Flying In The Open Water

Flying In The Open Water

Dan Projansky a lot of calories…swimming butterfly.

The 5′-6″, 160-lb mid-mannered banker from the northwest side of Chicago, Dan typically swims 6 or 7 miles of butterfly in a typical week in order to train for races between 5K – 10K. We asked him about his chosen swimming stroke in the open water.

Q1. How does a 10K butterfly feel in the open water?

Dan: During the 10K, after the race, my lower part of my spine, by my butt, hurts a little. Every so often my biceps hurt, but it’s usually only after I complete my training. I am very fortunate in that my shoulders are quite limber.

Q2. What is your average workout like?

Dan: I’m doing indoor training now in the winter here in Chicago. I swim all butterfly each time I hit the health club or the Lake Geneva Wisconsin YMCA. I usually swim for two and half hours or so. One morning each week, I get out of bed at 3:20 am and get to the LifeTime Fitness Club in Skokie, Illinois and swim from 3:50 am to about 5:45 or 5:50. I know it’s pretty much about 3.75 miles or so. The toughest part is making it through the day at work. I look at this as mental training; because the 8 miler in Wisconsin [that I will do this summer] will certainly test me mentally. During the summers I train at Fontana, Wisconsin. There I swim from pier to pier and just go back and forth. Each length might be about 200 meters or so, maybe longer. I also swim in Lake Michigan and the beaches here in Evanston, Illinois. I like training in chop and waves because I feel it’s the best way for me to complete open water training. I dedicate my indoor gym workouts to butterfly swimming, too. I specifically target muscles for the stroke and I have been doing this for many years.

Q3. That is not normal.

Dan: Yes I know, I’m a total whack job.

Q4. What are your plans for this summer?

Dan: I am training for a 8-mile swim in Wisconsin this August. It will be a direct shot across Lake Geneva, which is one of the deepest lakes in the state. It is being put on for a fund-raising event to raise money for kids of parents who were killed in the war, called Swim4Freedom.

Q5. Are you ready for it?

Dan: My longest swim was the Coastal Crawl in Lake Michigan last summer. I did that all butterfly in 4 hours and 18 minutes, but I wore a shortie wetsuit. For the 8-mile Swim4Freedom, I will wear either a speed suit or just a Speedo. I will be 52 years old this August, so I am not sure if that makes me the oldest butterfly swimmer to ever try something like this. I know there is another guy here in Illinois who swims the 5K Big Shoulders swim all butterfly every September.

Q6. How did you feel about it?

Dan: I would say the 10K butterfly was my ultimate athletic achievement. It’s a gut-check in the lake. I received a standing ovation from the volunteers and spectators; all the kayakers surrounded me in a circle,” he said. “It was pretty motivational and overwhelmed me on a personal level.

Q7. How many of these all-butterfly open water swims have you done?

Dan: Six. If I stopped doing butterfly, I would get in a boat and call it a day.

Q8. Why butterfly?

Dan: In the late 1990s and early part of this decade, I was becoming frustrated with my freestyle. I’m a competitive person and I’m very hard on myself. Why do all this swimming and be upset about it? At one point in my mid 40s, I had to reinvent myself. At the Big Shoulders race in Chicago, I noticed someone swimming all butterfly, so I decided to try that. I tried it and was immediately hooked and intrigued by the challenge.

Q9. Do you do anything special to prepare, other than 3:50 am workouts?

Dan: I’ve worked single-mindedly in training to target the correct muscles. My endurance base from the triathlons helps me and I have a strong upper body. My arms are flexible and I can stretch out and be taller in the water. All those things help.

Q10. It is obvious that you enjoy butterfly…

Dan: I don’t know what drives me to do it. I’ve developed a smooth rhythm and it relaxes me. When you’re in the open water, you can see the fish, the plants and the sun come up. There’s nothing like it.

Photo of Dan Projansky at the 2009 10K Coastal Crawl in Harbor Springs, Michigan courtesy of the Pioneer Local.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones