At my stroke development class, we do butterfly maybe once or twice a term, and only for a small part of the lesson. Most of us, me included, have never learned it, and all of us struggle with it. I’m confident with my front crawl now, although there is still lots of room for improvement, and we’ve started doing a bit more back stroke at class and I feel like that’s starting to improve. I’m the only one at class who really likes back crawl; I love how long and stretched out I feel when I’m doing it. But, my butterfly remains nothing like a butterfly and more like a human-sized caterpillar thrashing itself into a watery grave.
I want to be able to swim a reasonable butterfly. Not for any lofty athletic achievement kind of reasons, but because it’s difficult and when it’s done well it impresses people, and I want to be one of those people showing off doing butterfly. I realised pretty quickly that the time we spend doing butterfly in class isn’t enough for me to learn it, so I asked about booking some one-to-one lessons with the Edinburgh Leisure swimming coaches. They don’t have much availability just now, but we managed to get an hour lesson today.
I was expecting it to be tough but I wasn’t expecting to have to sit on a cubicle bench for ten minutes afterwards before I could find the energy to get dried and dressed!
After a front crawl warm-up, I started by practising the dolphin kick, which I find quite difficult because I’m not very wiggly. After lots of kick, I added in arms, one at a time – one way with one arm, back with the other arm. I got a lot further even with just one arm than with just the kick – but butterfly kick is more about stabilisation than propulsion. Then we tried some catch-up arms with kick. Catch-up is a drill we do when we’re practising front crawl – you do one arm, leave it in front of you, then do the other arm, leave it there, do the first arm, and repeat, so that you’re always bringing your arms together in front. Couldn’t do it with butterfly arms at all; I just kept rolling onto my side and couldn’t keep myself stable at all.
So then we tried one arm at all, but trying to keep to the right rhythm. Kick the arm in, kick the arm out, kick the arm in, kick the arm out.That was much easier for me than catch-up so then we moved onto full stroke. Ahahahahaha.
It’s safe to say I won’t be butterflying to Olympics glory any time soon. But, coach did point out that I was too deep under the water and that was making it harder to get my arms out. Being a bit more level in the water made it easier. Once I was getting the hang of that a bit more, we did some work on how to move my arms under the water rather than just flailing them around, and then tried to add in breathing. I haven’t yet got to the point where I can breathe and keep going without losing the rhythm/my stroke/my last tiny grasp of what was going on, so I was going as far as I could without a breath, which obviously made me tire much more quickly.
Coach said I’d improved in the session, but I’m not too impressed by that. When you can’t do something at all, it’s really easy to improve in your first session. The difficult bit is going to be consolidating what we did today, and then improving on that. I think one-to-one coaching time will be in short supply over the next few months but if they can make time available, I’d love to do more. (Coach says she’ll work a bit more butterfly into class but the rest of the class will kill me if she does!) But, I did come out of the session feeling like butterfly isn’t completely impossible for me to learn. It will be difficult, and it will take a long time, and I will probably suffer in pain and hurt my shoulders and maybe my back, but I think it is something I can learn to do. And I want to.