Different strokes

by Andrew Malinak

Friday evening, in that brief period just after quitting time and just before the weekend begins, I attend my one organized swim practice of the week. Coach, team, the whole shebang. This week, it so happened we were given a set I’ve come to dread. It was a set that wasn’t all freestyle. Gulp.

In a past life, I was all about the IM and fancied myself a decent butterfly-er. Now, frequently pool-less, I am not and do not. But the four strokes still do have their time and place, which is something I need to remind myself every time I am encouraged to do different strokes at practice.

Here they are, in reverse IM order:

Freestyle: Specifically, front crawl. This is what one does when one wants to go someplace. Unless you are in absolutely no rush to get anywhere, or your name is Vicki or Sylvain, freestyle.

Breaststroke: aka breastroke. Want to see where your headed? Swimming through something nasty and don’t want your face in it? Just need to shake out those legs a bit? Then breaststroke is for you. If you’re at all like me, you certainly do not chose this stroke because you are trying to get somewhere quickly. It is best left for when trying to spot the next orange dot or silhouetted tree through foggy goggles.

Backstroke: The only acceptable time to swim on your back is when you are swimming under a bridge. At practice on Friday, after seventy-five yards of facing wrong-side-up, all I could think was; this set is stupid, no bridge is one hundred yards wide. As a bonus, admiring the skyward girders and trusses means you’ll miss those gloomy subaqueous shadows that reside beneath bridges.

Butterfly: Want to show off a little? Butterfly is a great way to do it. Yeah, I just swam 10k…and I can still do this!

Again today, I was subjected to an IM set. It was not hard and we never had to do more than twenty-five yards of any one stroke at a time. It gave me time to reflect. Maybe mixing it up every so often has its benefits, like getting my two arms back in sync while and working a few neglected muscles. But at what cost? Most of the time I’d rather just get through my workout and on to waffles.