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  #11  
Old 10-31-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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It's true that most elite males breathe to one side only in their races, but many female elites breathe to both sides, using various patterns. It is widely believed, and I think correctly, that breathing to both sides in practice helps to make the stroke more symmetrical, and as you point out it's useful to be able to breathe either side in difficult conditions in open water.

Another year has almost gone by and my plan to enter the sea, which is a few hundred yards from my door has come to naught again. It's getting a bit late now, but the hardy souls who like the sea tell me it's still pleasant enough. Brrrr!
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  #12  
Old 10-31-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
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All very well making the stroke more symmetrical but beside the point if in fact you don't or can't swim that way over more than a short distance, in which case surely it makes more sense to refine the stroke you actually use.
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  #13  
Old 10-31-2011
The Parrot The Parrot is offline
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Spot on, Lawrence! I suffered a pretty bad whiplash injury from a cycle racing crash 30 years ago (cracked my helmet, too, so always wear one!) which makes it painful for me to turn my head more than a few degrees to the left. Discounting pain, I still cannot physically turn my head more than about 30 degrees. My neck doesn't even really like turning far to the right outside the pool but fortunately I roll well enough to get plenty of air that side without stacking and slowing too much. Whilst I usually swim a mile or two quite briskly in a 25 metre pool five times a week and could probably manage 5 miles if necessary, the big problem is open sea swims. I took part in some charity swims this year around Poole and Studland (In the UK for our foreign friends) and in one event the waves were straight in the face for a mile. Horrible and I lost a lot of places through having to slow down. If I roll far enough to breath to my 'bad' side I am unstable.I won't give up trying but has anyone got any ideas about dealing with this?
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  #14  
Old 10-31-2011
eganov eganov is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
All very well making the stroke more symmetrical but beside the point if in fact you don't or can't swim that way over more than a short distance, in which case surely it makes more sense to refine the stroke you actually use.
I didn't "get it" either, primarily because I couldn't do it - which is precisely the reason I knew I had to do it. When you think of it it's all really a mental thing. Injuries aside, your bodies mostly symetrical and other than level of comfort, you should be able to teach yourself bilateral breathing.

The first few days I tried it I was sinking, out of rythym, taking on water, etc. - all very ugly. But, you have to keep working at it and it gets better every day. It takes a while and you'll always revert to the comfort of one-soided breathing, but eventually you'll be as comfortable breathing on either side.

Does it help me swimming? I think so. It's hard to have a symetrical motion in the water when you do something different on one side than the other. I always felt one-sided (right) breathing under emphasized the proper roll needed to get my left shoulder out of the water on it's recovery stroke. Being able to breathe on either side, I am more able to keep consistent form throughout any breath interval - I'm not captive to a particular one(s).
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  #15  
Old 11-01-2011
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Breathing accomplishes two things. It gets rid of carbon dioxide waste and it takes in oxygen needed for fueling. The rate of breathing whether at rest or while exercising is a balance of these two needs. A build up of carbon dioxide is usually the driver of the urgent feeling needing a breath.

Swimming is no different...your breathing should be dictated by your needs, not by your skill, will or philosophy of what breathing pattern is best.

At relaxed warmup speeds, you may only need to breath every 4, 5, 6 or even 7 strokes due to low muscle activation, low production of carbon dioxide and a low utilization of the oxygen already dissolved in your blood stream and bound to your red blood cells.

As your effort increases, your need to breath increases in frequency. At some level of exerition, breathing every 3 strokes will be the ideal "match" for your needs to exchange air. If you can't do it because you have only taught yourself to breath on one side, you're forced to either a) slow down or b) breath every 2 strokes which can leave you feeling rushed and lightheaded or c) breath every 4 strokes which will definitely leave you feeling breathless since you begin retaining CO2 in your blood.

If you can breathe to either side at will, and have practiced an every 3 breathing pattern, then you can swim right at that level which is matched by breaths every 3 strokes. This is the value of bilateral breathing...when you swim at a level that requires a breath every 3 strokes. But if you don't practice it, when you need it, it will feel far less comfortable.

When I have had those few wonderful moments when my breathing technique is relaxed and dialed in, my pattern is executed without thinking and the frequency of breaths matched with my exertion level...it feels like I can literally breath underwater. it's the coolest swim feeling I've ever had and is extremely elusive for me
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  #16  
Old 11-01-2011
tomoy tomoy is offline
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Thank you once again Suzanne. Excellent common sense and insight.
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  #17  
Old 11-02-2011
The Parrot The Parrot is offline
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Suzanne, It sounds wonderful to be able to target bi-lateral breathing as you describe it. I wish I could but I cannot so breathe only to my right. I have never felt that I am hyperventilating when breathing every two, I breathe only as deeply as I need for the given speed. I think we agree that getting rid of the CO2 is the key. I absolutely agree with you that once CO2 is breathed out, the lungs will take in the air/oxygen needed. Perhaps the only difficulty might be in ultra-distance events when metabolising principally fat as glycogen stores become depleted. Burning fat needs about three times as much oxygen to produce the same amount of energy as glycogen from liver, blood and muscle depots. This will obviously have an effect on the breathing pattern in fast, long-distance swimming events even before taking into account the build-up of lactic acid, pyruvic acid and all the other clinkers of combustion.

Apart from Terry and a few of the other stars on this forum, it won't be relevant to many.

Martin T.
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  #18  
Old 11-02-2011
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Parrot View Post
Suzanne, It sounds wonderful to be able to target bi-lateral breathing as you describe it. I wish I could but I cannot so breathe only to my right. I have never felt that I am hyperventilating when breathing every two, I breathe only as deeply as I need for the given speed. I think we agree that getting rid of the CO2 is the key. I absolutely agree with you that once CO2 is breathed out, the lungs will take in the air/oxygen needed.
Martin T.
Martin, as in all things, there is an elegant equation for breathign which you have referred to here: breaths per minute x tidal volume = minute ventiliation.

The minute ventilation is technically how many liters per minute of air we are exchanging, and can be modified by either frequency or the volume of each breath. But what is important is that you recognize how much air you need/dont need. if you are breathing every 2, you don't need full lungs every 2 necessarily.

Interesting points on the other aspect, but keep in mind that any effort that is "all out" for 5 minutes or longer, or anything not all out that lasts longer than 5 minutes is going to be primarily aerobic in nature, so the respiration physiology you mention is interesting to think about, but I still thing it would apply to swimming a 500 yd repeat just as it would to a 5 mile repeat.
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Fresh Freestyle

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  #19  
Old 11-02-2011
harling harling is offline
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Default Bilateral breathing

I have been working on bilateral as well (for two years now) - managed 1500m recently - yeah! Still don't really like it, but it has helped me notice a few things, especially synchronising my kick with the correct arm. I have improved my swimming on my favourite side as well, when I go back to non-bilateral. My route:-

1. I needed to rotate more to my bad side or my mouth didn't get clear of the water (eventually I will need to work on not rotating too much).
2. I noticed I wasn't breathing properly, somehow not in sync with it, it felt rushed and "not right". SO I really focussed on i.e. consciously thought about, getting a good breath in on the poor side side (rather than the usual recommendation of focussing on the breath out), even if for the moment I am getting more of my face above water level than I should.
3. I swam really slow at first to try and analyse what was going wrong, and to give time to think about it. It also saved energy so I could carry on for longer.
4. Been swimming one armed - e.g. two or three with my right arm, then switching to the other side and doing one armed with my left arm. I focussed particularly on getting a good sense of going forward when I switched. One armed swimming especially made me realised I can breathe on both sides (and that I am at least as fast one armed as two).
5. Been doing (a very poor) "roll over drill" that Popov did (its on Youtube), which gives you practice breathing on both sides. It is quite nice doing this for a length at a time, getting the coordination is quite satisfying.
6. Swim on my bad side only for a few lengths - not always pleasant but always revealing.
7. Make 90% of my swimming in the pool bilateral or on the wrong side. Only swimming longer distances bilaterally to imprint it until I get it (mainly doing a few lengths only, or starting with 20 or 30 lengths then doing shorter distances).

Value? Why do it? "Because it is there". Mainly I have found focussing on these bilateral drills/thoughts really informative about my stroke, in ways I couldn't quite see with only breathing to my good side. Also I have been swimming in the Sea at Sandbanks and found being able to breathe only to one side a big problem when the waves came from the wrong direction (into my mouth!). I am still not "fast" but feeling reasonably pleased with progress. Next season I hope to be able to take it into the sea.

Good luck, from Poole in Dorset UK

Last edited by harling : 11-02-2011 at 08:53 PM. Reason: Wrong word, spelling, missing qualifier unit
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