In a post at the TI Discussion Forum, Alex asked: What conclusion do you draw when you can swim 1 MILE non-stop in Breaststroke…. but barely 100m in Freestyle? My guess is that your need the following to be able to swim 1 MILE in Freestyle:
1. Good balance (to minimize energy consumption per stroke cycle)
2. Good breathing technique (inhale, exhale)
3. Good breathing stamina = fitness
4. Good muscular endurance = fitness
I used to think I have the first but fall short in 2,3,4. But then, the breaststroke thought crossed my mind: “if I managed to have the exact same relaxed breathing pattern in FS as I have in Breaststroke… would I also be able to Swim a MILE in Freestyle?”
Or does the Freestyle stroke require more energy and therefore a higher fitness level than breaststroke?
All things being equal, front crawl should be more efficient and less strenuous than breaststroke. But all things aren’t always equal.
From 1947 to 2006 I could only swim breaststroke with any degree of ease. In 2006 I discovered Total Immersion and can now swim all four competitive strokes (butterfly only after a fashion but I can swim it for 50m or so). I have swum several 1500m races, very slowly even for a man of my age, but nevertheless I have finished and lived to tell the tale. A few years ago I could only have swum them breaststroke and my times would probably be even slower.
In my case it was mainly the flutter kick that was the obstacle and the first progress I made was when I learned that, for many unskilled swimmers, the kick created more drag than propulsion and I began to swim freestyle without a kick.
Breathing has never been a real problem for me but there is still plenty of work to be done on it. I still find it difficult to breathe on the ‘wrong’ side.
I think your fitness must be OK if you can easily swim a mile with breaststroke, therefore I conclude that your difficulty with freestyle is mainly with breathing and not fitness.
I suggest you do plenty of 25m and 50m repeats concentrating on easy breathing , making sure you’re exhaling while your face is in the water and not holding your breath at all. Then move to 75m repeats and 100m repeats and soon it will be easy.
Richard’s advice to Alex is excellent. Alex also had an inkling of where the solution should lie. Richard identified both difficulty with breathing and with the kick. Both ultimately depend on Balance. If you cannot swim freestyle with similar ease, and for similar distance, as breaststroke, it’s almost certainly because you’ve not yet truly mastered Balance. To overcome this limitation, devote most of your practice to Balance driils and whole-stroke with Balance thoughts.
Most of these should be relatively short repeats, of 25 to 50 yards. Even short repeats can be good preparation for longer swims if you can steadily reduce the rest intervals between them. Take the shortest rest that allows you to maintain a sense of ease and fluency – no struggle. But take enough rest to maintain easy and flow.
To practice gradually longer continuous swims, alternate freestyle with a length of breaststroke for ‘active rest.’
On the breaststroke lengths, focus on getting into a fully extended, full-streamlined (i.e. head hanging between shoulders) barely-submerged leisurely glide between strokes. Then take that sensation of balance (or support), minimal drag and calm, quiet movement back to freestyle.
Alternate 25FR with 25BR until you can swim 1000 meters or more, easily recovering from any sense of breathlessness that occurs during the 25FR during one length of BR.