Our masters team did a butterfly clinic today with coaches, Josh and Kristen who are both accomplished swimmers. Butterfly, done correctly, is perhaps the most beautiful of the four competitive strokes and it's also the hardest to swim well. It requires an undulation of the body that seems hard to learn in later years. Part of the difficulty in learning to swim it well comes from the sheer effort required to swim it incorrectly. The stroke requires both arms to pull through the water simultaneously, the rhythm of the breathing is critical and the two pulse dolphin kick must also be integrated into the mix at just the right times. Until you master the timing you mostly get through the water by brute force. If you master the rhythm and undulation then your whole body creates forward thrust and the stroke becomes easier.
We started with a short, 600 yard warm up and then proceeded through a series of kicking drills. It can be frustrating to dolphin kick on your back with arms by your side. Compared to regular swimming you have the feeling that you're just not making much forward progress. But the kick and the timing of the kick (which should start at the shoulders and roll through your body to your legs) is critical to getting everything else right.
After the kicking we integrated the arms into the whole stroke with a series of sets that mixed up butterfly with freestyle and backstroke. Near the end we put on fins and did a series of 50 yard swims in which we dolphin kicked under water halfway down the pool then came up to the surface and swam butterfly with a fast arm turn over to the wall, turned and swam back down the pool (recovering) with a easy, loose freestyle.
What I've decided is that my weak spots, and the weak spots of many other swimmers who'd like to improve their butterfly stroke, are the power, or lack thereof, of my kick and my overall lack of flexibility. To get faster means I'll have to work on keeping my back, shoulders and hips flexible and I'll have to get by the pool on my own to get a lot more yards in doing the dolphin kick.
We learned and we swam. We all walked away with a good aerobic workout and some new ideas for improving our butterfly stroke. At the end of the workout the coaches brought out a crate full of PowerBar products and we stood around eating protein recovery bars and talking about technique.
A great way to start a Sunday morning. Not as a passive spectator but as an active participant.