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Old 04-08-2009
rwilkes rwilkes is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 73
Default What comes first.. Drills or breathing ?

I would just like to pose this question to all those who practice TI …..

What comes first; the drills or breathing….????

For those who read this post will have to forgive me because I need to get my frustration out !!! I have been doing TI now for 3 months. I have read the book, watched the DVD and O2 in H20. Prior to doing TI, I could swim freestyle for about 6 – 8 lengths non stop, my style was not good or my breathing, but I could do it.

Now I cant even do 1 length without feeling out of breath. Once I started the drills, I felt OK (up to underswitch/spearswitch), but now because of my breathing (I think…!) the drills are suffering. On underswitch I can’t seem to come up for air, presumably due to my balance not being right, but I cant hold on for air much longer and feel the need to rush up for air. The problem is that a few weeks ago my balance felt ok and I could do 2 underswitches.

I come out of the pool with the feeling of being "bloated" and having too much air my stomach.

I am practicing the “bowl” exercise for breathing, but when I get in the pool it is so different.

I know that there is a “thread” for breathing, but I feel as my situation crosses this thread also, due to the fact that my drills are suffering. Yesterday I came out of the pool and wanted to stop swimming altogether. Today was just as bad.

I feel as though the breathing issue is having a bad effect on my drills, which leads to frustration and the feeling as though nothing is working.

Your thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated… or just ignore this as it is me just letting off some steam !!!!!!

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Old 04-08-2009
lanceryoung lanceryoung is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 13

Having a good breathing pattern makes drilling and swimming less of a struggle. Cut your distance to 1/2 laps and make easy breathing the top priority. This worked for me when I started bilateral breathing.
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Old 04-09-2009
Zuzana Zuzana is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 4

I understand your frustration very well, because I was many times leaving the pool with the thought "I never want to swim again". But I always came back and I am glad I did, because now I really enjoy swimming. It is worthy persisting.

If you could swim free before somehow and now it is worse, don't worry too much about it - it works on principle one step back two forward.

It is essential that you get all the air that you need and I think balance and breathing influence each other quite a bit.
Do you breath in sweetspot or in skating turning your head? If in skating, do you have problem to get to the air or is it a rhythm?

In drills try to be very relaxed, aligned, but relaxed. You need to feel weightless and water supporting you. When you are relaxed, everything goes better. And the air is always there for you.
Sometimes, what takes you under water in spearswitch, is leadarm too deep or head positioned too low. Try to spear forward and feel your neck long and relaxed in line with spine. Try to use your whole body to spear a there should be a glide.
Bubble out very gently during the switch and then take a deep breath; if you end under water and need to get to the air take as many breaths as you need to feel fully "oxygenated" and relaxed again. Then do another switch or two.

Did you try zenskating yet? That is a great drill that improves your balance.

How much do you drill and how much do you swim? The idea of doing half lap for now sounds great. Or swim a few strokes, breath in skating, even a few times if you need, make sure you are balanced, aligned and comfortable, another few strokes, until it feels good; there are very helpful exercises on your DVDs.
And don't forget what feels good is right, swimming should never be a struggle. Try to play in water and with water and enjoy it!

Hope it helps little bit, good luck.
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Old 04-09-2009
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
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Default Drills and Breathing - Together

The best answer is neither comes first. Drill-refinement, and transitioning new skills to whole stroke, is seldom a linear process -- first I master Step A, then I master Step B.

It's more typically a circular process: I get a bit better at Step A, which allows me to make modest progress in Step B. Then I return to Step A to improve it a bit more, which then allows me to make similar progress in Step B, and make an initial stab at Step C! Each time I repeat the cycle, every step gets a bit stronger, strengthening the foundation for Continual Improvement.

In the case of breathing and drills, everyone understands it's impossible to perform physical tasks unless your muscles are supplied with O2. You also realize that a breathless sensation becomes so emotionally overwhelming -- particularly to a new swimmer -- that you find it impossible to devote the keen attention required to learning a series of exacting skills.

But in the earliest stages of learning -- and when you find yourself at a sticking point, a mini-skill that's sufficiently challenging as to require undivided attention -- it's often helpful to separate the "skill of breathing" from the "coordination of limb movements."

That's why the teaching process we follow in Workshops, and the self-teaching process illustrated on the Easy Freestyle DVD sometimes separate breathing-improvement, from movement-improvement.

To illustrate. It's best not to breathe while practicing Superman Glide/Flutter -- indeed most of the activities in Lesson One -- as any breathing movement would just be awkward and unbalanced, completely undermining the purpose of the drills. So you practice those in short stretches, standing whenever you need to take a breath. But that practice should produce both comfort and balance-awareness that provide a critical foundation for introducing breathing in subsequent drills.

When you move from a prone position (SG/F) to a rotated position --
Core Balance in Lesson One, and Skating in Lesson Two -- you can now learn to rotate, for the purpose of breathing, in a way that's (1) not awkward; (2) balanced; and (3) directly teaches a foundation for how you'll want to eventually breathe in whole-stroke.

Core Balance is a "head-lead" skill. Skating is a "hand-lead" skill. Each imparts a distinct bit of skill and awareness that will later be consequential in both Switch drills and whole stroke. CB gives you a better sense of how uncontrolled and independent head movement undermines core-balance and alignment. It's also an unsurpassed way to "educate" your spinal-stabilizer muscles, which will be essential to low-drag swimming and core-driven propulsion. Skating reinforces and extends those lessons, while teaching you to maintain the "long vessel" that helps minimize wave drag in whole stroke.

HOWEVER, at least initially -- particularly if you're an inexperienced swimmer, the breathing part of this action will take ALL of your attention, as will the movement part (how to rotate, how to keep laser pointed forward, how to initiate rotation in the core and follow with the head a moment later). So you devote some laps to thinking about exchanging air, and other laps primarily to controlling rotation. The Sweet Spot version of breathing is intended to make this phase a bit more manageable.

This circular process of improving breathing skills, then movement skills, then breathing skills, etc, will be repeated at virtually every step in six of the seven lessons in Easy Freestyle. However what you learn in Lesson Two (where breathing skills are first introduced) should ease the more exacting challenges faced in Lesson Three (because the movements you need to combine with breathing are more complex) and so on as you progress through the lessons.

This is also why we urge improvement-minded TI swimmers to continue practicing the drills for the long term, which I fear is not the norm. Rather than be abandoned, drill practice should evolve gradually, to focus on more complex, subtle and exacting skill challenges over time.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 04-09-2009
Mike from NS Mike from NS is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 551
Mike from NS


Like you, I have endured many frustrating times at the pool and often left thinking that possibly swimming is not for me. But quitting isn't my nature and after reading a reply like Terry;'s to your question the incentive to get back and try again is really strong. I know that I've been doing something too rushed or too exaggerated; and the desired effect will come with patient practice. From the start of my efforts to learn to swim this forum has stressed the importance of being relaxed. But not having any swimming skills it has been difficult to be relaxed in an unfamiliar environment where the lack of skill to breath brings on the tension which defeats most of the efforts to learn to swim. Yet another circular pattern of cause and effect. What I read in Terry's reply is the TI philosophy of building a little bit at a time on what has been learned before hand. As I said, I tend to rush things and this likely is one aspect that slows my progress.

Attempts at the Superman Glide and Flutter have really helped and now I am relaxed enough to get 1/2 a pool length, with a really light kick, before I need air. Not a great accomplishment but still an improvement over the past. We have to set reasonable goals for ourselves so as not to become frustrated; and then be happy with attaining something less than the goal. Looking back at my ability when I started also helps, because I now see lots of ability where there was once none.


Last edited by Mike from NS : 04-09-2009 at 02:47 PM. Reason: flow...
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Old 04-14-2009
rwilkes rwilkes is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 73
Default Drills and breathing...

Thanks to all who provided advice for me, especially Terry for the time taken to advise me on my TI problems.

Today, my enthusiasm came flooding back ! I started the session with SG and SF, then onto Skating position. This I felt, gave me a reminder of what my balance should be – which I felt was much better while practicing the whole stroke.

One thing that I have noticed since my last post – and this is something with my breathing which is undermining my drill practice – I “swallow” while breathing underwater. Obviously my mouth is closed so I dot swallow the water, but I do swallow after taking in air. This I feel would go a long way to my breathing problems, especially with air left in my body. This is something that I don’t know why I have started to do this, but it could be an explanation.

I am training 5 times a week for about 30 – 45 mins each time. What I have learned from this forum, is that TI takes time – and I realise that it will not happen overnight. I know it is a process, and if I can take one thing from each session, at least it will be something to bank in “muscle memory” – that is what I am looking for.

One thing that I am from your replies is that I must relax my body. If I am tense then the whole stroke is affected – especially my breathing.

I am going to continue down the road of TI – reading the advice on this forum is a great source of inspiration.

Back to the bowl tonight for the breathing drills !!!!!!

Thanks again.
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