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Tina
July 21st, 2009, 09:08 PM
Hi,

I am a very new adult swimmer, having started learning freestyle in April. I can swim breaststroke well enough to not stop for about 250 yards. But Freestyle really kicks my butt, and after 3 months of practicing everyday, I still cannot do 50 yards non-stop. I can start out breathing every 4 strokes, but halfway through the first 25 yards, I am out of breath and breathing every other stroke. By the time I get through the first 25 yards, I'm practically hyperventilating, and need a good minute to catch my breath. I have asthma, but it's only the freestyle that kills me. Does my body weight have a lot to do with this? (I'm overweight and I'm trying to lose it, and have been swimming 7 days a week, and weight-training 3 days a week) The coaches/instructors I've worked with all say that I have good form in the water for someone who has only just learned the stroke (of course there are things I need to improve on), and that I will improve over time. But it is SO frustrating to not be able to see progress in this area.

Any advice besides being patient and keep swimming??? I would so appreciate it!

Thanks,
Tina

bud
July 21st, 2009, 11:58 PM
try backstroke, or kick drills on your back... that way you can breathe whenever you want.

if you have a good coach / swim instructor however, i'd be more inclined to have you follow their advice.

FindingMyInnerFish
July 22nd, 2009, 04:49 AM
When I did just lap swimming with no masters' practices or any kind of coaching, I could go a long way doing breaststroke, but I was very slow. Then I decided to try an open water swim--I had a running injury and missed competing. So I gradually weaned myself off breaststroke so I could swim faster. Eventually, I was able to do a mile freestyle. I'd start with maybe 25 free every 200-250 yards, then gradually make these 25s more frequent until I was doing entirely freestyle. It did take some time and patience. If your coach/instructor says your form is good, that's half the battle. I got feedback from a lifeguard who taught swimming. He was very helpful. I'd ask the instructor if there's any way you can increase your comfort with the breathing.

Interestingly, once I began breathing bilaterally, I found it much more comfortable to do freestyle for long stretches, but I'm not sure why that is.

Hoosier
July 22nd, 2009, 07:47 AM
I would start by breathing every stroke if necessary. I started swimming three years ago. I am soon to be 50 years old. when I started I was 6'1" and 310 lbs. I could not do a full 25 yards of freestyle. What I did was swim free until I felt I could do no more than switch to breaststroke, even in the middle of a lap, until I caught my breath again then switched back to freestyle.(as I found breathing easier during breast) I think you are making it much more difficult by holding your breath. Once you get stronger work on holding your breath, for now I would suggest just working on your stroke. I will be swimming a 2 mile open water swim this weekend, all freestyle. I still do not bi lateral breathe, and still breathe every stroke. Remember, Gary Hall won a World Championship breathing every stroke! And he swam the 50. Good Luck, and don't give up!:applaud:

Amber23
July 22nd, 2009, 07:56 AM
Hoosier, what OW swim are you doing?

Hoosier
July 22nd, 2009, 08:38 AM
It is a benefit swim for Elkhart County, Indiana Humane Society. Taking place in Simonton (sp) lake just north of Elkhart, IN.

qbrain
July 22nd, 2009, 09:45 AM
I would start by breathing every stroke if necessary.

Not "if necessary", just breath every other stroke. You are not racing, breath as often as you need. You can worry about breath control later, if ever.

When I first got back into swimming, I did a LOT of backstroke because I had trouble catching my breath.

Thinking back on it, I think it took me a long time to get my lungs back in shape, so don't be discouraged.

aquaFeisty
July 22nd, 2009, 10:26 AM
Having never seen you swim, here are 2 ideas:

1. Easy fix - Make sure you are blowing out completely while underwater - when you turn your head to breathe, you just want to breath IN not waste time breathing out first.

2. Harder fix - Check your balance in the water. Several beginners kick their brains out to try and get to a horizontal position in the water. Yes, kicking is good, but I'm talking kicking like you're doing a 50 sprint... Legs are a major user of oxygen. You should be able to keep your butt up using core strength and pushing down on the buoyant part of your body - your chest/lungs. Legs should be used for forward propulsion and to assist some with rotation... not to keep feet from sinking! :)

John C Smith
July 22nd, 2009, 12:22 PM
Perhaps a pull bouy will help you relax more, take easier breaths and raise your body position.

hofffam
July 22nd, 2009, 12:30 PM
Including some of the suggestions above:

1. Be sure to exhale underwater before you breathe in.
2. Breathe every 2 strokes for now instead of every 4
3. Slow down. This should help you relax a bit and reduce the demand for oxygen.

knelson
July 22nd, 2009, 01:44 PM
Remember, Gary Hall won a World Championship breathing every stroke!

You sure about that?

laineybug
July 22nd, 2009, 01:49 PM
Yes, I agree with the others, make sure you exhale completely under water. Turn your head slightly and take a SIP of air... just enough to get you through to the next time you breathe. The idea of this is to try to match your stroke with regular breathing pattern. I use to take great big gulps of air. That made it hard to exhale all of the air in my lungs under water. Then when I turned my head to breathe I took another gulp of air which then made my lungs even fuller than before. And, fuller=more uncomfortable. Because you have asthma I'm not sure you should try this, but here is what convienced me that I needed to take SIPS instead of gulps. Right now, take a big deep breath. Exhale 1/2 to 3/4 of it. Now take another big deep breath. See how uncomfortable it is... it also causes the sensation of being out of breath too.

Lainey

Tina
July 22nd, 2009, 05:19 PM
Thank you all very much for the great advice. I cannot wait to get in the pool tonight and try again! Some of your stories are so inspiring.

Gratefully,
Tina

frankiej
July 22nd, 2009, 08:10 PM
I was in the same boat as you about 5 or 6 months ago, although I'm 20. I just started swimming to get some cross training for running.

I could barely even swim a 25 even though I'm in good shape. Slowing down should help you a lot. When I first started I didn't know how to pace myself while swimming so I just gave it all I had and got tired very fast.

Another thing that might help your breathing is to check to see if your rolling on your side or simply just turning your neck. I turned my neck most of the time to breathe, which is a lapse in the correct form of course. I think the main problem with being new to swimming is because its not like everything else. You have to plan when to breathe and to me that was a foreign concept. Also, as others have said try breathing every other stroke or even pick up bilateral breathing (every 3). I do a pattern of 3, 2, 3, 2, etc... when I do longer distances which seems to help for some reason.

Since then I can now do 75m non-stop free which I am proud of. Although, my open turns could use some major work.

notsofast
July 22nd, 2009, 08:41 PM
Six years ago, I started swimming in January 2003 - more or less a total beginner. I did breaststroke primarily for about a year, then incorporated freestyle over a six month period. Getting the breathing down is extremely difficult. As others point out, when you move your head to gain air, your legs sink, and that makes swimming much more difficult.
Lessons are a great idea. If you can't get them, be very patient. It takes a long time to get used to an athletic endeavor in which you have to figure out when to breathe.
The good news is that your difficulties are typical and that if you enjoy swimming now, you will enjoy it much more when you have gotten better at breathing in the water.

landman
July 22nd, 2009, 08:46 PM
Six years ago, I started swimming in January 2003 - more or less a total beginner. I did breaststroke primarily for about a year, then incorporated freestyle over a six month period. Getting the breathing down is extremely difficult. As others point out, when you move your head to gain air, your legs sink, and that makes swimming much more difficult.
Lessons are a great idea. If you can't get them, be very patient. It takes a long time to get used to an athletic endeavor in which you have to figure out when to breathe.
The good news is that your difficulties are typical and that if you enjoy swimming now, you will enjoy it much more when you have gotten better at breathing in the water.

What im getting at is you have to pace yourself and take short breaths..? Or is there anyway to do freestyle and take a 1-2 sec. breath while maintaining momentum/speed?

Ash
July 22nd, 2009, 09:39 PM
I also had alot of difficulty with feeling out of breath doing freestyle when I returned to swimming after a ten year break. My advise is not a quick fix. It is a more gentle, longer term approach but it will work:

1) Search Youtube for good "freestyle swim technique" videos. There are some very good videos that have been posted by expert swimmers and coaches. Good stroke technique is vital and will increase your efficiency thus reducing your oxygen requirements.

2) Use a leg float for the majority of your workout while your developing/improving your stroke and breathing technique. This will automatically reduce your need for oxygen because your legs are not active, and it will help you concentrate on your arm stroke and breathing techniques. It also allows you to swim comfortably at a slower pace. As you start to feel your stroke and effeciency improving, start doing a percentage of your workout without the leg float. In otherwords, try doing 90% of your workout with the float, and 10% without the float for 4-6 weeks. Then try an 80%/20% ratio for 4-6 weeks. And so on, and so on.

3) Breath every two strokes and concentrate on your breath/stroke timing and your exhaling just as much as your inhaling.

Final Note: Learning to swim well is a long term project. I know several serious swimmers who have been at it for years and they still feel like they have not mastered their stroke. Stick with it and work on the baby steps, and you will get better.

About Me: I'm 45 and got back into the pool in October 2008. I now swim 8-10 miles a week and have completed three open water events (2 miles each). I have lost twenty pounds. I work on my stroke/technique every single time I get in the water. My latest challenge is bilateral breathing.

Hogwollup
July 23rd, 2009, 12:38 AM
I am new too.... can someone explain bi-lateral breathing to me... I dont even know if a stroke is one arm movement, or two...
what a newbie question?
I live on a six acre pond, I began swimming a daily lap around it 52 days ago, and am just now questioning my lack of swimming knowledge, or coaching. This forum has helped me alot tonight. I estimate the distance around my pond to be about 1700 feet, or a third of a mile, and currently I can swim that in about 12 minutes!

Bobinator
July 23rd, 2009, 09:22 AM
Bi-lateral breathing means being able to roll and take breaths on both sides. If you breath every 3 strokes you will breath on opposite sides each time. Some swimmers feel they have a more balanced stroke if they can bi-lateral breath. If you swim ow it can be helpful because you can see both ways without stopping and lifting your head.
It also prevents sore necks that swimmers develop when they tend to breath more to one side than the other. (me)