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Old 04-18-2012
Donal F Donal F is offline
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Donal F
Default Trying Bilateral Breathing

In recent years I have greatly improved my breathing technique, and last season became very comfortable swimming 1500 - 2000 meters at a time, breathing to the same side (left and right on alternate lengths) with no sense of being out of breath. But I felt in a bit of a stroke length and speed rut.

I have always found bilateral breathing a lot faster than breathing to one side, but I usually feel desperately out of breath after about two or three hundred meters.

So my experiment for this season has been to incorporate bilateral breathing into my long practice swims. To retrain my body, I quit same-side breathing altogether. I started by alternating 50m crawl lengths with 50m easy breathing backstroke lengths. On the first few swims, I was desperate for air before and after the flip turns, and gasped as I surfaced in backstroke.

But a few swims later, I was not feeling so bad after the turn, and stroked hard on the backstroke. By about 600m, bilateral breathing was feeling like the right and proper way to swim. Moving to the outside 25m lanes last Sunday, I swam three lengths of crawl for every one of backstroke. Due to a sprained ankle I was doing open turns, which gave me an extra breath, of course, and I felt no air desperation at all. I knew that flip turns would be more challenging.

Tuesday I swam a full 1500m of crawl and 500m of backstroke. I was able to manage flip turns with tentative pushoffs. I found that extra breathing just before the turn tended to mess up my flip timing, and I had to tuck a lot to make the rotation. For about the first half of the swim I stuck with bilateral breathing, but gave myself extra breaths before and after the turns. I even tried breathing on successive strokes, like Sun Yang, but I don't exhale fast enough to be ready for the next inhale. For a few lengths I tried breathing twice to the right and once to the left, and eventually settled into breathing twice to the right and twice to the left—which seemed to be enough air.

About three quarters of the way through I remembered to spread my fingers, though I forgot again in backstroke.

Last edited by Donal F : 04-25-2012 at 03:23 PM. Reason: Don't trust swim watch results
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Old 05-08-2012
bret.moffett bret.moffett is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donal F View Post
In recent years I have greatly improved my breathing technique, and last season became very comfortable swimming 1500 - 2000 meters at a time, breathing to the same side (left and right on alternate lengths) with no sense of being out of breath. But I felt in a bit of a stroke length and speed rut.

I have always found bilateral breathing a lot faster than breathing to one side, but I usually feel desperately out of breath after about two or three hundred meters.
I did the math on this bilaterial breathing once. The way I figure it, if you are stroking once per second and you are bilateral breathing then you are getting air once every three seconds (i.e., once every three strokes). That means you are breathing 20 times per minute.

The resting respiratory rate of an adult is 12-18 times per minute. So, given the assumptions above, you are breathing just slightly more times than when you are resting. Presumably while swimming you will have to breathe more than when you are resting. So, for many of us that have a stroke rate slower than once per second, it looks really difficult to suck enough air in with bilateral breathing. We just aren't breathing frequently enough given even modest exertion.

However, in the interest of further discussion, I acknowledge my calculations do not include the volume of air inhaled; however, it has been my experience that in swimming, unlike, say, running, you don't really suck in large volumes of air on each inhalation. Nor does it take into account cardiovascular fitness (i.e., how efficiently we use the air we inhale), which I think is probably pretty good for most of us on this forum.

So, there is an apparent paradox because many swimmers seem to have conquered bilateral breathing. Or, maybe my math is just plain wrong. I would welcome comments on this "theory" from the more experienced swimmers who have conquered this bilateral breathing technique.
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Old 05-08-2012
Grant Grant is offline
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My experience - 18 years of swimming and about 10 of the last years playing with TI has been exactly what your math tells us. I don't get enough oxygen breathing bilaterally and so I breath every two strokes just switch sides after one length. In racing sprints (50,100m) I can and do breath bilaterally or even every 4 or 5 strokes but anything longer is strictly every second stroke.
Hair on the ones who can trive on every three strokes for a breath.
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Old 05-08-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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Not sure about many swimmers? I see as lot more doing 2 breath than anything else, and of the regular bi lateral gang in my pool, most are very fit triathletes swimming at a very pedestrian pace?
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Old 05-08-2012
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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As far as I can see, from watching a large number of elite swimmers of both sexes, at the top level almost no men breathe bilaterally in races, although they may well do so in training. Many women do, though, and I have often wondered if there is a physiological reason for this.
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Old 05-08-2012
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
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Hallo,

just 2cts more: I'm nearly at the same state as Donal and sometimes try to work on every 3rd breaths.

Sometimes, when feeling in good shape (and only then), it's possible to swim my LAST 500m with 3rd breaths. This seems never to be possible for the FIRST 500m. Funny isn't it?

Sometimes I try breathing two times on my bad side and then one on the "good" side on the third stroke. (Possible for 300m-400m. What's good, the bad side breathe becomes a pleasure...) But no really breakthrough...

Regards,
Werner
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Old 05-08-2012
CoachToddE CoachToddE is offline
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I'll add in some more thoughts. I like you referenced Sun Yang, Donal. I have come to use Sun Yang a lot as an example. Obviously for his fast and beautiful TI looking stroke but also for his breathing, 2-beat kick, and one dolphin kick off the walls. This is because when I first looked at the video's of his world record I noticed that he breaks every cardinal rule competitive swim coaches harp on to their young swimmers. No breathing between the flags, 5-7 dolphins or fast flutter off the walls, breathing every 3 strokes (as it is faster than every 2) and so on. I think it is important to know how to breath to both sides whether it is alternating or periodically continually to the opposite side for several reasons, tactically and situationally. However, the bottom line for me is how efficient is your breathing and does it detract from your laser beam line cutting through the water. If your breathing is efficient and does not detract from your stroke then I don't think it matters how often you breath. If it is inefficient and causes drag and resistance then definitely breathing less is more important to going faster. So perfect your breathing to be as seamless as possible and the you can enjoy as much air as you want. I for one enjoy my air too much and breath every 2 strokes unless I am sprinting as in a 25 or 50.
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Old 05-09-2012
aquarius aquarius is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachToddE View Post
I'll add in some more thoughts. I like you referenced Sun Yang, Donal. I have come to use Sun Yang a lot as an example. Obviously for his fast and beautiful TI looking stroke but also for his breathing, 2-beat kick, and one dolphin kick off the walls. This is because when I first looked at the video's of his world record I noticed that he breaks every cardinal rule competitive swim coaches harp on to their young swimmers. No breathing between the flags, 5-7 dolphins or fast flutter off the walls, breathing every 3 strokes (as it is faster than every 2) and so on. I think it is important to know how to breath to both sides whether it is alternating or periodically continually to the opposite side for several reasons, tactically and situationally. However, the bottom line for me is how efficient is your breathing and does it detract from your laser beam line cutting through the water. If your breathing is efficient and does not detract from your stroke then I don't think it matters how often you breath. If it is inefficient and causes drag and resistance then definitely breathing less is more important to going faster. So perfect your breathing to be as seamless as possible and the you can enjoy as much air as you want. I for one enjoy my air too much and breath every 2 strokes unless I am sprinting as in a 25 or 50.
Looking at this, would you say this is a classic 2-beat kick? It doesn't seem so to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvM3JYC--hM

The way he seems to bend his body to breath is also amazing.
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Old 05-09-2012
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
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Hallo CoachToddE,

at least you might be right. BUT it would be so good for my self-consciousness if I'd be FREE to decide if I'd like my today swim with 2S-breath(e?), 3S-breath(e?),...

... so 3S-breath(e?) is still a (personal) goal, (just free from SR and SL...)

Regards,
Werner
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Old 05-09-2012
CoachToddE CoachToddE is offline
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Aquarius, if you mean classic as a perfect 2BK with no movement of the feet between kicks then I'd say you are correct. It appears that sometimes it is a 6BK with the big one timed with entry and then 2 little kicks and then the big kick again. Similar to a waltz count. But, it works well for Sun Yang.

Werner,

I don't think my right (opposite) side breathing is as efficient as my left and that is probably why I subconsciously don't breathe to my right unless the situation calls for it. Hope you succeed in obtaining your breathing goal.
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