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  #1  
Old 01-19-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Default Awkward Breathing On One Side is Actually Due to Balance Problem!

This is a long and convoluted story. I was having all kinds of problems increasing my efficiency and speed as my SPL kept on improving. The problem seemed to be due to getting short of breath, and part of the problem was solved when I realised that my insistence on one breath every 3 strokes was causing me progressive shortness of breath when I missed a breath or two at the turn.

But there were subtle twists to the breathing bias. One was that my one breath in three strokes was a fixation that I clung to partly because it helped me keep count — if I started with a right stroke (1), my first breath (3) was on the right side with a right stroke, and each breath after that marked a multiple of 3, and each left sided breath was an even multiple of 3, or rather a multiple of 6; i.e 6,12, 18. Consequently I was able to identify milestones in the pool architecture for certain number of strokes, to help me gauge if I was on track for a certain number of SPL. So I thought there was a justifiable reluctance to change my breathing pattern.

But another twist was that I had a travelled long and persistent road to get comfortable breathing on my left. I had finally got to the point a year and a half ago where I could do alternate breathing consistently, although I still wasn’t fully agile and competent on my left sided breath. I had attempted to improve by trying to learn to breathe exclusively on the left, but I couldn’t keep it up — I couldn’t even complete a whole length breathing on the left only! So I stopped trying.

Other odd seemingly unrelated but annoying issues started cropping up such as an odd tendency to double kick for my right kick but never on my left kick, and an occasional tendency for the left pre-kick component of my double kick to be so deliberate and awkward that my bent knee hung up my forward glide. There was also a kind of banana bending of the spine sometimes when breathing to the left that I didn’t fully understand. I tried a whole bunch of things at the helpful suggestion of you guys out there — see “Sculling Practice” thread for the very helpful digression on sculling and scooping-to-catch drills that I found very helpful for catch mechanics and maintenance of hands in the front quadrant with high elbows. But as much as the propulsion improved, I still ran into the recurrent roadblocks of this odd extra kick and shortness of breath.

And then it suddenly hit me. Everything came down to poor balance in rotation to the left with my right side down! — poor confidence left sided breathing, difficulty kicking while on the right edge, so requiring an extra balancing left kick before the normal right kick to help rotate back to left edge, banana spine when breathing to the left — they all linked to the same difficulty with edge balance! And the consequence of this was reluctance/inability to breathe every 2 strokes on the left side!

The clarity of this revelation was astounding. And now there were no choices as to what to do about it. Immediately this morning I set myself to breathe exclusively on the left or die trying. Bear in mind that up till now I had never been able to complete even a single 25 m length of the pool breathing only on the left; my last failed and abandoned attempt was about 6 months ago.

As a precaution I turned off my tempo trainer which I had been using again for the past 2 weeks. I set off on the first 25 m with great determination to glide well, to have a very patient lead hand, and to try to roll symmetrically and to relax. I took on a lot of water but I completed my task breathing only on the left. Having done that, I decided to continue my routine which was swim 100m x 2, then sculling or scooping-to-catch drill 50m: Repeat the whole 4 times. I got good enough breathing on my left side that I started to reach my previous acceptable SPL level of 22, at least for 25m at a time, which is a good start.

Short story was that I swam 800m (mostly in broken-up 100s) today breathing exclusively on the left. The 200m of sculling drills I substituted out for skating on the right edge, as I reasoned this was what I needed most. I think this was the right decision. I had not done serious skate drills for a year and a half or more. It’s funny, how I thought this was trivial and I thought I could do it easily and well enough, which is why I had stopped doing it! I had brought my snorkel for using during the sculling practice, and this turned out to be ideal for skating drill for extended durations.

Regarding how well I could skate on my right edge, it’s remarkable how your standards can dictate your pass/fail level! I realised that I wasn’t nearly as precise as I had thought I was at all! Anyway, I sharpened up my edge balancing skill quite a bit within that one swim session, but I realised I’m going to need a lot more of the same.

The next step is, once I can breathe on my left at will any time I want (i.e. without having to agonise over the decision), I am going to try to liberalise my breathing frequency in whole stroke swimming, to see if I can relieve my chronic shortness of breath. And any time again I get a hint of uncertainty of right (or even left) edge balance I’ll go back to serious repeated edge balance drilling.

Last edited by sclim : 01-19-2016 at 06:11 AM.
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Old 01-19-2016
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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All nice developments Sclim. It all starts with awareness.
Only breathing on the bad side until it becomes the good side is my standard answer.
Only based on personal experience, so maybe not for everyone.

Same as Werner.
- try with only one fin on one leg. Double kicking will becone very obvious, and having the fin to help, one kick should do the job. Switch sides to notive differences between left and right.
- pull buoy between knees. when the urge for spastic kick occurs, know you dont have to kick so stop it. Concentrate on other parts to find out what is going on that makes you want to kick. Snorkel is ideal for starting out. if thats OK add breathing to the mix.
You can kick a tiny bit with the pull buoy, but its more about the basic core tension/action without adding real kick amplitude.

Last edited by Zenturtle : 01-19-2016 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 01-19-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Originally Posted by Zenturtle View Post
All nice developments Sclim. It all starts with awareness.
Only breathing on the bad side until it becomes the good side is my standard answer.
Only based on personal experience, so maybe not for everyone.
This is so obvious now, I can't believe I couldn't see that before. I'm trying to remember my thought process when I last panicked while failing to complete a single length of simple breathing every 2 strokes, all on the left side. Something like "I'm obviously not ready for this now, just go with the flow". I'm wondering now what my learning trajectory would have been if I had just persisted with perfecting my left side breathing at the time I introduced bilateral breathing (one in 3 strokes) to my core competency skills one and a half years ago. Obviously I wasn't really that competent, because the left side component wasn't as stable and confident, but I let it slide, accepting a "more or less ok" consistent one breath per 3 strokes pattern at the time. Even if I had really insisted to myself to breathe only on the left, and failed, it likely would have triggered this current realisation that the root problem was edge balance instability, and maybe I would have been led back to focus on specific edge balance drills i.e. skate earlier. Oh Well.

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Originally Posted by Zenturtle View Post
Same as Werner.
- try with only one fin on one leg. Double kicking will becone very obvious, and having the fin to help, one kick should do the job.
As I said, I have a very consistent single (left) kick on one side, but when I do the right kick, it often is preceded with a left "pre-kick" in moments of imbalance or stalled rotation or something. Which leg having the fin would make that most obvious. The leg trying to do the proper on-time kick? Or the leg doing the extraneous "pre-kick"?

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Originally Posted by Zenturtle View Post
Switch sides to notive differences between left and right.
- pull buoy between knees. when the urge for spastic kick occurs, know you dont have to kick so stop it. Concentrate on other parts to find out what is going on that makes you want to kick. Snorkel is ideal for starting out. if thats OK add breathing to the mix.
You can kick a tiny bit with the pull buoy, but its more about the basic core tension/action without adding real kick amplitude.
OK; but I hope the pull buoy will be the icing on the cake, and that by the time I try this, the other drills -- particularly the skate variants -- will have nailed my edge balance and rotation control, and I will be rewarded with no urge to kick (haha, grand hopes here -- we'll see, I guess.)

Last edited by sclim : 01-19-2016 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 01-19-2016
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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just try some lenghts with fin on one side and some lengths with fin on the other side.
You will find out if it works or not.
I found it quite interesting swimming with one fin.

If the pull buoy really meshes up your swimming. (rotation can feel different with a pull buoy), cut it in half, or in 1/3 and 2/3.
Its also usefull to see how much pull buoy you need to get the legs to the surface.
You dont need the legs sticking above the water. Just enough floatation to keep them at the surface so you dont have to kick and swim like a treelog with arms.(and not a noodle with arms)
Experiment a bit. These things dont cost a fortune. Its only swimming.

Last edited by Zenturtle : 01-19-2016 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 01-20-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Progress Report: Still working on 200m whole stroke swimming breathing on left only, then 50 m of drill. 3 repeats today, still sore left rib from injury.

In the exclusive left sided breathing whole stroke swimming, it's becoming easier now, and I can do it all in 50 m sets. When everything is timed right I can drop my SPL to 21 without any effort, which is almost as good as it was in bilateral breathing. Still miss sometimes and find myself overbalanced on one edge or other, but overall more consistency and edge awareness. I notice when I'm off balance I can't initiate the catch with the lateral scoop of the hand and forearm that I have just learned, so the catch becomes a less elaborate downwards plain old catch, which is not a big deal in itself, but suffering a little from the lack of good balance and the stability from which to put one's hands in exactly the right place and angle.

In the drill portion I mix it up. Sometimes pure Right edge skate with snorkel and flutter kick. Sometimes I do a home-made mix of superman, one left side scoop to catch, then scull in that position briefly then continue the stroke to the hip, then reverse the movement back to superman. The intent is to get comfortable with different degrees of edge, under varying circumstances. I know it's an unnatural sequence and not corresponding to the whole stroke sequence, but I see my big problem as poor control of balance on edge, and so I'm throwing all kinds of challenges on myself to capture edge balance and awareness at different angles and to recover from one angle to another under differing circumstances and competing tasks. Sometimes I do plain Right edge skate but change the angle continuously from almost flat to almost stacked shoulders. Just playing around, trying to get familiar with the feel. I also threw in some Left edge skate -- supposedly my strong side, but I realised on trying, not quite as stable as I had thought, so needed some tuning up.

Last edited by sclim : 01-20-2016 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 01-20-2016
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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could it be you are overrotating if you cant get to a regognizable scull action during extending and catching/pulling in full stroke?

Last edited by Zenturtle : 01-20-2016 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 01-20-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sclim View Post
... The intent is to get comfortable with different degrees of edge, under varying circumstances. I know it's an unnatural sequence and not corresponding to the whole stroke sequence, but I see my big problem as poor control of balance on edge, and so I'm throwing all kinds of challenges on myself to capture edge balance and awareness at different angles and to recover from one angle to another under differing circumstances and competing tasks. Sometimes I do plain Right edge skate but change the angle continuously from almost flat to almost stacked shoulders. Just playing around, trying to get familiar with the feel. I also threw in some Left edge skate -- supposedly my strong side, but I realised on trying, not quite as stable as I had thought, so needed some tuning up.
Hi Sclim,

Skate drill where shoulder breaches surface is enough rotation, 45-60 degrees, and is the best thing to do to hone your edge combined with right amount of rotation. You can also roll chin to shoulder while in skate *without* rotating more to get air. You can do this with fins on to simulate speed of freestyle to create the bow-wave in front of head and low-pressure pocket at chin to breathe in. If you can hold your edge in skate while rolling chin to shoulder and find air without rotating more or lifting head to breathe, you've imprinted that position/skill to get that easy and seamless breath in freestyle.

The intent of the chin to shoulder breath in skate is to discover you can easily get air without pulling or sculling with lead arm. Lead arm remains anchored in front (no lateral sculling) as you breathe in the low pressure pocket.

Stuart
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Old 01-21-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Originally Posted by Zenturtle View Post
could it be you are overrotating if you cant get to a regognizable scull action during extending and catching/pulling in full stroke?
Hmm, do you mean I might have rotated so far that when I come back to neutral, I'm not quite back in time, so I don't have the right balance to initiate my sculling catch? Particularly seeing as how the first sculling movement of the hand and forearm laterally would tend to impede the already late rotation on its way to the other side, further aggravating the feeling of loss of balance.

You may be right, although I don't have a clear sense of over-rotation at the limit of extent of my rotation. Could the same problem occur with appropriate degree of rotation, but clumsy control of de-rotation or just clumsy control of rotation motion in general?

Last edited by sclim : 01-21-2016 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 01-21-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
Hi Sclim,

Skate drill where shoulder breaches surface is enough rotation, 45-60 degrees, and is the best thing to do to hone your edge combined with right amount of rotation.
OK. Until I learn good control, my initial idea was to hone my ability to adjust the angle, to any angle I want, before I can commit to finding the correct angle that works. Are you saying that this is not a good idea and that I should try and find and reach the right angle now and stick to it?
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Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
You can also roll chin to shoulder while in skate *without* rotating more to get air. You can do this with fins on to simulate speed of freestyle to create the bow-wave in front of head and low-pressure pocket at chin to breathe in. If you can hold your edge in skate while rolling chin to shoulder and find air without rotating more or lifting head to breathe, you've imprinted that position/skill to get that easy and seamless breath in freestyle.
I can see the value of what you're saying. I'm doing it with a snorkel for now just to keep the learning to one thing at a time, and for convenience not needing fins for now.

When I am able to do it with fins and no snorkel to find the bow wave without lifting, rotating more or using hands, would it be cheating to leave it at that, or should I progress further to the point where I can do it without fins, and still no hands?
Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
The intent of the chin to shoulder breath in skate is to discover you can easily get air without pulling or sculling with lead arm. Lead arm remains anchored in front (no lateral sculling) as you breathe in the low pressure pocket.

Stuart
Just to be clear, I never was breathing on one side while pulling or sculling with the lead arm on the other side. There was a sculling drill in superman position (one hand staying in the eleven position, the other hand sculling in the front quadrant), body remaining flat, where I grabbed the occasional gasp of breath on the sculling side (difficult), and a sculling motion in whole stroke swimming, where I initiated the catch (after the new lead hand passes the elbow) by the ex-lead hand doing a single lateral scull/scoop on its way to the catch and continuing on to the usual pushing stroke, with the breath taken on that side as normally done.

Last edited by sclim : 01-21-2016 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 01-21-2016
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Hi Sclim,

I'm not too good with the nested, nested, quote thing, so I'll try to answer your questions:

Re: Rotation. It's good to experiment with extremes, stacked to flat, and then find what's stable in between. You need enough rotation so you find air and don't rehydrate, but not stacked and unstable.

Re: Fins. Only to feel a bit more speed to create the bow wave with the low pressure pocket in skate. But you should be able to skate without fins, rotate chin to shoulder and find air too.

Re: Sculling to breathe. Ok, just wanted to make sure with all your emphasis on sculling, it was not used as an aid to keep head buoyant to breathe. I often see the left-right scull of lead arm when a swimmer rolls to air, a trigger to maintain long and/or late breathe. I characterize this left-right stabilizing scull as "petting aqua-dog". The lead arm should remain forward and *still*, no lateral, side to side (petting aqua-dog) movements.

Stuart
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