The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Why Are There Different Strokes for Different Folks?

As I mentioned before, I joined a gym, and the main purpose of joining was to be able to swim to my heart's content. When I joined, I got two free sessons with a personal trainer, and I elected to do my personal training in the pool. At my second session, we did different swim strokes. The one that I found particularly confusing was the side stroke. I've swam sideways here and there for as long as I can remember. My version of the side stroke involves basically doing the doggy paddle at a slant. Little did I know that I was supposed to be scissoring my legs in rhythm with my arms, and oh my, it was confusing.

Today I was at the pool, just sort of floating around (it's not a pool with lanes for doing laps), and I tried half-heartedly to do the leg scissor thing of the side stroke, just for fun. I still can't really get it all to work out right. And it got me thinking: why are there different swimming strokes anyway? Why isn't there just the best one/fastest one? I assume that would be free style.

Actually, I'm willing to make room for two types of swim strokes. I'll allow the doggy paddle, too. That's what kids (and most grown-ups) do naturally. But do we really need the side stroke? The back stroke? The breast stroke? The butterfly? And who came up with these? Especially the butterfly. That is the most bizarre looking mode of swimming ever. What purpose does it possibly serve?

Think about it. Some guy (or woman) had to come up with the butterfly. First, I'm going to hoist my shoulders up out of the water, then pull my arms around and dunk my head under the water, and at the same time, I'm going to throw my ass in the air, then slam my crotch down into the water, throwing my head back up to start the process all over again. Yeah! That's cool! It just baffles me. I can sort of see the side stroke and the back stroke being created. Hey, let me see how fast I can go swimming sideways (or on my back). But the butterfly? Why, dear lord, why?

But even the side stroke and the back stroke are a bit confusing. Or their world wide acceptance is, at least. I mean, you do see people running sideways in the Olympics? Or backwards? And why not? It doesn't make sense. The goal is to be the fastest. PERIOD. Not the fastest going sideways or the fastest going backwards. I'm sure some idiots out there have had running races where people ran sideways or backwards, but it's just for a joke. These aren't events sanctioned by the NCAA. So how did swimming work all these wacky ways of swimming into local and international events?

Just curious.


  • You don't see running sideways races, but you do get walking races. They are the most pointless thing in the world. As you say, the aim is to be the fastest, so WHY WALK, MORONS?!

    By Anonymous Fyse, at 9:14 PM, June 20, 2005  

  • I was going to comment about the Olympic walking too - because monitors follow the walkers to ensure that they don't walk too quickly or lift their feet too high (or it might be considered - gasp - running!).

    I have to stick with the back stroke though, it's more comfortable for me and I don't have the water in my face all the time that way.

    By Blogger Diva, at 11:24 PM, June 20, 2005  

  • What about diving? Wait. Nevermind.

    By Blogger Dan, at 2:02 PM, June 21, 2005  

  • what do you mean they're not sanctioned by the NCAA? they totally have all those strokes in NCAA competition.. i mean.. except for sidestroke. that is a weird weird one. i think. i dunno.. that was for people who didn't want to stick their face in the water? i forget the origin of that one.. but we did have to learn it in hs and i thought it was odd as well.. but kind of fun.. it does take awhile to get though.

    i wish i could do the butterfly though. it's kind of a cool stroke. plus.. i bet if you put some olympic butterflyer against some joe schmoe freestyler.. i bet the butterfly would win :P

    i guess instead of running backwards and sideways they have the hurdles and the steeplechase. what's up with that one! :P

    By Blogger Jean, at 4:27 PM, June 21, 2005  

  • Fyse, I thought about the walking thing, which I agree with you is pretty silly. Is walking actually in the Olympics? Somehow I've managed to keep myself from having that knowledge.

    Diva, How do you keep from swimming into the wall with the back stroke? I do a back-breast stroke sort of thing, but I'm always paranoid that I'm going to swim head first into the wall. And well, it's happened. I'll admit it.

    Dan, Diving, I can understand a little bit. That's like gymnastics. PS Don't be difficult.

    Jean, I mean that running sideways or backwards are NOT included in NCAA events, and the comparison being that the different swim stroke ARE included. So you think the butterfly looks cool? I think it looks like someone have convulsions in the water. And that's a good point about the hurdles. Hadn't considered that.

    By Blogger Oz, at 5:02 PM, June 21, 2005  

  • I just kind of tilt my head back and look for the wall (I'm not a competitive swimmer by any means). I suppose if someone is a competitive back stroker, he or she probably gets accustomed to the pool size and can guage the number of strokes. I had never really thought about it. Hmmmm....

    By Blogger Diva, at 7:17 PM, June 21, 2005  

  • You know, I was talking to a friend of mine about this swimming post and how all those swimming lessons we took as kids were just a complete waste of money and time.

    Then last night we went to a friend's house for a party and got drunk in the swimming pool and jacuzzi, and we finally figured out why there are so many different strokes.

    They werent for showing off. They were a result of too much drinking.

    And while in a drunken state of mind, we came up with a few more swimming styles, such as The Drowning Rat, and First Date Spread Eagle.

    By Blogger D.T., at 3:58 PM, June 24, 2005  

  • I like that...your equating the butterfly with someone having convulsions in the water. By golly, now that you mention it, it does look like that. I figure the butterfly was the invention of someone looking for a fancy way to drown themself. Maybe it came about by someone having hiccups while swimming. Or maybe by an epileptic... I'm a floater myself. I fell asleep once while floating peacefully on my back. For some reason, my body just won't sink. I can totally relax and my face stays up there out of the water. I guess I'm just full of hot air. But then, you probably guessed as much... ~;^)

    By Blogger foxymama, at 3:49 PM, June 28, 2005  

  • Diva, I've tried the looking back thing, but I have to admit that I just LOVE looking at the ceiling go by when I'm swimming on my back...

    DT, Ah, drunkeness has lead to all this. That makes a certain kind of sense. I have to admit that I'm quite curious about the First Date Spread Eagle stroke. Do tell.

    Foxy, that's quite unusual that you didn't naturally turn to the face down position when you fell asleep while floating. I've floated a lot, completely relaxed, with one of those styrofoam noodle things. I've thought about falling asleep, but then I thought that might be dangerous. Now maybe I'll give it a shot. Heck, at the worst, it will give the lifeguard something to do LOL.

    By Blogger Oz, at 4:11 PM, June 30, 2005  

  • Nope...I didn't turn over. Ever. I just float. Funny thing is, I float high. I mean...I don't sink. Go figure. The way I knew I fell asleep was that the sonnies told me. Also, I woke up to huge splashes of water and lots of giggling...dadblamed kids! ~;^)

    By Blogger foxymama, at 5:52 PM, July 01, 2005  

  • I've been wondering the same things lately. I'm taking a swimming class, and all we do is laps- lap after lap for an hour. I'm an awful swimmer, but I have my plain old boring freestyle, backstroke, and I can doggy paddle better and faster then anyone! (not sure if I should be proud of that) I might even manage the breststroke if I try, but why bother? I'm having issues with not having as much shoulder rotation on my left arm so I drift that direction and crash into people in other lanes... oops!

    By Blogger Debra, at 4:44 PM, July 08, 2005  

  • I miss swimming so much. All we have around here is a broken-down YMCA with a creepy-looking, over-chlorinated pool full of sweaty weirdos.

    By Blogger Tim, at 6:06 PM, July 19, 2005  

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