"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.