By Courtney Faller
On numerous occasions adults tell me “I love to swim but I get so out of breath when I do it!” or “I have so much trouble getting a breath while I swim.” Difficulty breathing is a very common problem in swimming, across all ages and abilities. It is also a problem easily solved.
Let’s start with a question: in other forms of exercise (running, biking, etc.), how often and how long do you hold your breath? Have you ever even done such a silly thing? Of course not, so why do it in swimming?
While you can’t inhale underwater, that does not mean you cannot continue your normal breathing pattern while swimming. There are two parts to breathing: inhalation and exhalation. You can certainly blow your air out underwater. That’s just blowing bubbles, and we all know how to do that.
Breathing underwater simply means you’re exhaling under the water and maintaining a normal breathing rhythm while swimming, just like you would in any other form of exercise. And if you time your breathing correctly, you put your body in a more relaxed and efficient state, thus making swimming a more enjoyable activity.
It is common for coaches instruct swimmers to “breathe every 3” while swimming freestyle. The logic is swimmers should learn balance in the water and, therefore, must practice breathing to both sides of their bodies. That makes sense up to a point. The problem is swimmers are much more likely to hold their breath underwater if they are counting their strokes until their next breath.
Instead, at I’On Club, we instruct swimmers- across all ages and abilities- to “breathe in every 2 towards the same side of the pool.” This enables the swimmer to maintain a very natural and relaxed breathing rhythm- stroke and inhale, stroke and exhale. Balance is maintained by breathing to one side of the body while going in one direction, and then switching to the other side of the body when you switch directions. The result is you end up seeing only one side of the pool, preferably the side where your coach is standing.
Again, this works for all ages and abilities. Many swim technique experts emphasize the relaxed breathing pattern, and use underwater exhalation as the key. And at the national and world class level, you’ll see virtually all freestylers breathing every two strokes.
If you’re interested in doing more swimming but just can’t seem to figure out how to get your breath, stop by the club. We offer private and group lessons for all ages and skill levels. Or, take a swim on your own and put this best practice to use!