Help! All of a sudden I can't Breath
I've been a noob having a wonderful time (started in early July). I've been very happy progressing through drills to finding my cadence and up to swimming for 60-90 min. I went through a period when I was struggling to get my balance and breathing right at the 10-20 min mark, but that seemed to be behind me. Love losing myself in the rhythm of it all.
Over the last two weeks I've been on a downward trajectory where my chest just tightens up and I can't seem to swim through it. Tonight I did barely 5 minutes before I froze up. Spent the rest of my time doing drills.
Interestingly this correlates with a big increase my fitness levels in my other sports. I am on a long term assignment in the Bay Area with access to some fabulous hills and beautiful country for running and riding. I've always loved climbs, but was trapped in BORING NYC for the last few years. I've been having a great time, but my swimming is suddenly a horrible struggle. I am wondering if my breathing patterns in my other sports are screwing this up.
What I've tried:
* Nose only exhale (my usual once I am in rhythm on a long swim)
* Mouth only exhale
* Mixed exhale
* Spending more time in sweet spot, but I still seem to get dizzy with that
* Newest tactic... completely effortless swimming. Trying to do a stroke so mellow that it has no impact on my breathing. So that I can just focus on the body motion of it all. Just started this tonight so not sure if it will help. It is certainly a worthwhile drill for technique more generally.
All advice welcome.
Don't forget the joy of your swim-journey!
Excellent advice. I hadn't thought to try to focus on what happens prior. Shooting for some pool time tomorrow. I will let you know.
Try to start out your laps at a slower pace. Slower than your normal pace. Once you're warmed up, you will know if you are getting in a groove, or if you will run oxygen deficit.
I am happy to report that it TOTALLY WORKED. So stoked, so happy to have not lost that great groove.
I started at a very slow pace and realized that any time I did 3 strokes to switch sides I would get a little short of breath. This allowed me to spend longer on a single side (usually 4 breaths) instead of my usual 2-3. Eventually my breathing and heart rate synchronized and I was able to sustain a switch every third breath. By the 30 min mark I was going full steam and happily sailed through to 70 min. Man that felt good.
2 insights from this so far:
1) my breathing cycle synchronizes well with a breath every other stroke (same side breathing). I think I have a very slow stroke rate. I decided to pick up my cadence when I did a 3 stroke switch (changing to breathing on the other side) and this seemed to help. This seems related to a recent post by Tom P. noting that his cadence seems to increase with less frequent breathing. Seems like we have an internal metronome related to our breathing cycles and need to get body motion to adjust.
2) Also this is clearly related to my overall improvement in cardio health. I noticed today while going up stairs that my heart rate quickly accelerated and I was breathing too hard to simply exhale through my nose. I don't have a HRM with me but I am sure that I am encountering that really high spike at the start of a workout (been as high as 230 bpm) for me before it settles into a 138-154 average. In a terrestrial workout I don't really notice this because I can pant and gasp my way through it. In the water I can't ever break through that kind of spike because I just can't exhale quickly enough. Hence the need to ramp up the BPM slowly.
I did another swim on Saturday with the same approach and same happy results.
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