If I ask new swimmers what their biggest challenge is, most say it’s breathing. Many report experiencing one or more of the following symptoms of “airlessness.”
- They’re out of breath after a lap or two
- They hold their breathing, because their stroke falls apart during a breath.
- They’re concerned with taking in water, instead of air.
If any of these are true it’s nearly impossible to build toward a continuous mile. In fact, you become so preoccupied with or distracted by lack of air that it’s hard to think of much of anything else.
If this describes you — or even if you can swim a mile but feel your breathing technique could be better — this blog’s for you. This stepwise series of focal points focus on breathing easier:
1. Blow bubbles. Exhale steadily and strongly enough that you can hear bubbles streaming from your mouth and nose anytime your face is in the water.
2. Inhale like you sing. If you sing at all, even in the shower, you’re familiar with how you often have to grab a quick, sharp inhale between phrases. You don’t have time to fill your chest, so you just take a “quick bite” to get through the next phrase. That’s how you inhale between strokes. The exhale is strong, conscious, sustained. You hardly notice the inhale.
3. Follow your shoulder. If you’re breathing to your left, move your chin in synch with your left shoulder as that arm strokes. Your chin follows the shoulder back, then leads it forward again.
4. Hang your head. Focus on feeling a weightless head, resting on the water, as you follow your shoulder to breathe. Keep your “laser” aimed in the direction you’re going, as your mouth clears the surface.
5. Swim “taller.” With each stroke focus on using your hand to lengthen your body-line, rather than to push water back. Then give particular attention to lengthening with one hand as your chin follows the other shoulder back.
To learn more about breathing skills – in all strokes – check out our O2 in H2O DVD.