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View Full Version : Why am I so winded/exhausted when swimming freestyle?



momof5
August 7th, 2014, 09:25 AM
I know. I'm a beginner and the most obvious answer is that I just need to work on my endurance and practice. But I can swim breaststroke (my best stroke) seemingly forever without feeling the exhaustion I do after sprinting a 50 free or even slowly swimming a 100 free. I swim on my own (not with a club), but did join a group workout on Tuesday. The instructor was pleased with how my freestyle looked, so I don't think I am doing anything horribly wrong. I do think I have a weak flutter kick. All in all I do think I am going to be a sprinter, but I would still like to be able to do a slow freestyle during a workout and go farther than 100 yards. Tips?

DeniseMW
August 7th, 2014, 09:41 AM
I have exactly the same issue, though I don't consider myself a sprinter. I'm probably older than you, though (early 60s) but I get winded after a lap or two and have to take a short break. I didn't use to. In my 40s I could do 35 laps without stopping. It seems like it's taking me forever to build myself up, and if I'm off even a week it's like I'm back at square one. My flutter kicks need a lot of work, and getting a length kicking with a board really gets me tired. I don't know the answer, but I'm hoping someone here on the forum does. BTW if you have allergies, it's hard to get a good breath. My breaststroke is weak because of my kick.

gobears
August 7th, 2014, 11:02 AM
In working with many triathletes new to swimming who have similar problems, I'd say it has to be technique-related. Are you breathing normally in the water or holding/forcing your breath? Are you over-kicking to keep your body position high rather than using your core and your pull to balance in the water? Are you relaxed in the water? This is often why coached practices can be so helpful. Coaches have a chance to really see you in action and can make suggestions to help. When you swim with a team you get consistent feedback - sometimes it takes a coach saying the same thing many different ways for it to click with a swimmer.

momof5
August 7th, 2014, 11:06 AM
I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with this. I have a strong breaststroke kick, so it's either different muscle groups in my legs that need conditioning or my flutter kick technique just stinks. Or maybe it's both. Btw, I'm 39. But I have only ever swum for fun in the past. Never lap swimming or competitive. That is, until the 24th when I'm going to be in my first Masters meet. Anyway, where I practice there are people who, like you said, swim freestyle 35 laps or so without seeming to break a sweat. I glance over enviously as I'm sucking in air after my slow 100 free. Oh, I don't have allergies.

momof5
August 7th, 2014, 11:10 AM
Gobears, thanks for your input. I wish I could swim with a team, but we don't have one. Like I said, there is an adult swim program (one practice a week) where I can get some feedback from a coach. I bet I am over kicking. So you say to use my core (not my strongest muscle group, so I need to work on that) to pull to balance in the water. What exactly do you mean by that? Will simply squeezing my abs throughout the swim help? Also, should the toes be pointed or foot kept floppy during the kick?

Swimspire
August 7th, 2014, 11:47 AM
From your posts, it seems like you really want to progress, which is a great attitude to have! The first and most important step on this journey towards improvement is to develop a solid stroke technique. Have you considered a private coach if your adult swim program is not giving you enough feedback? A stroke analysis - whether online or on-deck - would also help to at least give you an idea of where you stand with your stroke and what you need to start working on. You can even post a video here on the forum as many others have done to get some feedback from the group. I actually just wrote an article on why getting a stroke analysis is important - might be helpful for you! http://www.swimspire.com/get-stroke-technique-analyzed/
Good luck!

momof5
August 7th, 2014, 01:09 PM
I didn't realize we could post videos on here! The next time I can go to the pool with my husband I will have him videotape for me and post it on here. Thanks for the suggestion!

FindingMyInnerFish
August 7th, 2014, 01:49 PM
When I first started lap swimming, I couldn't go very far freestyle, and similarly could go on quite a while breaststroke. I would typically only swim when I had a running injury, and do a combination of breaststroke and freestyle (the latter b/c I'd get bored going so slowly).

But during one such injury, I missed races and wanted to compete in something. So I found an open water mile (at the time there were no races of less than a mile, which I would have preferred, but you get what you get). When I saw that the last place time was 45 minutes and that with breaststroke, it took me close to an hour to swim a mile, I realized I would need to get to where I could swim freestyle an entire mile, so that I had a prayer of finishing before everyone packed up and left. ;) So I gradually increased the amount of time I could swim freestyle, reducing the breaststroke. I had no formal instruction at the time, except for a very nice lifeguard who also happened to be a triathlete and who gave me some helpful tips. There was no organized masters' swim program, but still I progressed to the point where I could do freestyle for a mile in about 45 minutes. That was in my early 50s. After this race, which took me about 47 minutes (and I actually finished ahead of one person, which I thought miraculous!), I was recovered enough to go back to running. But I still swam some.

A few years later, I joined a masters swim group that was forming at my Y, and that coach was WONDERFUL in helping me improve my technique so I could swim freestyle more easily. I'm still slow, but I can do freestyle now for a LONG time w/out a problem.

The coach pushed me toward bilateral breathing, which at first felt really uncomfortable but now seems to have helped me keep up a rhythm that I didn't have earlier. He also focused on a lot of drills and some kickboard work. (I'm still very weak w/ kickboard though.) But I think the feedback, the drills, the bilateral breathing, and lots of swimming have really helped.

Still, be patient w/ yourself. It didn't come easy to a lot of us at first.

DeniseMW
August 7th, 2014, 02:09 PM
So, I have a question about breathing. I've been taught to breath bilaterally, but I was watching the US Nationals from Irvine, Calif. on the sports channel where Connor Jaeger placed first in the 1500m freestyle, and all those guys were breathing on one side. Is that because it's more efficient when you're competing? Or is it the way most people are taught and they just stick with it? Not that I'm looking to compete, but I'm wondering why the different breathing technique.

I've had a rather frustrating summer swimming-wise because the pool at my rec center is a zoo with kids' camps and people generally being obnoxious who don't know about pool courtesy, and because I'm limited as to the times I can swim while my dog is recovering from his surgery and ensuing stroke. But the lessons I've taken with a private coach have helped tremendously. So momof5, if you can find a coach to work with you, I'd recommend it.

Allen Stark
August 7th, 2014, 03:35 PM
So, I have a question about breathing. I've been taught to breath bilaterally, but I was watching the US Nationals from Irvine, Calif. on the sports channel where Connor Jaeger placed first in the 1500m freestyle, and all those guys were breathing on one side. Is that because it's more efficient when you're competing? Or is it the way most people are taught and they just stick with it? Not that I'm looking to compete, but I'm wondering why the different breathing technique.

I've had a rather frustrating summer swimming-wise because the pool at my rec center is a zoo with kids' camps and people generally being obnoxious who don't know about pool courtesy, and because I'm limited as to the times I can swim while my dog is recovering from his surgery and ensuing stroke. But the lessons I've taken with a private coach have helped tremendously. So momof5, if you can find a coach to work with you, I'd recommend it.
Bilateral breathing is great for balance and a good skill to have generally.Elites racing anything over a 100(and even a 100 frequently) breath every 2nd stroke(all to one side) because getting enough oxygen is the most important thing and their breathing doesn't slow down their speed very much.

knelson
August 7th, 2014, 04:32 PM
Another thing to consider is these guys are very efficient. Someone like Jaeger probably takes less than 35 strokes per 50 meters. Someone who takes 50 strokes per length and breathing every third will end up taking nearly the same number of breaths as Jaeger who's breathing every two.

DeniseMW
August 7th, 2014, 06:01 PM
Allen and knelson, thank you both for the explanation.

:bow:

momof5
August 8th, 2014, 12:28 PM
So, I have happy news to report! After considering all of the great advice from you all, as well as doing other online research, I went to the pool today and swam 1000 yard freestyle without needing to stop or getting winded. I went immediately into 500 back and then 500 breast. I was floored that I was able to do that. I think the most significant changes I made were: #1 breathing - I breathed every second stroke throughout (vs. the every fourth stroke I had been doing previously), #2 my kick - I started kicking from the hips instead of knees and relaxed my kick. I read somewhere that only about 20% of the power comes from the kick, so I realized I was putting most of my energy into my kick and it was exhausting me. #3 core - I focused on tightening my core to maintain balance and help keep my feet up so that I didn't have to kick so hard. Sure, I was maintaining a snail's pace, as it took me an hour to complete the 2000 yards, but I'm OK with that. I think I have a sprinter's mentality all of the time and slowing way down is going to be helpful for me at this point when I'm still concentrating so much on technique and endurance.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this success with you. I had a horrible swim yesterday, so having such a great one today, all the while accomplishing what I did just feels great.

THANK YOU to everyone for being supportive and so helpful.

gobears
August 8th, 2014, 06:35 PM
Wow!!! You're a quick study!!! Keep up the good work :)

FindingMyInnerFish
August 8th, 2014, 08:32 PM
Congrats, that's great! Don't worry about the speed. That will come in time--when I'm doing a lot of swimming, I tend to improve. I'm not gifted w/ speed, but it picks up after enough yards.

DeniseMW
August 10th, 2014, 02:34 PM
This morning, I went to the pool and used a board to work on my kick, first time all week. I was exhausted about 3/4 of the way up the lane. I had to rest a while to kick my way back. Then, I was so out of breath it was tough to do even a couple of laps. I don't recall I ever had such a tough time. I don't think it's allergies, because they're not that bad at the moment. So I don't know what's going on, but I was pretty discouraged. Now all I want is a nap.
:bed: