Front crawl

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 11, 2008 7:15 PM GMT
    I admit it, I suck at the front crawl.

    This has long been the case. I can handle a 50m of it pretty fast (I'm a sprinter by nature), but out somewhere in the 150m to 200m range, even if I'm trying to go slow, I get exhausted. Yet for a variety of reasons, I can go for more than a mile in the breaststroke without getting winded.

    Enter the problem: I'm toying with the idea of trying a sprint triathlon next summer. There's one right by my house where the swimming leg is 400m, with a 16k bike ride and a 5k run. I've got a year to work on it (though swimming's obviously more fun in the summer than in the winter in Michigan), so what would you guys suggest as the best way to improve my front crawl endurance? Is there some particularly frequency at which I should be swimming? Is it normal that I find I can't really swim well after attempting to lift weights, and that if I try to deal with weights shortly after I swim I'm rather pathetically weak?
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    Jun 11, 2008 7:29 PM GMT
    For the record, I've got a couple of ideas, but I'm not sure what to make of them:

    1) Swim 400m however I need to combined between the front crawl and the breast stroke. Work on gradually increasing the percentage of that which is done as front crawl.

    2) Break the stroke into its component parts. A kickboard would allow me to try that distance with just the leg power; one of the styrofoam floaters you hold between your legs would let me do the same for the stroke portion. Find out where my weakness lies (If, indeed, it's in one of these two, and not as I fear it might be in the energy required to keep me at the surface. I don't float as well as most people do) and work on it then.

    3) Put off worrying about whether I'm doing the front crawl or the breast stroke. The time differential between the two at 400m is probably significantly less than the time differential between a good bike or run time and what I'm currently capable of. As my overall conditioning improves from getting faster at those two, I may find I can handle longer bouts of the front crawl anyway.
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    Jun 11, 2008 8:02 PM GMT
    I think your second point is the strongest. I assume you think that breast stroke is less difficult than freestyle. This is not true, especially since you will use muscles in breast stroke kick that you may need on your bike and run legs. Free is your fastest and most efficient way to go. But you will need a few breast strokes in there if this is an open water swim.

    Focus on technique. In swimming it is everything. Really get that kick down with good board work. Coaches used to not do a lot of kick work because of the time it would take from piling on the yardage. Now they are reverting more to strengthening that part of the stroke.

    Weights are important, but I would try using bands or surgical tubing. You can simulate the resistance and technique you do in the pool and build endurance rather than size.

    Do interval training to get that heart rate up and then start to buildon distance. If you are going to successfully swim a 400, you will need to be able to swim at least an 800 straight as a slower pace. You can also just do some T20s, which is swimming as far as you can for 20 mins. you will find that you are able to build upon your past distance.

    Use combo training. swim and then jump right on your bike during workouts. It will help you in your muscle transition from swimming to biking. Same works for the other transition.

    DFinally, figure out a pace. You don't want to go out too hard and then die. If it is an open water swim, get out ahead and then settle into a pace. Ideally, you wnt to stay steady or even get faster and faster. With swimming above 400, it is important to have a good pace and a good warm up.
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    Jun 11, 2008 8:26 PM GMT
    While the advice given above is well worth heeding, you must realize how worthless the swimming portion of any triathlon is. Proportionally, the swimming part only matters in a race if your skill level in swimming is at or above drowning level.

    What I'm trying to say is that you should focus on the other portions of your race first, but if you must...

    My best advice for you is to learn how to do a 400M swim efficiently while not making yourself tired. Also, don't consider the breast stroke. I'm guessing the 400M is in open water, with no grabbing rules (people will grab you and use you as propellant). Easier to do on someone doing breast stroke.

    If you want to improve your endurance with swimming, its generally best to just swim swim swim. However, pull-ups are something all swimmers should excel at. I was able to do 25 in a row at some point in time during my senior year, you should aim for somewhere in the 10's to be able to up your endurance.

  • Bunjamon

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    Jun 11, 2008 8:30 PM GMT
    Working with pull buoys and kickboards is a good idea. Your frustration about lifting a lot of weights but sucking at freestyle is valid, because there are muscles that can only be worked in the pool. And as DJBens said, form is everything in swimming. Sure, muscles give you extra propulsion in the water, but they're useless if you're fighting your own wake, aren't streamline, and don't know how to breathe properly. Youtube has some excellent videos on swimming form, so look them up.

    If you've got a year to train, you should be fine. Besides, 400m is practically nothing as far as distance swimming goes. Just put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything! Best of luck!
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    Jun 11, 2008 8:45 PM GMT
    I think your problem with crawl is probably technique. Try swimming with a pull buoy, and if this makes a big difference, your hips and legs are too low. Press down with your chest and look at the bottom of the pool while you swim to improve your position. Many triathletes always swim with in a wetsuit, regardless of the water temperature, because it increases their buoyancy and cuts down on drag. A pull buoy basically gives you the same effect. Most triathletes drag their legs or use a two beat kick to save their legs. Good body position allows you to do this, but poor swimmers often are dependent on wetsuits. Many couldn't make it through the swim without one.
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    Jun 11, 2008 8:54 PM GMT
    Well, as I don't have a wetsuit, I can't be dependent on one yet. But it's good to know that it would increase my bouyancy if I were to get one.

    To answer earlier points: yes, I find breast stroke far easier than the front crawl. I know that mechanically the front crawl is the most efficient and the fastest, which is why people pick it when doing freestyle, but I've always found breast stroke easier. Which is why when I used to be on a swim team I was generally competing in breast stroke. It was the one stroke where I didn't feel I was expending energy merely to stay on the surface. But, it's a point that I hadn't considered that the muscles for that one might be the same ones taxed in the run and the bike portions, and thus I should avoid relying on it for the swim leg even if I would find it much less tiring, let alone for the timing issues.

    Also, it's not that I can actually lift all that much weight even when I haven't been swimming. My point was more that if I do swim, I suddenly can barely lift anything, and that if I try to lift first I tire out extremely quickly in the water. I've come to the realization that I can't both swim and lift in the same trip to the gym; I was curious if other people have found that to be the case as well. Obviously, that's going to alter how I go about training.
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    Jun 11, 2008 10:25 PM GMT
    I find the fact that you are unable to swim 400 meters indicative of poor swimming technique. Also, the fact that this short distance tires you out so much also indicates to me poor technique. You should exert no more energy in swimming 400 meters than you exert in running one mile.

    My suggestion would be to go to a decent swimming teacher/coach for a few training sessions. Maybe your local YMCA offers adult swim lessons or has a Masters swim team. The teacher/coach would be able to look at your stroke and tell you right away what changes you need to make. (Note: you want someone who has experience as a coach or instructor. Someone who is an excellent swimmer may not be qualified to tell you what you are doing wrong with your stroke.)

    Like in so many other sports, having good instruction and training is extremely important in swimming. I swam competitively in high school and college and then spent a few years as a swimming instructor and team coach. If I could see you swim I'd be able to double your swimming efficiency and endurance in just a couple of sessions. So would any other competent instructor or coach.
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    Jun 11, 2008 10:59 PM GMT
    Get some coaching. The idea behind swimming is to learn technique so that you are using very little energy to compensate for other things (wasted hand motion, sinking body position, etc.).

    My favorite visualization while swimming crawl is to ride a broom stick (I'm not a witch) that extends the length of my body from my chin to my navel to my crotch. All through the propulsion, the hips are rotating the body as it dances around the broom stick and positions the body for pull from the lats.

    There are some good videos available from USMS (United States Masters Swimming). Just keep swimming regularly and your endurance will increase by default, but improve the technique and performance increases exponentially with less fatigue during the swim. Good luck. Why would anyone ever want to do a triathlon?