Should an old dog learn new tricks?

dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member

I was never a competitive swimmer growing up, so never learned how to swim butterfly, and can't actually dolphin kick to save my life.

I am butterfly-curious though, and comments in a now closed thread have me wondering if it would be worth the investment to learn it from a training perspective? No desire to be an elite anything, but do want to keep doing marathon OWS for as long as possible.

I mean I probably should learn to flip turn first, but since I barely have time to get into a pool at the moment (the joy of kids) I need to distract myself with these sorts of important questions. - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer



  • If you're curious, go for it!

    It is a timing-dependent and coordination-heavy stroke, so if you feel like it takes you awhile.... yep. it might.

    When I was training for my butterfly curious 200 IM and then 100 FL explorations, I was in the best shape every. IT's a whole body stroke, that's for sure.

    I've settled on, I learned fly as an adult, and I can swim it legally. My curiosity has been satisfied.

    It really is great breath control work, too.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    "butterfly-curious" Love this.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • musclewhale89musclewhale89 Alberta, CanadaMember

    I read the aforementioned thread and was curious about this as well. I understand the benefits of doing breast stroke and back stroke but doing butterfly has always been that thing I've always avoided. Are there benefits from butterfly that I am missing out on?

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    DO IT!! Butterfly is a beautiful stroke. Yes, there is some strength involved to go far and fast. But it is a technique stroke first and foremost. Start with just working on the kick using a kick board and get that where it's feeling solid. Then progress to learning a one-arm fly. A fun drill after you get those basics is to do a one-arm fly alternating a few strokes on one side and then a few on the other. Tons of videos showing how to learn this so just watch a bunch of them to get the general idea. But I can't stress enough to start with just doing kicks. The butterfly motion is a whole body motion. As close to a fish as a human will ever get.

    Just take gradual steps. Don't rush it until you have the technique. The one arm fly will help you learn the rhythm. Then start trying both arms for a stroke. So left, left, both, right, right, both. Work on the technique and the rhythm and get that down. Don't worry about how far you go. There are lots of little tips for finding that motion and learning it. Far too many to write in a quick post.

    There are so many benefits to being able to do a serviceable butterfly. You can now throw IM sets into your workout. Butterfly makes you work even when you don't feel like it. People will watch you swim butterfly and be impressed when you can do a lovely smooth length. You don't have to tell them that that's all you've got in the tank. But best of all, if you see some oxen that you don't want to contend with, you can knock out a length of butterfly and they might be intimidated enough that they will pick another lane and you can have a lane all to yourself... well until some college kid shows up and smokes you. :p

  • ruthruth New Jersey, USAMember

    I like doing fly with fins as a regular part of swimming, and without, as a treat.

    Plus, if you learn how to do butterfly, then it opens up a whole world of potential butterfly crossing records, if you ever change your mind and decide to go elite 😜

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    @ruth said:
    I like doing fly with fins as a regular part of swimming, and without, as a treat.

    Oh yes. I totally forgot about fins. Yes definitely! They help so much with learning the overall feel of the stroke.

  • abeabe australiaMember

    Go for it - I was a national breastroke swimmer so butterfly was foreign to me got made to do 30x50m on 60seconds so it scared me of and I was super uncoordinated

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    You can't possibly be uncoordinated if you are able to swim breaststroke at that level. That stroke is an absolute mystery to me.

  • abeabe australiaMember

    Haha that is the problem when you do breastroke you suck at everything else - so wish i had been a proper freestyler

  • @abe said:
    Haha that is the problem when you do breastroke you suck at everything else - so wish i had been a proper freestyler

    We had a teammate in college who was a phenomenal breast stroker. When the team did kicking drills, and he was forced to kick freestyle..... he would actually go backwards, he was so specialized. By the time he was a senior, though, they got him where he could go forward on those kicking drills.

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    @dc_in_sf, DOOOOO EEEEEEEEEET! It's so satisfying. I'm an adult-onset turtle and I find my relatively-newly-acquired butterfly skills bring so much freshness and variety into my practices.
    And, flip turns are just an incredible useful skill in the pool. They make workouts more efficient and can streamline the situation when circle swimming with people of varying speeds (this is my catastrophe-prevention lifeguard persona speaking.)

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