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SWIMMER Editorials

Remember to Breathe (May–June 2017)

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It seems obvious, really. As mammals, we shouldn’t need this reminder.

But whether we regard human swimmers as interlopers in a hostile environment without the necessary anatomy to breathe underwater or lost merfolk returning to our home (who else dreams of having gills implanted as soon as biotechnology can do it?), sometimes we need to hear it: remember to breathe.

This reminder could come from your coach, who notices that you flag a bit on the second length of your 50 freestyle because you’re racing the swimmer in the next lane and you just put your head down and go. Or it could be that you’ve forgotten to exhale underwater and when you turn to inhale, you don’t get enough air in because you’re still holding some from the last breath. Even the most experienced swimmers need this reminder.

Or it could be your lanemate reminding you, when you’ve missed practice for days on end because life is getting in the way of your swimming: Remember to breathe.

This autonomic reflex, in which we fill our lungs with air and send oxygen to our blood, feeds all the tissues in our bodies. It also removes carbon dioxide and other waste products.

When we’re anxious, afraid, or feeling threatened, our breathing is shallow and quick. Under stress, our brains want us to breathe quickly so we can fight or flee.

During times when collective anxiety is palpable and it’s hard to put down the flashing electronic squirrel box—all the crazy news we can chase—we’re finding out how important it is: Remember to breathe.

Respect to all the yoga enthusiasts and grounded swimming peeps out there. You know those teammates—always a sunny smile and bright hello—even at 5:26 a.m. If you’re a driven Type A who needs coffee more than air to be civil at that hour, you might brush off their gentle reminders to breathe.

Until that day when you can’t breathe and you realize the forced deep breathing from swimming a set of descending 200s or a 3-mile rough-water swim against the current is the only thing that’s kept you from losing it at the office. Or at home.

Go to swim practice. Remember to breathe.

Not only will it get you through the tough times, it will make you smarter, as we learn in “Workout for the Brain” (Healthy Swimmer, page 14), where Jim Thornton explores how aerobic exercise improves our brains.

And for merfolk longing to trade the pressures of everyday life for the comforting pressure of the deep, Elaine K. Howley shares the fascinating history of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids—a post-WWII Central Florida sensation that’s making a comeback (Splashback, page 48).

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Updated December 30th, 2017 at 03:26 PM by Editor

Tags: breathing, stress
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