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Old 12-03-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Default The Swim Breathing Thread - How to make it feel effortless

This is a combination of some breathing advice I've given in two recent threads over at beginnertriathlete.com

I decided to put them in their own thread for easy finding, and for specific comment or questions. I use these breathing descriptions and progressions not only in my own personal practice, but also in my four week triathlon swimming clinics.

(I'm especially intrested in how feedback differs from the TI peeps vs. the BT peeps).

Please let me know if this is helpful or not once you try it out in a pool. Also, there is a LOT of information here, every focal point mentioned could be used for it's own session for anywhere from 5 to 15 mintues of dedicated practice. Don't expect to work all the points well the first time you try. I use a similar progression in my swim workouts about once per week if not more often, or anytime I feel my breathing stroke is starting to break down.

Also, if you have additional breathing focal points, please post & share

Enjoy.

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The most common breathing flaw is lifting the head, either partially or all the way out of the water. IN order to lift the head, another part of the body must compensate...your arm. The hand pushes straignt down to the bottom of the pool in order to "buoy" the head upwards. This robs your stroke the opportunity for a good catch and forward propulsion is lost while drag soars. You have at most 2-3 strokes to regain your balance & streamline before it's time to breath again.

Achieving a well balanced, streamlined breathing stroke starts with a "weightless" head. A weightless head is one that is entirely supported by the buoyant force of the water. if your head is fully supported, then your arms are freed of the duty to push down on the water to support your head. A weightless head enables weightless arms.

Weightless arms can float forward to part the water like a torpedo, (I often visualize the water parting for me like the Red Sea parted for moses!) and slowly create a hook shape (EVF) to catch the water in front of you. Introducing a moment of glide at the front extension of the stroke allows your palm/wrist/forearm to find the thickness of hte water and face towards your feet. This is the catch and will allow you to anchor your body in the water. The spearing of the opposite arm entering the water along with the core rotation supplied by your hips and 2 beat kcik is what will allow your body to sail forward over your arm in the catch position

The following drill can help you find this streamlined, balanced stroke during the breathing stroke as well. The progressoin here will help you find the weightless head, weightless arm combination. When I do the "nod" drill, I look for a sensation of having my head supported as if laying on a pillow...never lifting my head, but letting it "rest" on the support that the water itself provides. All tension should be gone from the neck as the head remains weightless both when looking strainght down at the bottom of the pool as well as during the "nod" and by extension, the breath.

The breathing pattern here is every 4th stroke, ie same side breathing, alternating between a "nod" (described below) and a "breath". Aim to have the same sensations described during the nod as during the breath. During the nod, it si much easier to relax since you are not also focused on getting air. You'll need to slow down your pace just a hair so that you are comfortable breathing every 4th stroke. The more relaxed you are the easier it is.

The "NOD".
While swimming in your STREAMLINED position, simply rotate your head 90 degrees towards the side of the pool, but don't breath. Just "nod" your head to the side. You should be able to do this without lifting your head out of the water, without changing the tempo of your stroke & without losign either your side to side or front to back balance.

Practice alternating a nod with a breath (you obvioulsly still need to breath).

As you practice your nod, pay attention to the following focal points (i.e. do 25 yd repetitions, choose one focus for each, and practice each focal point on both right side & left side)

#1) "I SPY" - what do you "spy" (see) when you turn your head to the side? Focus on the visual information that comes to you when you turn your head. Note that you don't have to linger to the side to gather information and process it in your mind. This is a good skill to hone for sighting as well.

#2) "SHIMMER" - focus on the shimmering underside of the water. it's just a hair further of a head turn than the "I SPY" focus you just did. Look at the underside of the water and enjoy it.

#3) "SO NEAR" - this time, look at the AIR just above the surface of the water. Look how near it is to your face...it's just a tiny bit further away (or it should be). It won't take much more rotation to just sip a little bite of air.

#4) "WAVES" - as you swim in a streamlined position, your head will form a bow wave, even when swimming slowly. The bow wave will not be there if you are lifting your head out of hte water to breath. Well, it will, but you'll be putting your face right into it. With this repetition, turn your head just a littel further and look for the wave that forms around your head & face. Don't try to breath with this nod, just LOOK at the wave

THere are half a dozen more focal points you could work on while practicing breathing, but the above four should really help you "tune in" to what a proper streamlined breath should feel like.

Inevitably when I've done a progression like the one above, my next few 100s have seamless breathing. My fastest 25s have come breathing every 2 strokes after doing a progression like this. Keep practicing the "NOD", and soon your breathing stroke will feel just as streamlined, long and fast as your non-breathing stroke.
-----
"Be fabulous just as you are..." - Sunny S
"Let it snow, Let us run." -Tri42
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Old 12-03-2010
terry terry is offline
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Suzanne
It's helpful of you to initiate a breathing-advice thread with such a strong emphasis on Balance. As my posts here and blogs have noted - and as I've shared with you in texts and emails - over the past 5 weeks my training has been transformed by using the skills-hierarchy of Balance. Streamline. Propel. (B-S-P) as an organizing principle in literally every aspect of my swimming and practice planning.

I've also tried to simplify my Focal Point practice by distilling my thoughts about B-S-P to language that describes the feeling each brings in the fewest possible words.

When I focus on the Balance aspects of any stroke, I'm looking to feel a floating-weightless-cushioned-supported sensation in
1) hands and arms as they extend
2) head - at all times, including as I roll to breathe
3) torso - including under the armpit and lat as I extend in free and roll to breathe.
4) legs

Being patiently-and-acutely focused on creating these sensations has made me realize how much potential improvement I can still achieve in Balance --- even 20 years after doing my first (crude) balance drill. And that my breathing - especially how I hold water with my right hand on a left-side breath - can still improve.

Improvements of this sort are the only way I can contemplate the possibility of matching the times I did at 55 (which, at the time I did them, were faster than I'd swum since age 42) at age 60 next year.
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Old 12-03-2010
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne View Post
This is a combination of some breathing advice I've given in two recent threads over at beginnertriathlete.com

(I'm especially intrested in how feedback differs from the TI peeps vs. the BT peeps).
Me too. (I've not been able to log in there lately, having forgotten my log-in.)
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Old 12-03-2010
westyswoods westyswoods is offline
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Default TI vs BT

I need to ask as no question is a stupid question some just get more laughter.
What is a TI peep vs a BT peep?

Swim Silent and Be Well
Westy
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Old 12-03-2010
dobarton dobarton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by westyswoods View Post
I need to ask as no question is a stupid question some just get more laughter.
What is a TI peep vs a BT peep?

Swim Silent and Be Well
Westy
Total Immersion person (peep) vs BeginnerTriathlete person (peep).
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Old 12-03-2010
daveblt daveblt is offline
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Thanks a lot for the excellent info. Great advice not just for or only beginners but even for advanced swimmers as a 'fresh reminder '.

Dave
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Old 12-03-2010
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
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I think the whole breathing thing is a red herring. Breathing occurs properly when you do other things properly, and in particular when you let the head go and spear fully on wide tracks.

One can spend an indefinite amount of time analysing breathing but I have never seen anyone struggle with it when they are already doing the other things well.

If I ever teach swimming I'm going to tell people to forget trying to breathe, on the basis they will be able to once they have the other stroke parts in place. Happy to be shouted down on this by those with experience of teaching swimming, but not expecting to be dissuaded.
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Old 12-03-2010
madvet madvet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
I think the whole breathing thing is a red herring. Breathing occurs properly when you do other things properly, and in particular when you let the head go and spear fully on wide tracks.

If I ever teach swimming I'm going to tell people to forget trying to breathe, on the basis they will be able to once they have the other stroke parts in place. .
TI doesn't teach breathing per se, as you say, the drills develop proper balance in order for it to happen.

But, I don't think it is a red herring. Visualizing the surface (visualizing in the sense of actually seeing it with your real eyes, not in the sense of closing your eyes and imagining the surface) is a great tool for knowing EXACTLY where the surface of the water is and where you need to go to get air. Without knowing about them putting it into words, I have done the process as they describe it and it greatly helped my comfort in breathing.

I think this would be a fabulous focal point to integrate into TI.
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Old 12-03-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madvet View Post
TI doesn't teach breathing per se, as you say, the drills develop proper balance in order for it to happen.

...

I think this would be a fabulous focal point to integrate into TI.
The Nod is demonstrated in the perpetual motion freestyle DVD.
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Old 12-03-2010
dobarton dobarton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
I think the whole breathing thing is a red herring. Breathing occurs properly when you do other things properly, and in particular when you let the head go and spear fully on wide tracks.

One can spend an indefinite amount of time analysing breathing but I have never seen anyone struggle with it when they are already doing the other things well.

If I ever teach swimming I'm going to tell people to forget trying to breathe, on the basis they will be able to once they have the other stroke parts in place. Happy to be shouted down on this by those with experience of teaching swimming, but not expecting to be dissuaded.
I completely agree with you in concept. I strongly disagree with you in practice, however. Knowing that you can get your next breath easily adds to a level of relaxation. I've been experimenting with longer swims that have lower SPLs and have found that breathing (or, better, proper form when trying to breath) is the limiting factor. If I totally relax and pay attention to this relaxed state when trying to breath, my mouth gets to air. If I don't, I suck water. I was actually thinking some of the same thoughts as the OP as I was swimming today because it is very clear where the problem is coming in.
So, while I totally agree that excellent form gets a swimmer to air easily, most of us don't have that excellent form and can benefit from stroke thoughts that help us relax as we turn to the air. I benefitted from the coach's thoughts.
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