The joy of oxygen: 10 quick tips to master breathing in the swim

The act of breathing is an important element of swimming. View it as a component of the stroke, rather than an pause for air during the stroke. Breathing is one of the hardest skills to master and one of the most obvious flaws visible in triathlon. Incorrect breathing technique will impact your entire stroke. For example, lifting the head too much while breathing will cause your hips and reduce streamlining.

Try these quick breathing tips to improve your swimming efficiency and speed:

  1. Do as Frankie says and relax! Breathe in and out. Otherwise your body will tense up and your brain will be distracted by the search for its next source of oxygen.
  2. Breathe out before you turn your head to breathe in, so you are ready to take in fresh oxygen. Exhale when your face is in the water, turn your head to the side and take a smooth, quick inhale before sliding your face back into the water and then breathing out again.
  3. Do not gasp at the air like a fish out of water – you risk swallowing water not air!
  4. Keep a reserve of oxygen in your lungs on each breath in case you get caught short.
  5. Breathe frequently – every two or three strokes. When cycling and running you take lots of breaths, there is no reason to hold it in the pool.
  6. Timing: there should be no pause in your stroke as you breathe. Keep your rhythm and do not jerk your head to the side to breathe. Move your hips & shoulders to breathe as well as your head.
  7. Practice bilateral breathing – good to balance your strength and great on race day for route awareness and avoiding splashy competitors.
  8. You are not a slinky! View your spine as a rigid rod (think iron bar) around which your body rotates. You should be balanced head to toe, and side to side.
  9. Your head should be in line with your body, everything moving forward, not side to side. Keep the head stable, moving only to breathe.
  10. Keep your head on the surface, parallel to the bottom of the pool and not looking up at the ceiling. Water should breaking on your brow. Do not lift the head up to breathe.

Improving your breathing will keep your body and mind relaxed and help you swim faster with less effort.

Try the tips above in the pool and let me know if you notice the progress.

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