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rod280459 06-07-2014 11:53 AM

Rolling to breath - feeling too low in water
I was wondering if anyone has a solution to a breathing issue that I am grappling with at the moment.

I suspect this is a common problem to male swimmers who may lack a little buoyacy (I am 90kg and fairly muscular but in my 50's so not bullet proof fit) I do run short of breath like many a novice, with my difficulty being able to comfortably roll to breath.

For example , when I do the nodding drill and look / roll sideways at 90 degrees I feel a long way below the water surface. When I do my normal freestyle stroke I feel like I am nearly rotated onto my back by the time my mouth clears the water to get a breath. I find the same thing when I try the sweet spot drill. Consequently the urge to lift the head to get air is enormous.

The good swimmers seem to be able to get their air by rotating sideways no more than 90 degrees - is this really true or am I mistaken ?

I am trying all the usual "fixes" namely, being patient with the lead arm (not pulling too early), using "wide tracks" , lead with elbow, relax, look straight down to bottom of pool to get the hips up - all the good TI stuff. I use a 2 beat kick.

Incidentally it is just about impossible to follow wide tracks when you rotate to the extent that I do.

I am determined not to lift my head so as a result, I swallow a lot of water when trying to get the breathing right - very frustrating.

I have heard suggestions like looking backwards a bit while breathing & trying to breath "into the trough" but my head is that low I feel like a submarine - I can't find a trough as my head is so low.

By the way, I am not spearing low and my head position is fairly neutral (ie. not pushing it down).

Interestingly this issue is not nearly as big a problem when I swim in salt water - the improved buoyancy get me closer to the air as I breathe.

My swim instructor (I have lessons from time to time) has run out of ideas - the ladies in our swimming group seem to float better and get the air much easier.

The problem is less when I increase my speed, but I can't sustain that level of effort for more than 100 meters.

I am trying to incorporate good rotation into my stroke (ie. swim on my side) - could this be causing me to sink ?

I am 5 ft 10 with SPL for 25 meter pool of 18 - 20 so pretty average in terms of efficiency, but not bad for an adult onset swimmer.

Any advice would be appreciated - I have seen others in my swim class struggle with the same problem


CoachBobM 06-07-2014 02:34 PM

Terry did some articles on breathing for Total Swim awhile back that might be worthwhile for you to read:

I'd particularly recommend looking at the pictures of Terry breathing in the first article. Notice how little of his face is actually above the water in the second picture.


rod280459 06-07-2014 10:40 PM

Thanks Bob - I'll check this out


jafaremraf 06-08-2014 01:56 PM

A couple of comments.... The more you rotate the easier it is to sink. My TI instructor told me that if the body rotates in alignment then it should rotate no more than bringing your belly button up to about 5 o'clock or 7 o'clock if 6 o'clock faces the bottom of the pool (or thereabouts). Maybe also keep air in the lungs as that helps buoyancy, forcing the air out just before your mouth breaks the surface of the water.

CoachStuartMcDougal 06-08-2014 06:09 PM

Hi Rod,

Adding to jafaremraf's (excellent) response on correct rotation using clock positions and buoyancy. Often swimmers will empty lungs too quickly causing the body to sink. You need hold some air back without holding breath - very slow exahale. Empty lungs when rolling to breathe and quickly fill tank when nose/mouth breach surface.

Here's a video demonstrating what happens to the body exhaling too much too soon, as well as maintaining enough air in lungs for buoyancy: SwimVICE: Breathing and Buoyancy


rod280459 06-09-2014 02:12 AM

Hi Stuart & jafaremraf

I think you both have hit the nail on the head ! I am heading to the pool tonight very keen to try your suggestions. I have definitely been overrotating based on your comments & I definitely think I have been emptying lungs too quick (to try to get rid of CO2 build up).

I'll let U know how it goes.

What a great forum this is !


rod280459 06-09-2014 11:41 AM

Just back from the pool after trying out the suggestions above re: avoid over rotation + exhale gradually then fully whist turn to breath did the trick. My problem was being too low in the water whilst turning to breathe. Keeping some air in the tank (but not holding your breath) prior to full exhalation turning to breath allowed me to stay higher in the water & made getting air much easier.

I've still got a lot of work to do (with timing the breath just right) but this tip from the forum has had some further benefits :

- Can relax a bit more (knowing the next breath is easier to get)
- More confident in getting the weight forward - knowing my lungs will support me if I have some air in them.

Hopefully someone with the same difficulty as me will benefit from this thread.

Thank you again

CoachStuartMcDougal 06-09-2014 05:01 PM

That's great news Rod! A couple of more focals to use is "spear wide", and "spear deep" (below the lungs) on breathing stroke, i.e. spear wide/deep with left arm as chin follows right shoulder to air. This will help avoid over-rotation (spear wide) and maintain balance/stability (spear deep and wide). Often when we go to breath, it's natural for us humans to scoop spearing arm high toward the surface and reach narrow in front of head. Both cause instability and body will sink a couple or more inches - especailly us guys with heavy legs/hips.

Good luck - and enjoy the journey discovering easy and relaxed breathing.


jafaremraf 06-09-2014 05:04 PM

That's great to hear Rod....... What is a little worrying is that your swim instructor ran out of ideas! You need to find a better instructor! Or get them TI trained ;-)

That vid posted by Stuart is an excellent demonstration of how breath affects buoyancy and I like the underwater view of Mandy swimming too.

Best of luck with your swimming.

Talvi 06-15-2014 01:18 PM

Great video Stuart, thanks! The sight of Coach Mandy sinking (at 0:39) was a real eye opener. I'd previously discounted this effect as something minor. D'Oh! My changing breathing patterns during sessions could explain my inability to find consistency in my stroke!

So Rod, maybe your wish is granted :) I'm hopeful that as it worked for you I can get the hang of it too. Fingers crossed.

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