I'm a beginner swimmer, using the 0 -> 1650 swim plan and, taking a look at some other swim links, I see that when you're done with the 1650 to practice using "other strokes" as you train. Can you recommend a link or a complementary stroke to use w/freestyle that will help me improve my freestyle swimming? I'm doing the Naylor's Beach sprint next month then no events until next July (I can dream about doing a half-Ironman at that time, can't I?!). Thanks.
Butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke are the standard 'other strokes' - although you arguably could add sidestroke or elementary backstroke.
While you aren't going to want to swim these strokes in your race, practicing them will help you with your body position and coordination in the water, provide some injury prevention (prevent repetitive motion injuries), and make workouts a lot less boring. Additionally, these strokes can come in handy - - instead of lifting your head to sight on freestyle, you could do a stroke or two of breaststroke... Or if your goggles fill with water you can do a little backstroke while you fix the problem.
If you are just looking to learn one at this point (and you want one that will help with freestyle), I would suggest working on backstroke. Both freestyle and backstroke are long-axis strokes, and working on backstroke will help with your freestyle rotation.
other strokes are backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. You can download youtube videos of each and see them in action. Back and breast are far easier to execute than fly, but none will likely improve your freestyle like freestyle. You usually do other strokes to break up the monotony.
Butterfly would help build power in the arms and shoulders, and if you're doing the technique properly or doing drills for it, help with body position in the water (float those hips!).
Backstroke is a great way to help balance shoulder development so that you don't blow out the front of your shoulder doing free and fly. Also, though I'm not sure how applicable this is to triathlon swimming, but back stroke is a great way to work on hip rotation in the water. In backstroke, this rotation is exaggerated and when applied to freestyle, makes the kick more efficient. As far as I can tell, efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to your kicking on the swim so's to not kill the legs.
Butterfly is really hard. It can also tire you out very quickly, especially if you don't have great butterfly technique. I don't think you would ever need to use butterfly in a tri.
Oh I definitely didn't mean in the tri. I meant in terms of practicing other strokes (I thought that's what the original poster meant). It's definitely good to build strength and practice body position, but yeah, if you don't know what you're doing (and even when you do) it can get pretty tiring. Not a bad way to break up the monotony of freestyle, while still working muscles involved in it.