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2013-06-20 6:43 PM

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Subject: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
Hello --

So after my first attempt at the Iron distance (Ironman St. George 2012, DNF on the swim), I'm now setting my sights on IM Arizona 2013. I'm about 5 months away and looking to make changes in my swim stroke. Being by far my weakest discipline, I'm about 3 weeks into the total immersion drills and feel nowhere near comfortable with the stroke yet, however I do feel like I make small improvements with each training session. Along with this, I'm taking maybe the 3rd or 4th stab and incorporating bilateral breathing. Most of my tri buddies say I don't need it but I know my stroke suffers because I spend a good amount of time correcting myself as I veer off course in the water.

For the life of me, I just can't get comfortable breathing to my left. At the end of 100m, I'm feeling pretty winded I think mostly because of the bilateral breathing. I don't think I have a very oxygen capacity although it doesn't seem to be much of a problem on the bike and run. According to my training plan, I should be able to get through a 1500m set comfortably, which I can with my old stroke. However, I'm being stubborn and sticking to my TI/bilateral breathing stroke.

I'm trying to be an optimist about this, but at what point do I need to revert back and re-adopt some of my old habits? I think it's bilateral breathing that's giving me the most trouble. Should I cut that first and try to stick with the TI stroke? Or does bilateral breathing offer more benefit than TI? Or is it just too late in the game (for IMAZ) to try anything new at this point?


2013-06-20 9:44 PM
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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I'm in the same boat as you. I suck at swimming and trying to breath on my left side is horrible. I did see a tri coach (expensive...so only 2 lessons) and they said fins are required for all her students., so I bought a $20 pair online. I've only used them for 2 weeks but they do seem to help. Although only a little benefit so far. I use them for drills and not my main sets and it's helping me show where I'm messing up the most. It seems to exaggerate my mistakes with my stoke (going in center line and thus legs come out of slipstream) and also breathing to the left (not enough roll). I think it will be the best $20 I spend since I can focus on my technique for my drills (what I should be doing), instead of making sure I'm going fast enough to stay afloat and what my legs aren't dragging (sort of freebies with the fins on).

As for the question... you should be trying bilateral. I tend to start with it and give up easily but I'm working on it. The reason is that you're probably like me and have good roll on your breathing side and flat on the other. The things I read say you should do all workouts with it but come race day, do what's comfortably since you should have good roll memory in place. Bilateral will help with sighting though, during the race.

Edited by Blastman 2013-06-20 9:45 PM
2013-06-20 9:52 PM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I am training for my first IM, that also being IMAZ. From my experience, a year ago my self taught swimming was borderline drowning avoidance. I hired a great swimming coach for four swim lessons. My swimming improved dramatically. While I am only a little faster, my sense of confidence in the water and the ease with which I swim increased dramatically! My coach uses components from several styles of swimming, and he told me improving my for pm is far more important than bi-lateral breathing. I breathe to the left and that is it. To stay on course, figure out what your imbalance it ( good stroke on one side but not the other maybe?) and sight often during your swim. Anyway, that is two cents worth from a newbie to IM whose goal is to finish faster than 17:00:00.

I hope to see you in Tempe on Nov 17th!
2013-06-21 6:22 AM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I am training for my first IM also (IM Louisville), but have been doing shorter distance for quite a few years, off and on. Swimming is by far my weakest discipline. When I first started triathlons and needed to swim laps (which I had never done before), I found that I had to learn bilateral breathing because one shoulder would get really sore otherwise. In 2011 I did my first HIM, and watched a ton of swim technique videos, talked to friends, read a bunch of articles, etc. Even though I was as fit as I ever had been with a lot of strength and plenty of endurance, I still watched all the women in my wave swim away with seeming ease, while I struggled, out of breath, just to keep going.

This year I decided to join a Masters swim group, and it was the best thing I could have done for my training. Even though I had watched all the videos and THOUGHT that I was correctly executing the suggested technique, I was not. The Masters coach immediately picked out 4 major things I needed to work on. I would say it took about 4-5 weeks of 3 times per week with the group (and though it's not private lessons, the coach was very helpful regarding my individual technique needs) before I had some breakthroughs, and all of the sudden everything clicked. Now, I'm still not fast, but I'm much more efficient, confident, I don't tire as easily, etc.

I know your question was about bilateral breathing, but I share all this to say either get a coach (expensive) or join a masters swim group (less expensive). You'll not only get some advice on how to get better at your bilateral breathing, but it's amazing how you can think that you're doing a stroke a certain way, yet when a coach watches you s/he can immediately tell you what you need to work on. I still am more comfortable breathing to my right than I am to my left, I roll easier, don't bring my head up as much, etc., but at least I know what to work on.

Oh, one final thought, I feel overall it's better to be able to breathe to both sides given the unpredictable nature of the triathlon swim. I did one earlier this year in a lake that typically has very little current, but it was a windy day, and it was so choppy that for a great majority of the race I had to breathe to my left in order to not take in water. I don't know how people fared who can only breathe to the right. So I think it's an advantage even if you don't always use a bilateral breathing pattern.

Best of luck to you!!
2013-06-23 12:38 PM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
Thanks for the tips everyone.

Blastman: I took the fins out and did some drills. I think I can attribute my difficulty to my left side breathing to a really awkward roll. If I try to roll with ease (similar to my right side) my mouth won't make it out of the water. If I exaggerate my roll, my head dips out for a sec but seems to head back down to the bottom of the pool like an anchor. So I end up binging my head out of the water by pushing down with my left hand which results in legs dropping, stopping my momentum, etc. It's really frustrating.

Mikeylee: Agreed, there are probably alot more things I need to focus on right now then bi-lateral breathing. It's been something that I've been wanting to get down for a few years but I generally space races anywhere from 3-5 months apart. If I want to really put the effort into this, I may need to clear my race schedule for a good 10 months or so. Well, regardless whether or not I figure this out, I'll see you at the starting line at IMAZ!

rquinn23: Thanks. I've had a few coaches in the past who've helped me significantly. Will probably need to consider picking this back up.

Thanks folks for your replies!
2013-06-24 8:14 AM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I used to absolutely suck at swimming as well. I was slow and ended sprint swims feeling gassed, arm and leg weary. I took a TI weekend freestyle clinic and I will say it is absolutely the best thing I could have done for my swimming.

I am not any faster than I used to be. However I am comfortable in the water which is huge. I can swim long distances (2500 m this past Saturday) in a stretch without feeling gassed. When I went to the clinic I spoke with the coach and he asked what my goals were. I said simply I wanted to come out of the water ready to get on the bike. I completed an Olympic swim in April and I have a HIM this coming Sunday and I feel calm and secure that it won't be an issue.

As far as bilateral breathing, while it is nice if you can do it, I still have yet to master it and it hasn't become an issue for me. If you are breathing every third stroke you may indeed be into hypoxic training. I too, have difficulty breathing to my left. While I can if I have to I prefer my right side much more, and breath to my right on every stroke. If you have trouble staying on course then sight more often in open water. I typical sight every 10 stroke cycles. Something else you can do while pool swimming to help even out your stroke is to swim with your eyes closed. I do this to try and simulate OWS visibility condition and open them every so often to make corrections. The more I do it the better I get a feel for swimming straight.

So my advice, which is worth every penny you are paying me for it , is to stick with TI swimming. Get to a clinic if you can with a certified instructor. It helps so much. And don't worry so much about bilateral breathing.

Good luck


2013-06-24 1:26 PM
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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
Good luck with your efforts.  One thing I will also say about bilateral breathing is that it gives you more options come race day.  You never know what the surface conditions will be like on race day and if you've got windy conditions with waves coming into you from one side it's nice to be able to comfortably switch to breathing on the opposite side to avoid taking in gulps of water.  I'll be treading water with you prior to the swim start of IM Arizona in November.

Edited by Birkierunner 2013-06-24 1:47 PM
2013-06-27 4:12 PM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
Thanks everyone for your input.

So as an update (someone may hopefully find this information useful) - I've continued with bilateral breathing and focusing on the TI stroke. While I'm still far from comfortable from breathing on my weak side, I can actually say that I feel like I'm struggling less and less each swim session (more control, less struggle).

I've been skimming the TI message boards and a big thing that Terry (the founder of TI) mentioned was that bilateral doesn't necessarily mean breathing every 3, 5 or 7 strokes. So I'm breaking every 100m into 50m right and 50m left. I know at some point I will want to work on my oxygen capacity but I can only work on so much at once.

Anyways, thanks everyone for your help.
2013-07-01 7:25 AM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I kind of wonder if you are forgetting to breathe out when you are breathing on your "bad"/left side. Shortness of breath is often more of a CO2 issue than a O2 issue. If you are concentrating so much on getting your face out of the water on your left that you are forgetting to exhale under water, then you are always going to feel like you are short of breath because you can't get rid of enough CO2.

Just a thought.
2013-08-04 8:38 PM
in reply to: wannabefaster

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
Good point. So one of my drills is 50m x4, alternate 3, 5, 7 and 9 breaths. On 3, I breathe out on 2. On 5, breathe out on 4... etc, etc. This feels okay but I think the main culprit was the unbalanced effort it takes to breathe on my weak side. It seems like it takes about twice the effort to breathe to my weak side. However, as I've been switching on every 50m (50m breathe right, 50m breathe left), the effort is balancing itself out. Honestly, I think it will take at least another year (maybe 2) for effort to feel pretty consistent on both sides. So I'm not going to stress so much on breathing every 3 throughout my whole workout. Once I feel somewhat comfortable breathing on both sides, my next step is to work on lunch capacity.
2013-08-05 1:50 PM
in reply to: nrodrigo

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion
I'm not sure why you think bilateral breathing is really necessary. There are lots of people who breathe to only one side, and a ton of people who train slowly with bilateral breathing, but fast swimming they switch to single sided. There are many well known benefits to bilateral breathing, so if you can do it that's great. But if your choice is bilateral breathing but no distance, or unilateral breathing and 2.4 mile swim, the latter is the right choice.

A bit about me: I learned long distance swimming with Total Immersion and did my first IM in April 2006. This November I will be in Arizona for my tenth IM. I remain a slow swimmer (back of pack), moderate cyclist in the middle of the pack, and a front of the pack runner. I do bilateral breathing in training, especially when doing one arm drills (of course). But for regular swimming during training and racing, I breath only to one side and on every stroke of the arm on that side. I usually get out of the IM comfortably in 1:25 or so. Most of my IMs have been 12:45 to 13 hours, with my fastest at 11:52. And all have been in M40-44, now M45-49.

I've always struggled with getting enough air; it's not a weak stroke on the left side or a problem breathing to the left. I can do it nearly as well as my right (I'm right dominant). I just don't get enough air if I try bilateral to keep up any sort of speed. Yes I know all sorts of things about lung capacity and training and technique; it just hasn't worked for me.


2013-08-05 4:27 PM
in reply to: brucemorgan

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Subject: RE: IM Arizona / Picking up Total Immersion

Heck Yeah!!  I will be treading water with you cats at IMAZ too!!

I'm a right side breather almost exclusively.  I find that I'm more relaxed taking in a breath every right arm and my form still holds strong.  When I'm sighting I'm doing it all in one smoot "look up and turn my head to the right" pattern about every 4th or 5th stroke. 

I've tried bi-lateral breathing and I'm so-so at going to my left side, but I would rather breathe more naturally like I do when I'm biking and running so every right arm it is.

Good luck studs and we will see you all in Tempe Town Lake, freaking out, before the gun goes off!!!

 

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