Total Immersion Forums  

Go Back   Total Immersion Forums > Freestyle
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-29-2011
Archy Archy is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Saskatoon, Canada
Posts: 10
Archy
Default Bilateral Breathing and Neck Flexibility

Background:
As an adult-onset swimmer, I started four years ago and Iím now 55. Everything about learning to swim has been challenging, especially the breathing, but I still keep at it. It took me about 2.5 years before I could swim freestyle for more than a continuous 100m ; and then soon after, I was swimming 1,500m non-stop in a 25m pool. I breathe on every other stroke and always inhale facing left (my strong side). Of course, I have a long way to go to improve my overall technique (balance, streamline, propulsion). However, a senior team coach at my pool told me to learn bilateral breathing for two reasons: 1) to even out my stroke; and 2) to reduce the risk of neck/spinal injury. So, for the past three months I have committed myself to only swimming using bilateral breathing, and Iím only up to 75-100m repeats because I have to rest from being winded, just as I was in my first two years of swimming.

Iím well aware that my challenge with breathing is all too common, especially bilateral breathing because Iím breathing less often per length and my weak side is just that, weak compared to my strong side. If I just swim and inhale to my weak side, I still canít get past 75-100m. Therefore, I could compromise and breathe to one side on every other stroke for one length and to the other side on the way back.

So, why do I have such difficulty on my weak side? What am I doing or not doing compared to my strong side. After some thought and experimentation, my main conclusion (rightly or wrongly) is that when I roll to inhale on my strong side, my neck has the flexibility to keep me in balance; whereas on my weak side, my neck lacks the flexibility required; and therefore, I lose my balance. Itís not that I lift my head, itís more because Iím unable to place my head in the right position, hence my body becomes unbalanced and impairs my ability to inhale comfortably. As a compromise, I try to push my chest into the water to position me better relative to the water line Ė it does help a bit, but itís tiring.

Iíll go one step further and suggest that adult beginners who are challenged with breathlessness in freestyle may lack sufficient neck flexibility to breathe comfortably to their favored side until they develop that flexibility, which improves balance. Iím not ignoring other significant factors as well, such as excessive kicking, poor technique, anxiety, etc. As an aside, breathing in basic breastroke is no problem (neck flexibility is not as critical).

Question:
What I would like to know is your own personal situation regarding neck flexibility based on the following simple, unscientific test. For example, whether Iím standing, or sitting in a chair, when I fully extend my right (spearing) arm straight in line with my shoulder (no crossing over), I can comfortably lean my head over and rest the right side of my head (just behind my ear) along my right shoulder (my strong side) Ė the pillow analogy. However, when I try to do the same with my left arm extended (my weak side), there is a significant gap between the side of my head and my shoulder.

So, whether you inhale to one side only or to both sides, beginner or advanced, please try my neck test and tell me if you experience difficulty or ease to one or both sides. My entire post will force me to look for other explanations if more than a few of you respond by saying that you breathe bilaterally with ease and yet you have poor neck flexibility to one side or the other.

My apologies for the long post; and my thanks for any responses.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 08-29-2011
gladtobedifferent gladtobedifferent is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 41
gladtobedifferent
Default well interested in what answers you have !!

I have the same problem !

I started front crawl this march and am now up to 1km as my longest continuous swim and swimming sessions of a total of 1km minimum per visit (did 1 mile today !!).

I breath every 2 or every 4 and much prefer breathing every 4 as my stroke and catch are much better. However, I know that to do distance I need to breathe every 2. My strong side is the same as yours and i feel solid with my right arm forward, and now even beginning to feel that my catch on my right lead arm when breathing (after my breath is getting better and more solid). However , like you if I try to do this on the other side - well no good.

So for months now I stopped breathing to my right side/left leading arm - as I have wanted to build distance and confidence. So today, in my longest ever training session (swim time of 41 mins in a total session of 50 mins)
after my 1.2km swim sets I tried for the first time to breath to the left for one length and the right for the next. Was not as much of a disaster as I thought it would be but i did nearly drown the first few lengths on the right side, but by the fourth length on my left just kept relaxing and it felt better. But as I was now quite muscle fatigued I kept adding a couple of nice same breathes to the other side.

So I like you would like to know the secret and reasons. My suspicion is that it is just confidence and pracitse - but as a newbie, very slow, female, not strong arms (am joking with some of that !!)......I am absolutely not qualified to know the answer.....

Very interested to see view from others......
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-30-2011
tab tab is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 171
tab
Default

Let me see if I got this right.

Sitting in a chair I hold my arms straight out in front of me, on somewhat wide tracks, no cross over.

I can lay my ear on my shoulder on both sides.

The difference, and there was/is. My left ear to should works how I guessed it would, I am able to lay it on my shoulder just fine.

However, my Right ear is different. I tired this one first and said to my self " yup, no problem" But I quickly realized there was a difference from side to side. My Right shoulder automatically picked up to meet my ear, where my left did not.

I can breath easier looking to my right, this is the Left ear to Left shoulder, which did not pick up. And I know I have issues with my Left side breathing, Right ear to shoulder.

In addition, in perfect position should the shoulder just touch in back of the ear?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-30-2011
sniperthefox sniperthefox is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 23
sniperthefox
Default

great post, thanks Archy, I believe you're onto something. This is also an area I'm currently struggling with. And wow, what a great observation @tab. I did exactly as you did and what happens to you is exactly what happened to me! After reading your post, I thought 'naah, surely not'... then upon trying it, I felt like a total tool when my right shoulder automatically moved up to meet with my right ear!! LOL ... yes, my left side is my weak side also, and there was not problem there.

Never thought of this as being caused by a neck flexibility issue, always thought of it more as a coordination issue, like dribbling a basketball with your left hand when you're righthanded. It may be time to do some neck stretches!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-30-2011
TIJoe TIJoe is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 57
TIJoe
Default

My weak side is the left and I thought the reason is I am right handed so I pull stronger with my right hand and that makes breathing easier. I was told because I am right handed, my balance should be better with right hand extended hence it is not due to balance issue. I can do bilateral breathing for some distance but just felt much more comfortable breathing to the right.

On the other hand, most male competitive swimmers seem to breath to one side during competition, so perhaps there is nothing terribly wrong with a farovite breathing side?

Last edited by TIJoe : 08-30-2011 at 06:12 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-30-2011
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Posts: 787
haschu33
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Archy View Post
...... standing, or sitting in a chair, when I fully extend my right (spearing) arm straight in line with my shoulder (no crossing over), I can comfortably lean my head over and rest the right side of my head (just behind my ear) along my right shoulder (my strong side) Ė the pillow analogy. However, when I try to do the same with my left arm extended (my weak side), there is a significant gap between the side of my head and my shoulder.

So, whether you inhale to one side only or to both sides, beginner or advanced, please try my neck test and tell me if you experience difficulty or ease to one or both sides. ...
Well, there is no such 'lean the head' movement in freestyle, so I don't know how relevant this is. When swimming you will always (ideally speaking) have your head aligned with your spine, as if a line goes through your spine and your head, and then straight out of your head, that what Terry calls the 'laserbeam'. There are only rotation movements of the head.

So the appropriate test would be this:

Stand straight and look straight ahead, no matter what you do with your arms. Have your head straight on your neck, which means that you have to tuck your chin in slightly. Now turn your head 45-60 degrees to the left, and then 45-60 degrees to the right. Always make sure that you don't tilt the head to the sides. This is the breathing movement of the head during freestyle. Only if you have difficulties with this movement you might experience difficulties with the breathing movement while swimming - once you perfected your breathing strokes. And this is the movement that your head does when you don't breath and your body rotates.

So basically when you can rotate in freestyle while keeping your head facing towards the bottom of the pool then you can do the breathing movement of the head, it is nothing other than that, just 90 degrees to the other side.
I am quite sure that it is extremely rare that someone (without handicaps) is unable to do this rotation movement.
Or, in other words, if you are experiencing difficulties with your neck the chances are good that your stroke is not correct.

Regarding shoulder/neck differences. Basically we all have different shoulders, different arms and different flexibilities, so our movements in freestyle will always reflect that. If we have differences in our two sides (I guess everybody has) than our stroke will adapt to that, too, it is not such a big deal. I have great differences in my both sides, my right shoulder is less flexible and starts to hurt easily ( I am righthanded and played too much tennis when I was young). Still core balance and skating drills are more difficult on my right side than on my left and I have to take care not to crossover with my right hand/arm. But you just adapt to that.
I couldn't breathe at all to the left side in the beginning, now I can breathe to either sides equally, it is a question of practicing it.

Don't worry too much, if your sides are different, that's the point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Archy View Post
... It took me about 2.5 years before I could swim freestyle for more than a continuous 100m
Great, i have 2 years since I started learning freestyle, so I have half a year left to solve my breathing... ;)

Quote:
Originally Posted by gladtobedifferent View Post
... but as a newbie, very slow, female, not strong arms (am joking with some of that !!)
Ok, so you are a slow male old swimmer with strong arms! :)

BTW anybodies expperience is good and worth being shared - about mine I am not always so sure...


Hang on in there...
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-30-2011
RobM77 RobM77 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Near Basingstoke, England.
Posts: 137
RobM77
Default

I've just checked and can touch both shoulders/arms with my ear on both sides, and my maximum rotation is the same on both sides (feels like about 80 degrees from the straight ahead).

Incidentally, has the thread starter tried breathing to one side only but swapping sides each length (or every 20-25 strokes if in OW)? This is what I've been taught by my coach. She says that breathing to the same side each time is better because you're not doing something different each breath, but also that more frequent breaths are better. I've often heard it said by her and others that the best way to breathe is what's most comfortable for you, so I'd suggest reverting to breathing to one side every pair of strokes, and then swap sides each length.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-30-2011
tab tab is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 171
tab
Default

Constant reminders...... keep us focused. laser beam. I know I lift my head, so many things to work on and so little time. It is fun to watch other swimmers to see how their head moves, if both eyes are out of the water, how far back they are looking or not.

I believe I lift my head because I don't allow enough time to come far enough to the surface. Could be a timing issue. For sure one side is weak, and the good side is not perfect. Good to know where to look for improvement.

Standing straight looking forward, turning my head, with out twisting the torso, I can't quite look 90 degrees to the side. I have to twist my torso. How much torso twist is involved? All while keeping the laser beam. Rotation comes into play here?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-30-2011
RobM77 RobM77 is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Near Basingstoke, England.
Posts: 137
RobM77
Default

Yep, certainly the way I've been taught TI is that when, for example, the left arm is pulling the belly button is pointing at between 4 and 5 o clock. This means that to breathe to the right at that point the head needs to rotate by 90 degrees minus the body's rotation angle.

So, at 4 to 5 o'clock (or whatever it is - I've forgotten now!), the body has rotated by about 45 degrees, so that means the head probably rotates about 45-50 degrees to find air (eye line level with the water). That is well within normal movement.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-30-2011
The Parrot The Parrot is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Sherborne, Dorset, UK
Posts: 111
The Parrot
Default Breathing and neck flexibility

So glad to see this post because I have wondered if I would ever be as good swimming TI freestyle as I would like to be. I had a bad crash in a cycle race years ago which left me with a severe whiplash injury - and a cracked helmet! This means I can't rotate my head more than about 40 degrees to the left. I am really delighted that Terry's development and promotion of this fascinating game has enabled me, like so many others, to swim far better than I could ever have hoped and even to give some of the younger swimmers in my local pools a fright. But, I can only breath to the right. To breath to the left would mean rolling too far for good stability and would slow me down quite a bit. So I breath every two strokes, right side only, not especially deeply. Unless sprinting I am not really out of breath after a mile or two - I suppose some might say that is because I am not swimming fast enough and they might be right. But I don't know what is fast for a 70 year old over an Imperial mile (64 laps of a 25 metre pool)?

But I do think there is a real risk of becoming 'asymmetrical' in terms of muscle group development and balance and I try to focus on countering this amongst all the other points to think about. So far it hasn't been a problem but I am sure it is an advantage to be able to switch sides at will, especially in open water where I can have real difficulty if the waves are coming from the right.Then I really do envy fellow TI swimmers that I see via this forum especially that well rehearsed clip of Terry slicing through the waves in an open water race. Must be wonderful to think you can just turn and breath the other side.
Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are Off
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 08:29 PM.


Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.