Breathing in Swimming

author : garyhallsr
comments : 5

by Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

Breathing during the freestyle stroke can be problematic for many swimmers. The subject brings up many questions:

  • How do I turn my head to breathe?
     
  • Do I hold my breath underwater?
     
  • How often should I breathe?
     
  • To one side or both?
      
  • How deeply should I breathe?


Many of us take breathing for granted. After all, we do it on land without even thinking. While swimming freestyle, it becomes another matter. We don't get to breathe whenever we want to and, if not done carefully, we may find that we get a nice gulp of water instead of fresh air.

Here are some of my tips on how to breathe properly while swimming freestyle for longer than a 50 meter sprint:

  1. Breathe on the side you feel most comfortable breathing. Don't try to breathe on both sides until you have mastered breathing on one.
      
  2. Since your head should be down while swimming and you should be looking straight down toward the bottom, learn to turn your head back and to the side to breathe, rather than straight to the side. By doing so, you will breathe behind your bow wave (the wave you create with your head as you move forward) and you may avoid getting water, especially when there are waves to contend with. Breathing there also helps you keep your head down.
      
  3. Don't over-turn your head to breathe. You should allow only one lens of your goggles to be exposed to the air. The other goggle lens should remain underwater, if you are breathing properly. Overturning your head can slow your stroke rate and your swimming speed.
      
  4. Don't try to get a full breath each time you breathe. All you are looking for is a good air exchange. Get the CO2 out and some new O2 in. You don't have time for a full breath and you don't need it.
      
  5. Hold your breath underwater until you have to force exhale before taking your next breath. This happens just before and during the head turn for the breath. The more air in your lungs, the more buoyant you are. The more buoyant you are, the less drag you create. Don't blow bubbles underwater, even though that is what your first swim instructor likely taught you.
      
  6. Breathe every cycle. That means breath every time you take a stroke on the same side. Unless you are swimming a 50 meter sprint, the more oxygen you can get, the better. You can produce a lot more ATP with oxygen than without it.

Some more experienced swimmers will learn to breathe on both sides (bilateral breathing). Although one needs to be more aerobically fit to do this, it will actually give you fewer respirations than with every cycle. Remember that when you are biking or running hard, you are breathing about 50 to 60 times per minute. If you are breathing every cycle and swimming with a stroke rate of 60, that means you are getting only 30 breaths per minute; far from physiologically normal.

So get fit, get comfortable with quick breaths to the side and backward and breathe often.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.
The Race Club


Gary Hall Sr. has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.
Rating

Click on star to vote
38477 Total Views  |  388 Views last 30 days  |  134 Views last 7 days
date: July 18, 2011

Author


garyhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

Author

avatargaryhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

View all 13 articles