"Aha" moment and success with Freestyle breathing
Also posted this over in the Freestyle forum. Maybe this will be of help for those of you who are still struggling with breathing. I understand your distress.
Quick history: I'm a marathon runner who switched over to triathlons last year. Happily run 26.2 miles, bike with glee...but swim 25 yards and start gasping for air. Did my first tri last year, swim was short but not so fun as I did what could only be described as a distant cousin of the Freestyle. More like a heads-up water polo stroke. :-)
Been working on my form this spring and summer, and "graduated" from swimming 25 yards without gasping to 50 yards. Had my form critiqued by a swim coach, told it was good. Yes, did all the TI drills and while I felt more fishlike, still felt like a fish that needed to carry an oxygen tank with me. A longer swim without ending up gasping for air or needing to flop over to backstroke eluded me.
Finally...decided to try something new for my swims from a breath control perspective. Maybe you are familiar with "bobs"?...you sink below the surface, breath bubbles out underwater, bob back up for a breath, and repeat.
What I started doing last weekend was this: At the end of the lane before I start my swim, I do about 60 seconds of bobs. Just relax out my breath through my nose for the count of 3, bob up and take a relaxed breath for a count of 1...then repeat that sequence for about a minute. Then I begin my swim.
The first few times I tried this, I found that I was much more relaxed for most of the 50 yards. So, what I did was add on 60 seconds of bobs at the end of my 50 yards. As I was doing my bobs, I see how my breath was doing. Was I gasping a little bit? Was I relaxed?
I did that over the weekend with 50 yard easy intervals...and it went very well. And it got better each time. If I ended my 50 yards still gasping, the bobs at the end of those 50 yards would quickly relax me, I'd feel much better quickly, and be ready to go for another 50.
The great thing for me about doing the 60 seconds before I take off on the swim is that my brain feels like it's got the breathing cadence "locked in". I work on making sure I take a relaxed breath in...I breath out for 3 seconds which is roughly my time between breathing, then repeat a relaxed breath in. I make a relaxed breath my focus point and keep a keen eye on whatever I might be doing to keep my breathing from being relaxed...going too fast, kicking too much, turning my head instead of rolling my hips...whatever. Key Phrase: Relaxed Breath!
This morning, I decided to try 100 yard intervals to start with. Same deal: Before I took off for the interval, do 60 seconds of bobs. And the 100 yard intervals went great! After each interval, do 60 seconds of bobs.
I ended up the swim session this morning doing 200 yard intervals...and they went great! Was so excellent to end 200 yards and feel like I could do 200 more. No gasping...in fact, since I did NOT feel out of breath breathing, I found that I was having a much easier time focusing on some aspect of my Freestyle.
Bob...Swim...Bob. It's my new mantra!
Wanted to share, I know that many struggle with breathing still. I've still got a ways to go to get a more efficient swim for a longer distance, but I'm feeling confident now and am more excited about swimming that I've been in a long time.
Went back to the pool this evening and did 350 yards straight through. I'm stoked!
Hi Tom, congratulations on your recent success, I can almost feel your elation from here! You have overcome an obstacle that is still eluding me at present.
I too was stuck on 50m for a long time & now 75m is my limit before a length or two of backstroke is needed to recover. I began TI almost a year & a half ago, worked diligently through all the drills, even had some one-to -one lessons with an instructor who practices TI freestyle, yet despite all this relaxed breathing still has not fallen into place.
Lately, at least once a month I feel like throwing in the towel but thankfully people like you take the time to post their achievements & this is what keeps me going.
Thank you for sharing your insights, I am looking forward to trying out your method at the pool later.
It's always darkest before the dawn! :-)
I'm probably not much further past where you are now. Same deal with 50m before needing some kind of breathing break, had spent a good amount of time with TI getting pretty facile with the drills, and also having an instructor too. Seemed to me like that should have taken care of the breathing, alas not.
Not sure why the Bob/Swim/Bob method has worked so well for me, if nothing else it puts me in a relaxed mindset before I swim as well as sort of sets the breathing cadence in my head. Afterwards, doing the Bob gives me immediate feedback on whether I'm out of breath, how much I'm gasping, as well as relaxing me for the next round of lane work.
While I've hardly turned into an expert, I'm pretty happy that I've got something that's more mental than physical that makes the breathing make sense...if you follow that.
What's working for me in a nutshell is making sure that I just doing relaxed breaths not much similar that the sort of breathing I'm doing as I write this. Just a normal, unhurried, and not giant breath in, followed by a relaxed breath out. No hyperventilating, no feeling like I need to squeeze every last molecule out, no gasping, and no feeling like my stroke is starting to thrash so I can get to my next gasp.
I wish you well, you'll get there and you'll love the feeling!
Denis, I wrote this as part of a longer piece:
"100 I focus on breathing out. I have to fight my natural instinct to hold the air inside my lungs until my face is back out of the water. I held air in my lungs all through high school, through masters, through triathlons and up until about 1999. I signed up for a local YMCA class on competitive swimming tips. The class was for kids, but they let me in by mistake. The first thing they taught was to put your head under the water and blow bubbles. Holding air has been my most difficult bad swimming habit to break.
150 Your lungs absorb the oxygen quickly, so there's no reason to hold dead air in your lungs. Holding that air needlessly stresses the muscles surrounding your lungs, and tires them. When I used to swim longer than 250 yards, a voice inside me used to start inventing reasons to stop at the next wall. There were plausible reasons, "Your goggles are fogging/leaking," and very persistent ones, "You really need to stop, Now!" I'd argue back, "Look, I did 1000 two days ago - there's no reason I can't do it again." Sometimes I won - I built up to 3000 yards while training for a triathlon - and sometimes my lungs won - I would suddenly decide there was no room for a flip turn and stop. A few years ago the voice stopped, but I have to be vigilant about exhaling."
Terry has added breathing advice since I took my "swiminar" in the late 90s, but back then taking fewer strokes per length brought my bad breathing habits into sharp focus, and it took a very long time - years - to get past them.
I know this is a very old thread. I am a 64-year-old woman and never learned how to swim. I decided it was time. My biggest fear and problem is putting my face in the water and trying to do the breathing that is required for freestyle swimming. I always get water in my nose.
I finally decided the best thing for me at the moment was to purchase a small dive mask which covers my nose as well as my eyes. This has helped me greatly and so in the breathing exercises I have to only use my mouth for exhaling underwater. But the bobbing method that you talk about is extremely helpful. I thank you very much for posting this!
It is very hard for me to keep relaxed breathing. But today I was able to do 7 full laps (350 yards) in a row!
congratulation!!! From 350y it is just a small step to find your cruising "forever" stroke! (As you said yourself it's just a little bit more relaxation..) And you can't say anymore you fear putting your head under water... (starting with backstroke can help to get familar with the water and without face down... not for you!)
A diving mask produces much more resistance than goggles do. May be a nose clamb will help. If you get the right one an advantage of this is you can blow out through nose too, which can also help to more relaxation.
Enjoy with best regards,
Please advise brand and model, and/or where to get it.
sorry, don't know of a special one but a student looked for "not pressing, light fitting one" and can blow out through his nose while wearing it and he has no problems with water coming in...
I have already bought so many nose clips and most of them just slip off the nose in the water. The only one that seems to stay on at all is the pinkish rubber coated one with a wire bridge. But there is no way to breathe out through the nose. Also it is a bit painful to wear for more than 15 minutes. Hence the dive mask which feels much better and somewhat alleviates my "phobia" of submerging my face.
I am doing this for fitness purposes, not the least bit concerned about any sort of competition other than with myself. My biggest hurdle is endurance and being able to swim more than 5 pr 6 laps in succession at our pool without feeling totally winded.
Thanks again, if you find out about the nose clip that allows exhaling please advise!
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