Have to dive in on this one as breathing is something I've started to focus on the last few sessions. I can swim kilometres but still it's far more of an effort than it should be because my breathing is still a struggle.
I have often felt the ease during the glide after pushing off of finding air. Yesterday I tried to focus on doing the same thing I did during the glide during the stroke and it worked. I found that 250m came up really surprisingly fast. The key I think is to not reach for the air in any way and to breathe out through your nose gently but not with a view to emptying your lungs just to not hold onto breath and to be ready to breathe in as soon as your mouth rolls clear of the water. I found I was doing Popeye breathing without thinking about it. Although Popeye breathing on land is easy I've never fitted it into the water before.
I also turned my head as much as I needed/could rather than "try" to have one goggle under etc. I rotated my head more like the girl on the TI home page photo i.e to get my face fully clear. It was easy to simply turn my head and look at the ceiling. After doing that, in normal whole stroke, adjusting the turn happened on its own.
Next session it'll probably all fall apart again but it did feel great! Keep at it. You'll figure it out in your own time, however infuriating the journey. The only other tip I have it to make the centre piece of your stroke the fully extended position (skate) and when you look down again after breathing see if your arm has wandered inwards. The glide during the push off from the wall shows me that in that position turning to air is really quite easy practically speaking. It's just a b***** to fit it into whole stroke. I think if you focus on skate, roll to your balanced spot and then rotate your head as much as needed to air and forget about the rest of the stroke i.e just focus on breathing and relaxing in streamline that's the route - or was for me yesterday! :D
All the best.
I have a very happy ending to the story. Only a few weeks ago I was following the "Rest Intervals and Heart Rate" thread in the "Free Style" section of this forum, and read a very useful tip from "s.sciame" to counteract the breathlessness that some people (me) were getting when inadvertently holding their breath, even if only slightly, underwater between breaths. In my case, I was making things even worse by (unconsciously) closing my throat and straining against my closed larynx, building up pressure and tension inside my chest. I urge you to read his advice directly in that thread, but the quick version is to let your air trickle out slowly thorough your nose immediately from the moment your face returns to the straight down position after taking your breath in the side position. The absolute requirement is that you regulate the outgoing stream to be continuous, even and relaxed right from the start, and you can assist this process by paying attention to the loudness of the sound of the bubbles coming out. It didn't seem like it would help that much, to be honest, but I was so desperate and nervous with a big race coming up -- a Half Ironman, the first Triathlon since my disastrous debut in 2013 -- and I was still getting so short of breath that I had to stop for rest after 50 metres.
I'll let you read the thread for yourself, but within a few sessions of starting to learn to do this as prescribed I essentially got it, and it worked like magic. After only a month or so of reading and following this advice, my shortness of breath had improved so much that I was able to do finished the swim in the Half Ironman last week in fine form, and the rest of the race worked out fine!
Oh, I had the clenching the jaw problem too -- it happened whenever I concentrated on getting a difficult technical detail just right or whenever I forced a muscular action. Just smile underwater. The clenching goes away like magic, and so does your own emotional tension, especially if you make a point of allowing your mood to lighten.
P.S. You don't have a heart problem. There is no such thing as a specific heart problem that only manifests as shortness of breath during swimming, but not while running hard!
P.P.S. After reading CoachStuartMcDougal's comment below, I must hasten to add that of course, my puzzlement in my case was only after devoting a lot of attention and practice to the TI drills and after developing reasonable balance and reasonably efficient TI prescribed stroke mechanics. Of course this must come first. Except that I was doing all that and yet was still short of breath.
Although clinched jar, low hips/body, over rotation are all elements of not getting air that triggers the need for more, but the question to answer is why you run out of o2 so quickly, especially being in great running shape. Something is moving (a lot) the requires the demand for o2, and it's not always that obvious. Limbs that require and burn the most o2 are the legs. Typically when a swimmer is out of balance triggers excessive kicking (from knees) and higher turnover to feel and remain stable in the water; this is a common problem especially with runners and cyclists. Excessive kick, drives hips down, increases drag profile - o2 problem snowballs, and in 50 yards the runner/cyclist in the best of shape is hanging on the wall gasping for air.
Turn off the kick, quiet the legs in freestyle (and drill). If you feel your hips drop, don't kick more, but rather learn the skill of balance. Balance is the ability to keep hips high without kicking legs or spinning arms. Superman and Skate drills build the foundation of linear balance (head to toes) and lateral balance (on right and left edges).
I am glad to have found this thread. I gave up swimming because I could not get the breathing thing down. This discussion gives me some hope to try again.
I recently saw an interesting quote from the Wright brothers that seems to capture the TI spirit. Commenting on their attempts to improve the design of their first airplane, they said "The best dividends on the labor invested have invariably come from seeking more knowledge rather than more power."
I get the "splitting the face" feeling now, though I as quickly lose it.
I have been experimenting with keeping the same roll but turning my eyes to look at the ceiling when things don't work. I think it helps to disconnect/de-rigidify the connection between shoulders and head. After doing a few strokes looking at the celing (turning my head more while keeping the rest of the stroke the same) I seem to find it easier to breathe with less turn. The effect is something like stretching before exercising.
The other thing I'd throw out here is that I'm believing more and more that it's a question of different strokes for different folks, not one size fits all. I have been struggling wth the weightless head approach probably because I've been being too dogmatic about it. Damn the resuts this is right, sort of thing. Now I'm looking for what feels right and what works rights, of course within the overall parameters/envelope of good technique.
Lastly I want to say thatbreathing is a systemic physical action not an elementary one. This means that it is the result of a number of actions and physilogical responses not one. Lifting a dumbell by comparison is an example of an elementary action. Our hearts and lungs change size and operation depending on internal and external cicumstances - these includes psychological as well as somatic elements. Whatever works is the right thing, so if focusing on the micromanagement of breathing works for you that's brilliant. For me it failed miserably. What I find works is working to trust my body and facilitate it's working. With exhalation for instance, I find that breathing out through my nose is best but not if I try to keep it continuous etc. What works for me is learning to breathing out when I feel like it i.e working to eliminate fear and get in touch with what my body "says" I really need. The bit I do find helps is to be breathing out (through my nose) just as my goggle approaches the silvery underside of the water's surface. I then find that I feel the surface of the water coming down across my face better and sometimes will automatically do a popeye breath. It's all to do with being relaxed at that moment.
Personally I have found two other things with breathing. The first is that my shoulder when tense is at such an angle to the water that it creates it's own wave/wash which then pushing across my face as I try to breathe. The cure is to relax, exit the water closer to the feet and later and breathe earlier. The second thing is that my tendency is to look behind me as I breath and/or have too low a head position. Too low a head means the water flows over the top of my head and .. into my mouth. I am not clear why looking back has such an impact but if I look sideways more or even slightly forward then I get the water cutting across my face. It works and also feels great. It tickles!!
Apologize for the length of this post in advance. I will summarize the key pieces at the end after sharing some of my experience and what worked for me.
I think this has turned into one of the best threads on swimming advice on the internet. I have read through this whole thread a few times. I have watched some videos and read lots of other advice. However it was this thread that kept giving me confidence that I could learn to swim for distance.
I am 40. I work out and have recently run marathons. I am by no means out of shape, but the ability to get down a good breathing pattern had been eluding me for months.
Each time I went to the pool I was enthusiastic and optimistic that I am going to get the breathing rhythm down and just be able to swim for minutes on end. However each time I started I could only get to 100 or 200 meters before being out of breath. I also felt tense, I wasn’t relaxed. I am not sure why, but I just wasn’t able to relax.
About 8-10 sessions ago I started each session by standing in the water at the edge of the pool, closing my eyes, visualizing myself swimming. Watching videos on the Internet studying the strokes of Terry and others helped me to visualize myself swimming. My routine was:
Closing my eyes, visualizing, and practicing the exhalation and inhalation help me to get to the point where I realized I had to slow down my stroke. I already felt like I was swimming at a snail’s pace, however once I slowed my stroke down just a little bit more, I was able to hit that nice breathing rhythm and just keep swimming.
Just yesterday I swam 30 plus minutes nonstop and was so excited the first thing I thought about after completing the swim was this thread and how the advice in this thread helped.
I probably roll more than I should on my side to get more time to breathe. I am probably picking my head up slightly while breathing. My form isn’t perfect right now but who cares? Now that I can breathe I can swim fairly comfortably and I can work on the more technical aspects of my stroke to become better and more efficient.
A couple pieces of advice from others I want to re-post:
Summary of what worked for me:
Don't give up. Stick with it. If it wasn't a challenge it wouldn't be fun.
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