How to Make Breathing Feel Effortless
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on December 4th, 2010

TI Coach Suzanne Atkinson started a breathing thread on the TI Discussion Forum with some sound advice:

The most common breathing flaw is lifting the head, [When this happens] the hand pushes down to “buoy” the head upwards . . .  forward propulsion is lost while drag soars. You have two strokes to regain your balance & streamline before it’s time to breathe again.

A well balanced, streamlined breathing stroke starts with a “weightless” head that is entirely supported by the buoyant force of the water. if your head is fully supported, then your arms are freed of the duty to support your head. A weightless head enables weightless arms. Read her full post and following discussion here.

Suzanne’s strong emphasis on Balance matches my own. Over the past 5 weeks my training has been transformed by using the skills-hierarchy of Balance. Streamline. Propel. (B-S-P) as an organizing principle in every aspect of  practice planning.

I’ve also tried to simplify my Focal Point practice by distilling my thoughts about B-S-P to language that describes the feeling each brings in the fewest possible words.

When I focus on Balance, I’m looking to feel a floating-weightless-cushioned-supported sensation in

  1. hands and arms as they extend
  2. head – at all times, especially as I roll to breathe
  3. torso – including under the armpit and lat as I extend in free and roll to breathe.
  4. legs

Being patiently-and-acutely focused on creating these sensations has made me realize how much potential improvement I can still achieve in Balance — even 20 years after doing my first (crude) balance drill. And that my breathing – especially how I hold water with my right hand on a left-side breath – can still improve.

Tirelessly seeking improvements of this sort is the only way I can contemplate the possibility of matching the times I did at 55 (which, at the time I did them, were faster than I’d swum since age 42) at age 60 next year.

"Really, really, really relax your head" while breathing.

Learn to breathe weightlessly with the help of Lesson Three of the Self-Coached Workshop DVD and our breathing skills DVD O2 in H2o: A Self-Help Course on Breathing in Swimming.

We will also teach efficient, comfortable breathing in special 1-day intensive Freestyle Made Better classes Dec 14 and 16 in Coral Springs FL. These classes will be led by Terry Laughlin, Shinji Takeuchi and Shane Eversfield.

Coral Springs Aquatic Complex - site of Freestyle Made Easier class

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5 Responses to “How to Make Breathing Feel Effortless”

  1. Kang says:

    Hi Mr terry sir, I had not been swimming for a long time (unless soaking in pool count) and recently I started to swim again. But when I am swimming freestyle I found out that I’m having problem breathing. I just cannot manage to get my head up high enough for a good breath. I kept sucking in or drinking the water from the pool. Can you please kindly offer suggestion or method to improve the situation.
    thank you sir

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  2. Kang
    I suggest you post a query on our Discussion Forum.

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  3. dorothy says:

    Head shouldn’t go up. Head should turn to the side

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  4. Jwala Bhatt says:

    I use the snorkelling gear to help me breathe better. After a few laps, I find myself breathing more freely without the gear as well.

    But the very important point is about the head. It has to hand freely so that the balance is not lost. Otherwise, the body is more focused on trying to balance rather than trying to breath.

    Our nervous system’s first priority is to prevent drowning so the body will balance first. The breathing part is second priority. Therefore it is important to not lose the balance. How not to lose any balance while breathing? Keep a very calm and relaxed head.

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  5. Gaudencio says:

    I would suggest Kang to investigate whether he has a physical problem in his cervical apine, such as a flexión contraction, I mean, some degrees of flexion in his neck.
    Gaudencio

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