The Brilliance of Butterfly

There is a brilliance in the butterfly. It’s the perfect exercise. The perfect stroke. I’ve frequently said that swimming is the best sport. It’s a full body workout without the hard impact on joints like running can be. It’s a fantastic sport for obese people trying to lose weight. In fact, it’s how I lost my weight.

What makes the butterfly stroke so unique and special is that it truly does use your entire body. The breast stroke and freestyle are great strokes and use most of your body but not like the butterfly. The butterfly takes grace, coordination and strength to be able to do it. You have to have the upper body and core strength in order to do it. The butterfly uses your core in a way that other swimming strokes don’t and you’ll see results.

You have to be able to move your arms and body through the water, then above the water. Your arms move together from behind you, up and out of the water and end above your head before returning to the water. During this,  your legs do a dolphin kick. This stroke is a tremendous workout for your shoulders and core.

I’m not skilled in the butterfly. It’s the one stroke I never properly mastered in my youth and now as an adult I rarely do it. I’m like a fish in the water–all other strokes are seamless, splashless and graceful (which I’m not on land!!) but the butterfly is a lot of splashing and thrashing for me. I wish I was better at it.

I recently got a question from a reader:  “I just found out that i have arthiritis in my knee and have decided to continue my weightloss journey by swimming but can I still lose my 100 pounds by swimming?”

My answer: Heck yes! Swim! It’s the best exercise and it’s how I lost most of my weight. Swimming was what activity I chose to do. I did it 2-4 times a week for about a year and then started introducing other activities (like the treadmill and elliptical). But really, swimming was how I lost probably 75 pounds. I think it’s a great choice for people trying to lose weight. If you are new to swimming, start here. And good luck!

QUESTION: Can you do the butterfly stroke?

My Favorite Swimming Gear

Brie had a great suggestion for a post about swimming. I have written about swimming a lot. I did a series awhile ago with tips on how to start, etiquette, etc. Here are those links:

Swimming Tips for Beginners

Lap Swimming Etiquette

How to Swim Freestyle

How to Swim the Breaststroke

But I guess I never really did describe some of the basic things like what BRANDS I use…So let’s talk components.


When I first started swimming again I used the cheapo suit I’d gotten at Target. I don’t remember the brand or anything but it quickly faded to being SEE-THROUGH after just a few weeks in the chlorine pool. I learned pretty quickly that there are types of swimsuits that are better suited for lap swimming.

The above photo was taken about six months ago and about 5 pounds ago. As you can see it’s not faded at all. I buy my suits at Portland Swimwear downtown. The prices are just okay–nothing too great. The suit I have now was $80. I wish I could order my suits online for cheaper prices but I need to be able try the suits on first.

As I lost weight I had to buy new swim suits because they no longer fit–not because they wore out. I buy a new swimsuit about once a year. The current one I have (above) is about a year old but it still fits great and it hasn’t faded at all. The only reason I’d consider buying a new one is because the inside lining is starting to come undone a bit.

The above is similar to the suit that I own. It’s 100% polyester and like I said, it lasts forever and never fades. The polyester design is built to resist the harsh chlorine and it works!

I also like this design because the clasp at the top doesn’t come undone. I’ve tried other suits that didn’t have a clasp and they tended to fall off my shoulders (especially as I lost weight).


I was in search of the perfect goggles for a LONG time. I don’t know if I just have a weirdly shaped face but none of them fit properly. That meant they leaked. It drove me nuts. I’ve spent more money on goggles I ended up throwing out than I’d like to admit.

For a long time I stuck with Speedo Goggles. I really liked the large, round ones because they didn’t leak. When those became impossible to find, I tried everything else out there.

At REI one day I saw some goggles on the clearance rack and decided to give them a try. They were amazing! I’ve been converted! TYR Tracer Femme Metallized Racing Goggle are my new goggles. I’ve got a pair now that I use and I bought a backup pair for when they eventually wear out.


They are smaller than I’m used to but it was a comfortable transition. And they don’t leak. They are shaded goggles, which came in handy in Arizona when I swam outside! So far they do not fog, either.



I use the cheapo Speedo latex swim caps. They run from $3-6 depending on where you buy them. Why do I buy the cheap ones? Because I replace them fairly frequently. They stretch out, they rip, they tend to get moldy if they sit in a gym bag wet (ooops).

I’ve tried the Silicone caps, which are more expensive, but I found that they slipped too much.



I do recommend a Pull Buoy. It’s excellent for training and developing your shoulders and upper body when swimming. It’s also great for beginners who are trying to learn how to do the Front Crawl but are having a hard time putting the kicking and arms and breathing all together.

It will also help you learn what proper alignment is when you’re swimming. It will assist with learning the rhythm of breathing as well. It really is a beneficial little tool and whenever someone says they struggle with swimming this is the first thing I suggest they buy.


Earplugs! A must! I go through a lot of earplugs with swimming. They are crucial for lap swimmers I think because Swimmer’s Ear can be an awful thing to experience. I buy the generic Rite Aid or Fred Meyer version of the soft silicone ear plugs.

You can get Swim Gloves for training. I’ve never found use in them, mostly because I already have Paddles and they do the same thing.

A kickboard is a good tool for when you get tired from doing other strokes but don’t want to just stand at the end of the pool.

My controversial opinion on Flippers: useless. I think flippers are a crutch. They make swimming easy and that’s not why I do it. I swim for fitness and fun, not because it’s easy. Some websites claim that flippers help develop leg muscles (swimming does that, I don’t need flippers to do it) and that they increase ankle flexibility. I’m not sure about that one either because I’d have ankle pain after using flippers too much. If you want to try flippers, go for it. It’s an individual preference and I don’t like them.

Finally, I suggest buying a heart rate monitor for fitness. A HRM is especially helpful with swimming because it’s such a difficult activity to estimate calories burned. I use a Polar HRM that runs about $90-100. It’s the best fitness tool I own.

QUESTION: Feel free to ask me anything about swimming! It’s a topic I love to talk about and in case you are a new reader, it’s actually how I lost my 100 pounds!