Hey ADMS'ers
I decided to try a test of giving ya'll a reason to visit this Forum more regularly and transform it into an efficient communications and community-building tool for LMSC members. Could use the ADMS web site in a similar way but this forum has the advantage of allowing universal do-it-yourself access. Up to now we've not taken advantage as there've been only four or five posts in the last five years. So as an inducement to visit more regularly - and after consultation with gen chair Dave Barra - I've decided to post a regular series of articles. If you give this a thumbs-up I'll continue. Here's the first edition.
Happy laps,
Terry Laughlin

Bilateral Breathing

My first practical coaching lesson came on my second day on the job. I started my coaching career at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at age 21 in September 1972. On Day One, I noticed that virtually my entire team of 16 college men had lopsided freestyle strokes -- rolling moreswinging wider on recoveryand crossing under the body as they stroked -- toward their breathing side. I pondered that before the next days practice and came up with an experiment.

The next day I instructed them to warmup with 800 Free breathing to the "wrong" side. Instantly, every swimmer was more symmetrical -- the "blank slate" effect. Lacking a history of practicing bad habits, each swimmer's less-natural breathing side was actually more efficient. I felt instinctively that any practice tweak that increased symmetry couldnt be a bad thing. Since then, Ive made bilateral freestyle breathing SOP for every team Ive coached and my own practice. They were free to breathe to any side in races, but did mostly bilateral breathing in practice.

Virtually all swimmers favor one breathing side because it feels better. Breathing the other way feels awkward, and who needs that The problem with unilateral breathing is that millions of breaths that way tend to unbalance your stroke. Making a conscious decision to balance your breathing has two benefits:
1. Breathing on your "blank slate" side will help your stroke overall, including your normal breathing side.
2. You'll gain command of a useful racing tactic: In the pool you'll eliminate your "blind" side, and in open water you can check for landmarks wherever they may be, and avoid chop -- or a rough swimmer alongside -- splashing your face as you breathe.

Bilateral (also called alternate sides) breathing isn't limited to breathing every 3 (or 5, 7 or 9) strokes. It means taking as many breaths to your right side as you do to your left over the entire practice. How you can achieve that goal is limited only by your imagination. Here are just a few options (assuming a swimmer who normally breathes left):
1. Breathe right on one length and left on the next. You'll still get plenty of air, but develop a more balanced stroke. You also get more time to work out the awkward feeling on your new breathing side.
2. Breathe right in warmups, cooldowns, and other less intense sets, and left on main sets.
3. Breathe right side during the first few repeats of main sets, then shift gradually to your left. Example: On a set of 5 x 100, breathe right on the first 100, 75 right/25 left on the second, 50/50 on the third, 25 right/75 left on the fourth, and breathe left on the fifth 100.
4. Experiment with 2 left, 2 right, 3L/3R or 4L/4R until you find a comfortable pattern.