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Old 04-12-2011
trekcenhoj trekcenhoj is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 5
Default Breathing Aha

Well. I hate to admit this, but it might just help others. I'm always trying to adjust my head position to give the most 'horizontal' body position. Unfortunately for me it seems to be when it is almost totally submerged. That makes it very difficult to maintain my laser to get air. I'm still working on that.

The 'aha' came last week. It has taken me a year to realize that at the moment I rotate to take a breath I close my eyes! During the stroke I see the bottom of the pool as I inhale I catch a glimpse of the lifeguard and then the bottom of the pool again.

Now I consciously keep my eyes open through the rotation and it has made all the difference in the world. With 'eyes open' I can see precisely when it is time to inhale and when it's time to stop. I now rotate just enough. Before keeping my eyes open I would over rotate, turn my head 'more than enough' to make sure I'd get a good breath. Of course this sent me out of balance and I never really knew when to breath or how my head was positioned.

I now see the bottom of the pool, begin rotating and see the tint of the water change, watch one goggle come above the surface, begin inhaling and when I 'see' I am rotating back I close my mouth. Easy as pie. My breathing is no longer hurried and my laser remains aligned.

The view is incredible. I didn't know what I was missing. Looking across the pool with one eye below and another above the surface gives me more in site on how others swim too. I'm a lot more aware of where I am and what I'm doing.

It took me a year to figure this out. Doh!

Swim Smart,
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Old 04-12-2011
Scotty Scotty is offline
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Kansas
Posts: 83

Trek, thanks for reinforcing a focal point that I start with during warm-ups and that quite often fades when I begin to concentrate on different concepts such as balance, kick timing, position of hand entry, and coordinating entry with hip rotation.

I have not mastered the "one goggle in, one goggle out" technique yet, but it's just a matter of time. I find three challenges with keeping my head barely at the surface when breathing.

1. In my quest for propulsion, I often "power rotate" which creates a great deal of force and brings my head too quickly to the surface to be able to stop at the desired point. Ironically this over-rotation does nothing for my forward propulsion.

2. If my body is even slightly angled up hill, I end up lifting my head to get the necessary air.

3. When I get tired I tend to rush for air, and pull my head up way too much. My experience tells me that this will cause my hips to drop, which makes my body assume more of an uphill position. Drag increases, I need even more effort to maintain speed, and the head comes up much faster and higher than the previous stroke. My mind knows the solution to stop this cycle, but I have not learned the discipline to break this habit when I get fatigued.

Thanks again for pointing out this critical tip for smooth swimming. I personally wish that my gap between discovery and proper execution was not so wide.
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Old 04-12-2011
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
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Originally Posted by trekcenhoj View Post
The view is incredible. I didn't know what I was missing. Looking across the pool with one eye below and another above the surface gives me more in site on how others swim too. I'm a lot more aware of where I am and what I'm doing.
Congratulations, on your invaluable ‘insight’ – which came over 30 years quicker than it did to me! I can precisely recall the day I had a similar discovery. I was swimming at Lake Minnewaska Labor Day weekend around 2003. It was chilly - about 54 degrees - and raining steadily. Dave Barra and I were the only two people swimming.

After we'd been swimming about 10 minutes, looking for diversion, I began 'scanning' with my eyes as I rotated to breathe. First I noticed that the underside of the surface was dimpled by the rain and found that almost mesmerizing.

Then I kept my gaze keen as my eyes and mouth broke the surface. Like you, I immediately realized this helped me sharpen the timing of the breath and make small adjustments to head position. That has stayed with me ever since.

While your insight will be of value to many, I think you also make a larger point -- The Value of Being Observant. Paying attention, and consequently noticing things that usually escape your attention is relatively rare among swimmers. This is a result of the common focus on yardage totals, repeat times, intervals, etc. Tuning out to get through it also results when workouts are tedious, or lack a clear purpose beyond "getting the yards in." The fact that it took me 30 years to notice what you noticed after one is evidence of how pervasive inattention can be.

Be Observant is just another way of saying Swim Mindfully.

And here's the flip side to your discovery of the value of keeping your eyes open. Have you ever noticed yourself closing your eyes when trying to intensify your focus, usually on a subtle or elusive aspect of technique?

After I began swimming more mindfully, I noticed that during moments of especially keen focus I would instinctively close my eyes. It’s well known that people who lose their sight become far more attuned to sound and feel. For the rest of us, taking away visual input has the effect of making your sense of feel a lot keener. In water -- which is literally a sea of sensation -- anything that sharpens kinesthetic awareness is invaluable.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-13-2011 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 04-13-2011
vangiepm vangiepm is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 1

Nice one! When I was starting to learn how to swim in a public aquatic center, the lifeguard has given me advice not to swim with closed eyes because he said there were several incidences that had happened wherein both swimmers bumped heads with each other because one wasn't aware of the surroundings. Of course it is a public aqua center so no one owns the lane, one should give space for someone. I am also in to what Terry has been giving emphasis on "The Value of Being Observant", it is a good motivation to see the skies even though I practice the "one goggle in, one out" and seeing yourself move streamline to the water in fluid motion. So thank you guys for all these wonderful insights! Happy swimming!

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Old 04-13-2011
quad09 quad09 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 34
Default 54 degree!!!!


I guess my first question would be, how much pot must one smoke before swimming in 54 degree water? WOW, I would die. LOL

Seriously, I must compliment you on your breathing skills. I've watched everything you've posted (video wise) and your freestyle breathing is silky smooth and mesmerizing. Seriously, its as fluid as water I love it. The video with Shinji is awesome even though guys tried to trick us by changing swim caps.

I have been swimming TI for approx 4 years and was making good progress. A quadruple bypass in Nov '09 has set me back quite a bit on breathing stamina. Prior to surgery and medication I would swim about 4 days a week for 30 to 50 minutes per session without stopping for rest. Today, however, is another story. I started swimming again about a year ago and now swim about 3 days a week. With a flipturn 150 meters is about my max without feeling out of breath. Recently i noticed that if I forcefully exhale my swim time can be slightly extended. I think you refer to my breathing as being "shallow" in other threads. Could you possible elaborate on the effects of CO2, shallow breathing and forcefull exhalation so I might better understand whats going on. Physically i'm in good shape for my age (58), 165 lbs., bodyfat 19.5, 18 SPL on 25m in approx 25 to 30 seconds. When running or cycling i don't get winded like when swimming so I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Thank you and all for your help,

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Old 08-29-2011
Andy73 Andy73 is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 3

Originally Posted by trekcenhoj View Post
Well. I hate to admit this, but it might just help others. [...] Now I consciously keep my eyes open through the rotation and it has made all the difference in the world.
First of all, John, thanks so much! That did it to me, in an unbelievable way.

I'm from Italy, when I was 6 I've learnt to hate the water thanks to the "drop the baby in the pool, he'll eventually learn to swim" old school type of teaching, at 18 I've taught myself a survival kind of freestyle (torso flat on the water, desperate high frequency kicks, powerful breathing in order to survive till the next breath, and so on...) that got me slowly from wall to wall in a 25 meters pool for a maximum of 20 times in the best days, stopping a couple of minutes at every wall to regain a breathing stability, and now that I'm 38 I've decided to learn freestyle properly: in the past weeks I've been experimenting with the TI drills, focusing on the mistakes of my improvised freestyle technique and trying to correct them one by one. Now my body rolls, my elbow is high, my legs kick in a 2 beats pattern and I'm relatively relaxed while swimming, or so I thought! I was so wrong.

I've taken the habit of reading this forum during the working day, noting the hints that could be helpful to me, and applying them in the late afternoon when I'm back from work, swimming in the sea, and this morning I've read John's suggestion of keeping the eyes open during the whole breathing process: I wear goggles and keep looking at the bottom of the sea while I swim, so it's likely I keep my eyes open when my head turns to breath, I thought, but let's give it a try: well, it's been an a-ha moment that has lasted 100 meters of the most terrific swimming experience I've ever had. An unknown ease of breath, and together with that a peace of mind and complete relax, fluctuating in the water like I've never done anything else in my life, I was smiling in the water. I can't wait for tomorrow afternoon to come to try and get that feeling again. Thanks so much, John!


Last edited by Andy73 : 08-29-2011 at 08:17 PM.
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