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Thread: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

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    Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    My 10 year old son just started swimming on a non-competitive swim team this year. He mentioned in passing that he holds his breath while his face is in the water when swimming freestyle. He is not very fast right now, so it probably doesn't harm him now, but I would like to break him of this habit before it sticks! He said the timing of the exhale and inhale confuses him and he ends up choking on water. He breathes every 3 strokes and I've always learned to breathe every other stroke. How does the exhale/inhale work for every 3 strokes. It seems like a long time to exhale?
    Last edited by jenetic79; February 12th, 2019 at 11:59 PM. Reason: Typo

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Quote Originally Posted by jenetic79 View Post
    My 10 year old son .... How does the exhale/inhale work for every 3 strokes. It seems like a long time to exhale?
    When he says every three "strokes", does he mean every three single arm pulls, or six single arm pulls?

    Also, it's important that he NOT hold his breath, rather he should be exhaling slightly underwater so he can maximize the inhale time when he turns his head to breathe.


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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Sorry for not being clear. He breathes every 3 single arm pulls.

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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    When he says every three "strokes", does he mean every three single arm pulls, or six single arm pulls?

    Also, it's important that he NOT hold his breath, rather he should be exhaling slightly underwater so he can maximize the inhale time when he turns his head to breathe.
    He is breathing every 3 single arm pulls. Should I try to talk to the coach to convert him to breathe every 2 pulls? I think his natural inclination is to breathe in and out evenly (based on what he did when he demonstrated his breathing to me). He learned the breathing every 3 pulls from swim lessons prior to starting on the team. I guess the swim teacher never noticed he wasn't exhaling in the water.

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    Very Active Member JPEnge's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Quote Originally Posted by jenetic79 View Post
    He is breathing every 3 single arm pulls. Should I try to talk to the coach to convert him to breathe every 2 pulls? I think his natural inclination is to breathe in and out evenly (based on what he did when he demonstrated his breathing to me). He learned the breathing every 3 pulls from swim lessons prior to starting on the team. I guess the swim teacher never noticed he wasn't exhaling in the water.
    Bilateral breathing is really important to young, developing swimmers. It promotes balance to the stroke, and can help with building a rhythm in the kick.

    As swimmers get older (think mid-high school at the earliest), many will start to favor one side or the other (watch Michael Phelps swim the 200 free, for example), but your son is nowhere near that point. So I wouldn't have him drop to every other just yet.

    As for the exhale, I really never thought about it until my Masters coach (who has won some awards and certifications for technique coaching and has learned under some really good coached) started telling us he teaches to exhale everything quickly right before you breathe. His rationale being, exhaling continuously doesn't give all the oxygen from the inhale time to work it's way all the way through the system.
    400 IMer/200 backstroker in another life, now sprinter/breaststroker... Yeah, I don't know how that happened either!

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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Quote Originally Posted by JPEnge View Post
    Bilateral breathing is really important to young, developing swimmers. It promotes balance to the stroke, and can help with building a rhythm in the kick.

    As swimmers get older (think mid-high school at the earliest), many will start to favor one side or the other (watch Michael Phelps swim the 200 free, for example), but your son is nowhere near that point. So I wouldn't have him drop to every other just yet.

    As for the exhale, I really never thought about it until my Masters coach (who has won some awards and certifications for technique coaching and has learned under some really good coached) started telling us he teaches to exhale everything quickly right before you breathe. His rationale being, exhaling continuously doesn't give all the oxygen from the inhale time to work it's way all the way through the system.
    Ah, ok. Thank you!

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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    As Jeff said, breathing every 3 is a good habit to get into. Most swimmers do not need to breathe more often than that. The elite swimmers, like Phelps, are breathing every 2 because they are generating huge amounts of CO2. The huge CO2 they generate is due to kicking so hard and their goal is to avoid oxygen debt and the build up of lactic acid in the muscles.

    Breathing is more about getting rid of CO2 because that is the compound that triggers the breathing function - not lack of oxygen. There is plenty of oxygen in the air you exhale (think CPR). If you don't exhale completely or your breathing is shallow from inhaling/exhaling too often, the exchange is compromised and your swimming will suffer.

    I breathe every 3 with the pattern of holding my breath for 1 stroke and exhaling hard for 2. If I wait until the 3rd stroke to exhale, I do not have enough time to exhale everything.

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    Very Active Member Swimspire's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    As you explained, at 10 years old, your son is just beginning his swimming journey. He should be exposed to a variety of techniques, and continue to work on swimming lessons, focusing on technique and overall swimming development in a way that is positive and encouraging. You should definitely speak with your son's coach to describe your son's difficulties and get his/her input. He/she would have the best perspective on your son's progress and be able to make the appropriate decision as to what next steps to take.
    Last edited by Swimspire; February 14th, 2019 at 02:32 PM.

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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    Quote Originally Posted by jenetic79 View Post
    Should I try to talk to the coach to convert him to breathe every 2 pulls?
    I would not suggest going to the coach with suggestions - that is his/her job, and if yours are like mine, they see their share of parents who dont realize that there is more to coaching swimming than a typical rec league ball sport for kindergartners. Until you know your coach a little better, you'd be risking that label.

    If you want to talk to your coach, approach him/her in a questioning manner. Coach may be working on other basic stuff before perfecting breathing. Or the coach may not be aware. Perhaps they offer private lessons, which may not only help, but give the coach a chance to look for some specific things in a 1 on 1 that could then be looked for with the group.

    But the main thing is to first understand what the coach is doing before questioning it.

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    Re: Breathing every 3 strokes during freestyle

    I am also of the belief that knowing how to, and being comfortable with bi-lat breathing is important and useful to a swimmer. As a swimmer who does bi-lat breathe...I don't always do it. It depends on when, where, and how intense I am swimming. Obviously it is very valuable in the open water, and almost always in use. In the pool, if I swimming long slow distance I'll use it. But if/when I'm swimming high-intensity shorter distances I may not.

    WRT discussing this with the coach...depending on how many swimmers the coach is responsible for during your son's practice times...it may be a situation where the coach just doesn't have the time to give to an individual swimmer during team practice. If that's the case, I would suggest some private one-on-one coaching lessons (perhaps with a different person), and follow-up with the coach.

    Dan

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