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Thread: Breathing

  1. #1
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    Breathing

    Hi,

    I started swimming a couple of months ago following a running injury. I can't run at the moment so I thought I would keep fit by swimming, but my problem is I don't know how to breathe... I can barely do 25 mt and then I have to stop and rest for 30-60 seconds. I have no problem running (I completed my first half marathon in March) so I can't understand why this is so difficult..

    I'm working with a teacher to improve my freestyle crawl technique (which was quite poor as I hadn't had much practice in the last 20 years or so...) and she says the breathing will come naturally, but after 2 months swimming twice a week I can't see any improvement... still cannot swim continously for more than 25 metres. I can do breast stroke or back stroke without stopping, it's just the freestyle what gets me completely out of breath.

    Is there anything I can do to improve my breathing technique?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Re: Breathing

    Did you run your first half marathon after only 2 month of training? Swimming uses very different muscles. It will take time. Stick with it.

  3. #3
    Very Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by Alisha View Post
    Is there anything I can do to improve my breathing technique?
    Work on it frequently.

    I too was a runner before I was a swimmer. As land creatures, running comes much more naturally to humans than swimming does. There's a lot more 'technique' involved in swimming than there is in running.

    Dan

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    Freestyle Breathing is very difficult to master. Takes time, practice, feedback, drills and rhythm. You may want to video yourself to actually see what you are doing wrong. Get an experienced swimmer to feedback you

  5. #5
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    Re: Breathing

    Breathing is counter intuitive. You do NOT hold your breath. You breathe IN through your mouth when you rotate, pretty quickly, and then you meter your exhalation as necessary. Slowly when you are pacing, but you'll do it more quickly as you tire. Look straight down with your head. When you rotate to breathe, look kind of behind you, about 3/4 of the way, and look for your elbow as you recover. One goggle should be pretty close to staying in the water.

  6. #6
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    Re: Breathing

    Ditto what 67King said -

    And, another way to think about it, when your face is in the water, you should be exhaling. When your face is out of the water, you can inhale. To put a finer point on what 67King said, the exhale process is longer and can be slower, while the inhale process is fairly short. In other words, focus on exhaling and not much on inhaling.

    Contrary to what your teacher told you, breathing while swimming does not come naturally. Novice swimmers want to hold their breath until their head is out of the water which does not work. They also like to lift their head to breathe instead of rotating your head to the side (as 67King suggested).

    Talk with a learn-to-swim instructor about learning to breathe. if they are any good, they will have you holding onto a kickboard and learning how to time your breath with your arm motion (one arm at a time).

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    Re: Breathing

    I still have a lot of trouble with freestyle breathing. I found that some breathing exercises for singing have been helpful for freestyle breathing, you might look into those too. Breathing works on negative pressure - inhaling is the contraction of the diaphragm (among other factors), expanding the chest cavity and automatically filling the lungs with air. Exhalation is the reverse process. One exercise is to take as deep a breath as possible and then exhale all the way - absolutely until you can't do breath out any more (and then even more) and the inhale. It helps you get used to a) the feeling of being out of air and how much it actually takes to get there and b) what taking that deep breath feels like.

  8. #8
    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by Windrath View Post
    Ditto what 67King said -

    And, another way to think about it, when your face is in the water, you should be exhaling. When your face is out of the water, you can inhale.
    I knew there was something not exactly right when I was breathing
    can finally ditch this snorkel

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    Re: Breathing

    Many thanks for the replies, I plan to stick with it, it's just frustrating to have to stop after each length on the pool...

    I do not hold my breath, I can't do this because if I do water gets into my nose and my lungs, so every time my nose is under water, air is coming out, there's no other option for me... (I know some people can put their nose under water and no water will come in, but it's not my case)

    I would look into those singing excercises.

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    Re: Breathing

    I hope that I am not hijacking this thread with this question:

    Freestyle breathing: alternating sides, or one side? It seems that the experts push one or the other in my readings. There does not seem to be a consensus. Or maybe I need to do more reading?
    Mon-50m, Tue-200m, Thu-100m, Fri-400m.

  11. #11
    Very Active Member Calvin S's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by Skuj View Post
    I hope that I am not hijacking this thread with this question:

    Freestyle breathing: alternating sides, or one side? It seems that the experts push one or the other in my readings. There does not seem to be a consensus. Or maybe I need to do more reading?
    Whatever is comfortable. I was a bilateral breather for years and years. Then as a post-grad I had a coach tell me I should try just single side breathing. Took me a few months to get the hang of it, but it actually improved my freestyle races (especially 400/800/1500 and the yards equivalents) drastically.

    A key thing here is to pick a side that feels most comfortable. Since I was learning it for the first time I just chose the side that felt most natural (I breathe to my right, so when my left arm is extended out to start my catch). That has caused me to have minor shoulder soreness at times in my left shoulder, but ice and prehab take care of that for the most part. Also it is still important to work the opposite side. I usually do this when I am doing a hypoxic set, and will just single side breathe to whichever side is where I break out. Also when I swim easy (and sometimes in warm up) I will mix in single side breathing to the opposite side as well. But when it's time to go fast, I am sticking to my strong side.

  12. #12
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    Re: Breathing

    Skuj,

    Back in the 1960s and 1970s, bilateral breathing was pushed as a way to balance your stroke and reduce the strain on the shoulder that can come from breathing always to one side. It is also a way to see where your competition is. I continue to breathe every 3 almost all the time in practice because it forces me to think about good hip and shoulder rotation even on the non-dominant side.

    In more recent years, various techniques as well as a big increase in kicking intensity has seen the move to breathing to one side and more often as a way to get rid of the CO2 from the heavy-duty kicking. And, these swimmers have gotten very good at breathing without it disrupting their stroke.

    An interesting sidebar - to support what Calvin S posted - is an article I read almost 20 years ago by, I think, Forbes Carlisle. Can't find the article anymore. In the article, he proposed that breathing to only one side resulted in better timing and a slightly higher tempo because this eliminate the inherent delay due to a bit more rotation to the opposite side every 3 strokes. I experimented with it personally as well as with my highschool and college sprinters. Indeed - it did seem to work.

    The downside to breathing only to one side is loss of balance as well as losing the ability to comfortably breathe to the other side if you need to. In open water swimming, the wave patterns and other swimmers sometimes force you to breathe on the other side.

    So, all personal preference really. Unless there is a reason not to, I encourage swimmers to breathe to both sides simply so they know how to. Having more options when you swim is always a good thing.

  13. #13
    Very Active Member Calvin S's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    Agree that you do need to meet certain criteria to make single side breathing work better for you. That is why I pointed out that I changed breathing patterns LATE in my (otherwise still young, compared to others like Windrath) career. I already had a decent kick which I then worked to make a hell of a lot stronger (side note that I think at the time I switched I could maybe make repeat 100 yard FR kicks with a board on 1:40 on a great day. I got that down to 1:25 consistently, and nearly managed to catch my best 100 yard FR swim time with my best 75 yard FR kick time...a benchmark I have been told is a good one to meet!). Sorry I digressed. I also had/have a strong core (I do a lot of core work on the side but also take a dedicated core class once a week), which helps compensate for the lack of rotation from breathing only to the one side.

    But like everyone keeps saying, the best thing you can do is play around with it yourself and figure out what works best for you. And remember this, one of my favorite things to tell my swimmers when they would be implementing something new (whether it be a training device or a stroke/technique change): Sometimes you have to swim slower before you can swim faster. If at first you don't feel like the change/choice you made is making you better, just give it some time before relegating it to the scrap heap of bad ideas!

  14. #14
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    Re: Breathing

    I really appreciate these responses, thanks. (I hope I didn't derail the initial related-topic.)
    Mon-50m, Tue-200m, Thu-100m, Fri-400m.

  15. #15
    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: Breathing

    The downside to breathing only to one side is loss of balance as well as losing the ability to comfortably breathe to the other side if you need to. In open water swimming, the wave patterns and other swimmers sometimes force you to breathe on the other side.
    I agree that breathing comfortable to either side is a worthwhile objective. However, I tend to disagree with it improving your balance. Yes, bilateral breathing requires you to rotate left and right to breath, but if your stroke is out of balance when you breath to one side it will likely be out of balance when you breath to both sides. It may be less noticeable as you wobble down the pool.

    If you have a stroke imbalance, first fix the imbalance on you dominant side, next fix it on your other side, and then work on bilateral breathing. You can work on non-dominant and bilateral at the same time, but fix the stroke first; donít just mask the issue.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine and not those of U.S. Masters Swimming.

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