year after only being strong with breast stroke, I swam first length crudely within my first hr lesson then had OH in hysterics at me practising the next day -I think your description of see sawing sums it up.  Still takes me half a dozen lengths to relax with breathing and get comfortable, can go 6 strokes on push off then every 2 or 4 depending on how I'm concentrating.

    What really helped me was my teacher telling me to push off and float across the pool keeping still as long as possible.  This showed my body was in line and legs up.  Then I was told to keep legs still and concentrate on my neck being in line with my spine which made it feel like tipping forwards and a bit weird (think tucking chin in) This did help with breathing and helps me loads and feels good when its right.  Still got a long way to go though.

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    second what Jan77 says - my coach says the same. Need to relax in the water, feel that you can float, then swim from that point. 

     

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    As the other guys have said - from your description, and the times you say you're doing for 25m reps - priorities are to 1. slow down and 2. relax.

    1. Don't stop kicking entirely, unless you take Seren's advice and use a pullbuoy between your legs. You need to kick slightly (SLIGHTLY) to stay level on the surface and keep your hips up. However, you should aim to put maybe 10% of the effort into your leg kick compared to what you're doing now. I think Seren's idea of a pullbuoy is a good one, as you can effectively forget about anything to do with your legs once you have one.

    2. Now you aren't wasting all your energy in leg kick, the priority is to relax and breathe. Forget about the bow wave stuff, that'll just make things difficult. Breathe out while your head is under water. When you breathe in (take one whenever is comfortable for now) aim to turn your whole body with your head in line, until your head comes far enough out of the water to allow you to comfortably take a breath. Dont rush turning back level. Stay on your side as long as you need to take a breath.

    3. Focus on 1 and 2 and not on time. If you do 1 and 2 properly and slowly, I'd expect your 25m time to end up closer to 60s to begin with. Try going as slowly as you possibly can. That may mean you feel like you aren't moving forward at times, while you rotate and take a nice big breath - but go slow.

    Practice the above until it "clicks" and becomes more natural and you can do more than one length continuously. Once you're slow, relaxed, and breathing, then you can think about technique (bow wave breathing, arm position, leg kick, etc.)

    Good luck - hope all the advice helps. It's hard to teach over the internet without seeing you swim! image

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    I don't understand the 'looking at 3 o'clock' to find the bow wave malarkey image

    Imagine you have a skewer going right through your body from top to bottom.  When you turn to breath, keep this straight line and rotate your whole body including head, but your head/neck remain in this straight line

    Only rotate as far enough as to see the top edge of the pool.  Or imagine someone walking poolside and you're looking at their ankles.  That's as far as you need to rotate to breath

    If you cannot get enough breath in with your head in the correct position and only rotating that far then you are going too fast and need to slow your kicking and stroking right down

    As has been said above, you need to be going on your own for a couple of sessions, but don't gt disheartened.  Keep at it and it will click and then you can move on to refine another technique

    But most of all, RELAX

    Let us know how you get on image

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    The Silent Assassin wrote (see)

    like others have said "stop kicking"

    If you need a breather after each length, you are trying to swim to fast

     

    When I started I couldn't put my face in the water as I couldn't breath, I had to slow it all down and I mean right down, once I got the breathing right I found I could swim for many lengths before I needed a rest

    DON'T GIVE UP

     

    It will happen, it just takes some time for some of us

     

     

    How did you eventually learn to breath under water?

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    I think this thread has about a 50% hit rate of using breath and breathe correctly image

     

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    Hello. I'm a shit swimmer, and I agree with the last few bits of advice about kicking a bit (I'm especially shit at this, due to having very stiff ankles from all the running) and pretending there is a skewer through the top of your head. However, how I learnt to do the breathing a bit better (i.e. without lifting my head out of the water and sinking my pathetically-kicking legs even further) was to use a float. My local pool doesn't allow fins or snorkels in the public swimming sessions, but you can have a normal float. Try holding it straight out in front of you and putting your face in the water. Then you can kick slowly across the pool while breathing to either side, from the side of your mouth and while imagining  your invisible skewer. If anything my arms are even more shit than my legs, so it's useful not to have to think about them.

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    Swimming is probably the most sensitive to poor form and technique of any of the three disciplines and therefore takes time!

    As others have said, slow down, relax and concentrate on one thing at a time!

    If you can join a masters club then do so, I think for learning purposes fins are far superior to a pull buoy and you would be able to use them at masters.

    By way of encouragement 7years ago I was where you are, this year I broke the hour for the IM swim!

    and of course Don't Give UP!

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    YKWYKW ✭✭✭

    Thank you for the suggestions all - the repsonse has been really helpful.

     

    I thought my 35 seconds or so for 25metres was slow enough but I will do suggested and get a pullbouy and try and go even slower - and concentrate on technique.

    I like the skewer (kebab) analogy and will try that too. 

    And finally will try bi-lateral breathing once more. Maybe going slower will help with that too. So much to try.

    I did use my heart rate monitor for swimming and I was peaking at 155 bpm. Obviously there may be a loss of accuracy. My running max is about 185 and cycling max is about 160-170 - so it does seem like my heart it trying it's hardest - might lend itself to the "going too fast" camp

     

    BTW cougie  our pictures seem very similar. 

     

     

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    I only do around 30 -35 seconds for 25m and think that I have a steady pace, but have managed 3.8km in 1 hour 43 minutes. I only swim once a week at present and not too worried about getting much faster.

    Any swimming drills are done much slower as I need to concentrate.

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    YKW wrote (see)

    Thank you for the suggestions all - the repsonse has been really helpful.

     

    I thought my 35 seconds or so for 25metres was slow enough but I will do suggested and get a pullbouy and try and go even slower - and concentrate on technique.

    I like the skewer (kebab) analogy and will try that too. 

    And finally will try bi-lateral breathing once more. Maybe going slower will help with that too. So much to try.

    I did use my heart rate monitor for swimming and I was peaking at 155 bpm. Obviously there may be a loss of accuracy. My running max is about 185 and cycling max is about 160-170 - so it does seem like my heart it trying it's hardest - might lend itself to the "going too fast" camp

     

    BTW cougie  our pictures seem very similar. 

     

     

    The point is that you should be going as slow as required to perfect the technique, no faster. At the very start of learning front crawl, this means very very slowly.

    Your heart rate at this stage is largely irrelevant - you should be thinking more along the lines of trying to go slowly enough that your heart rate isn't any higher than it would be if you were just walking along a path - thats how slow, easy and relaxed it should be.

    Once you get used to the timing of your arms, the rotation of the body, the slow leg-kick, then and only then can you start building pace and thinking about heart rate. You might find that during that process it just "clicks" like others have said. That's your cue to think about going quicker, not before.

    One final thing that I'm not sure has been mentioned - and I know it's difficult at this stage - try not to get too frustrated. Try to enjoy yourself as it'll make learning and training a whole lot easier and more likely to happen! image

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    You've had a lot of responses and a lot of information, so I'll try not to just pile a load more on, but I have two things to say:

    1. The S shape pull is extremely outdated. No modern teachers teach that anymore. If your teachers are teaching this, find a new teacher. Ideally one who understands triathlon (see point 2).

    2. This is the most important.... have you ever done a triathlon? Reading your original post, I'm not 100% sure, but I think that you haven't done one yet? So, you don't actually know if you like triathlon yet, or if you just like a variety of training. My advice would be to do a triathlon with whatever stroke you are most comfortable with, and experience the whole race and see if you enjoy it. The reason I think this is critical is because triathlon is not swimming and cycling and running, it's swim-bike-run. As a result, triathlon swimming is different to pure swimming - there are technique differences and training differences, and you will have to learn crawl in order to be successful. If you decide that triathlon isnt actually for you, but you like swimming a couple of times a week, then learning crawl is less critical, you can use whatever stroke you like best. 

    Otherwise, I agree with the majority of the advice above.

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    YKWYKW ✭✭✭
    DaylightR wrote (see)
    YKW wrote (see)

    Thank you for the suggestions all - the repsonse has been really helpful.

     

    I thought my 35 seconds or so for 25metres was slow enough but I will do suggested and get a pullbouy and try and go even slower - and concentrate on technique.

    I like the skewer (kebab) analogy and will try that too. 

    And finally will try bi-lateral breathing once more. Maybe going slower will help with that too. So much to try.

    I did use my heart rate monitor for swimming and I was peaking at 155 bpm. Obviously there may be a loss of accuracy. My running max is about 185 and cycling max is about 160-170 - so it does seem like my heart it trying it's hardest - might lend itself to the "going too fast" camp

     

    BTW cougie  our pictures seem very similar. 

     

     

    The point is that you should be going as slow as required to perfect the technique, no faster. At the very start of learning front crawl, this means very very slowly.

    Your heart rate at this stage is largely irrelevant - you should be thinking more along the lines of trying to go slowly enough that your heart rate isn't any higher than it would be if you were just walking along a path - thats how slow, easy and relaxed it should be.

    Once you get used to the timing of your arms, the rotation of the body, the slow leg-kick, then and only then can you start building pace and thinking about heart rate. You might find that during that process it just "clicks" like others have said. That's your cue to think about going quicker, not before.

    One final thing that I'm not sure has been mentioned - and I know it's difficult at this stage - try not to get too frustrated. Try to enjoy yourself as it'll make learning and training a whole lot easier and more likely to happen! image

     

    That's very useful to know - In that case I am definitely going too fast, as I am having to stop and take a breather - I will slow it down to the point that you describe but will probably sink first!

    @flyaway

    1. Currently I am inbetween teachers so will have a look to find someone who does tri-specific training

     

    2. You are right, I have not done a tri before but I want to do one. I actually want to start with a sprint, but will probably only go up to an olympic (assuming of course I can) ... I do take your point on board .. I might hate it but I have ordered a tri suit and need to at least try once. 

     

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    The skewer is in interesting metaphor. I make sure that when my head is in the water I'm looking straight down at the bottom of the pool and resist the urge to look forward. and exhale in a long slow breath or even short bursts so that you only fully exhale just before you turn to inhale. If I exhale too quickly the urge to lift my head too soon to inhale is quite strong.
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    You could of course, take up Duathlon.

    image 

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    YKW wrote (see)

    That's very useful to know - In that case I am definitely going too fast, as I am having to stop and take a breather - I will slow it down to the point that you describe but will probably sink first!

     

     

    Which is why Seren's suggestion of using a pull buoy between the legs is a good one image. You can almost forget about sinking while you focus on arms, rotation, breathing, and relaxing - even to the point of doing a single arm stroke then glide.....one arm stroke and glide... etc.

    If there are no pull buoys available you can try using your thighs to clamp a standard pool float between your legs instead, but it's more difficult.

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