Originally Posted by woodbldr
A brief history about myself, I am 45 and began swimming 4 months ago as part of a triathlon class. I have good fitness overall, I am able to comfortably complete 7 mile runs and 35 mile bike rides. However, I had no prior swimming experience before my tri class. In fact the first pool lesson was the first time I had been in a pool in 40 years. I am still learning TI techniques but have been having issues with breathing. I do not have any trouble when I do drills, only when I begin to put everything together. I watched the breathing lessons in the Easy Freestyle video and I read the recent thread by Nicodemus. I employed some of the techniques mentioned in both, even taking my time to stroke and exhale to keep from being rushed, but I still run out of breath after a lap. I also seem to get out of rhythm when I breathe on the second stroke. I have better rhythm when I breathe on the third or fourth stroke, but then I run out of air more quickly. I have made some progress, I have gotten to the point of taking only one breath on the second stroke instead of needing two or three breaths. My questions are if this is "normal" for a beginning swimmer, or am I expecting too much too soon? Would the O2 in H2O video provide any insight that the Easy Freestyle video doesn't in terms of breathing? Thanks in advance for any advice.
I have a similar background to you and have a theory as to the nature of the problem. I run 3 10K's a week plus a light run of 2 to 3 miles. I think some runners including myself develop bad breathing habits. We're used to gulping air when we tire and breathe shallower as opposed to deeper. When we swim, our bodies behave the same way under stress as when we run. It wants lots of air, regularly.
Now there are lots of little things that you must do to change this. The main thing is to clear your lungs before you breathe. If you don't, you'll build CO2 which leads to that panickly "I got breathe now or else feeling". I "learned" to clear mine by (believe it or not) increasing my tempo. Now no matter what tempo I swim, I no longer do the tell tell "puh" before I breathe.
Assuming you're exhaling through the nose and inhaling through the mouth, you are at same place I am. Except I think I read that you felt better waiting three or four strokes to breathe. I used to think the same thing. What was happening is that I was more efficient when I didn't breathe regularly because I was no doubt committing many of the cardinal sins that create additional drag (raising my head causing my hips to lower, bad kick, bad mail slot entry,etc). When I fixed those things, breathing every other stroke practically cost me nothing and so I prefer it to waiting to breathe. Another thing to remember. When you're trying to get that low SPL, there is a tendency to glide face down and that leads to oxygen debt.
So what's the answer? I think it is breathe more frequently and constantly work the efficiencies. Right now my balance is much better and I have been working on smaller head movements to get air. But I think I still have some kinks to work out in my stroke. I still get a considerable amount of body fatigue after I swim which means I'm still working too hard. I think it is hip drive/ catch mechanics. Being a rather big fellow with long legs, I believe it will take getting over the efficiency hump where I "feel" like I'm moving with little effort. Its the psychological benefit that will ultimately allow me to relax and swim as long as I want to.