View Full Version : is it ok to breath every 4 strokes when doing laps?

November 4th, 2006, 08:16 PM
It's been about 8 days since i got back to swimming, it's still hard for me to get good momentum and i feel the most comfortable when i breath every 4 strokes. When i try to breath every 2 or 3 strokes i completely lose the momentum and find it much harder to swim smoothly. Is that alright? how do i improve my swimming flow?


Concho Pearl
November 4th, 2006, 08:56 PM
I would say if breathing every 4 strokes works for you then that's fine.
As for flow, I guess my question to you is how long has it been since you've gotten back into swimming? If it's been awhile, You may want to concentrate on endurance and working on a good strokes. Make small reachable goals at first, then go from there.

November 4th, 2006, 09:08 PM
I agree with Concho Pearl. What works for one person may not work for another. If your body is comfortable with this breathing pattern, then do it. I guess my only question is does there come a time when you need more oxygen?

Proabably to the chagrin of people here, I breathe every single stroke from a 200 yards and up especially if I am pushing myself. I have a need for oxygen and if I can get it, then I can swim fast for longer. But this is me. I am sure others will disagree. But I do anything I can to prevent going into any form of oxygen debt to my body for then I start to suffer performance wise.

If this works for you, this is the right breathing pattern even though I don't know how many lengths of the pool you are doing with this pattern.

Happy swimming !!!


November 4th, 2006, 09:54 PM
Thanks for the replies. Since i'm just getting back to it (been to the pool 8 times last week.. crazy)
I'm trying to take it really easy and the pool in my gym is only 25M's so of course its doable.. anything over 50M and i breath every other stroke or so.

I'm trying to get good technique and i'm having difficulty maintaining a good flow when breathing... maybe i should get the total immersion DVD?

November 5th, 2006, 07:32 AM
Dare we suggest a DVD without selling a product, There are several out there, The good TI, Swimsmooth, GoSwim and I really like the TriSwimCoach online ebook, 37 dollars, download it watch it within five minutes, also lots of free stuff. I have TI, Swimsmooth, Goswim, DVDs and the TriSwimCoach ebook, I only have them so I know what they are talking about. Better than a DVD get to a swim instructor for personal or group lessons or join a masters group.

here is a list of other sources http://swimming.about.com/od/swimvideos/

November 5th, 2006, 09:00 AM
When i try to breath every 2 or 3 strokes i completely lose the momentum and find it much harder to swim smoothly. Is that alright? how do i improve my swimming flow?

What you describe is virtually universal among developing swimmers. I think of efficient rhythmic breathing in freestyle -- seamlessly getting all the air you need, when you need it, without disrupting your balance, stroke length, catch, stroke rhythm, etc. -- to be possibly the most elusive and advanced of all swimming skills. In Backstroke, breathing really isn't a "technique" and in Fly/Breast you don't have to breathe to the side while trying to move straight ahead.

There's another thread here on favorite swimming quotes. One of my favorites applies perfectly here, though I didn't post it there. "Don't hide your breathing error by not breathing. Fix it."

Stanford and US Olympic Coach Richard Quick said this to me when I interviewed him 6+ years ago for an article in Fitness Swimmer magazine, about his 7-year collaboration with Jenny Thompson that resulted in her improving from a national caliber 1:01+ 100LCM flyer, when she arrived at Stanford in 1992, to a World Record of 57.7 in 1999.

From time immemorial (or at least since butterfly was invented around 50 years ago) it was common coaching practice to forbid swimmers to breathe every stroke, as the act of breathing seemed to inevitably cause them to "lose their legs." Thus much fly training centered around breath holding to accustom oneself to the discomfort inevitable when attempting to swim at peak speed without peak oxygen.

Richard reasoned that Jenny would swim better with unfettered access to oxygen than if she was trying to tolerate deprivation. So they worked thousands of hours on getting her stroke to the point where breathing wasn't a "compromise" but an advantage - mechanical as well as aerobic.

Among the "folklore" of swimming that Kevin in MD referred to on another thread, a lot has to do with breathing - from the idea that "hypoxic training" or breath-holding can somehow increase one's lung capacity to the notion that the act of taking a breath, while admittedly necessary, unfortunately causes one to slow down.

Certainly there are breathing exercises that are worth investigating and can have an impact on one's performance potential - diaphragmatic breathing, ujayii pranayama from yoga and ayurvedic techniques like nose breathing while doing land sports (not possible while swimming) - but these are all rather different in intent than what our Masters coach has in mind when he tells us to breathe every 5 or 7 strokes.

So to answer your question, there's nothing "wrong" with breathing every 4, but it's far less likely to have a positive impact on your swimming than working on your breathing form. When you do, you might discover that the very act of taking a breath can make your stroke better rather than worse.