The following article is excerpted from Terry Laughlin’s book “Extraordinary Swimming for Every Body: A Guide To Swimming Better Than You Ever Imagined.”

Unless you have all the air you need, you’ll be too distracted to concentrate on other skills during drill practice or whole stroke swimming. Being mindful of the following will be helpful as you rotate from nose-up to nose-down and back again:

  • Don’t Hold Your Breath

Begin exhaling immediately. Exhaling with slow quiet nose bubbles is a good way to regulate your breathing and to avoid inhaling water or choking as you breathe. 

  • Relax Into the Water

If you lift your head, it will be harder to get to air. If you keep your head low, it will be easier. And stay relaxed whenever you are rolling up to get air or back down. Moving abruptly in either direction will make your body position less stable.


Rhythmic Breathing

Three tips for fitting a seamless rhythmic breath into your stroke, while maintaining good balance and a patient catch:

  • Follow Your Shoulder

As you spear one arm forward, the opposite shoulder moves back. Just follow this shoulder with your chin and the rotational energy of spearing will make it easier to get air.

  • Stay Low

Practice this in three ways: (1) Relax into the water as you breathe; (2) Keep the top of your head as close to the surface as possible, while rolling to breathe; (3) Look back slightly over your shoulder as you breathe.

  • Stay Tall

Give extra care to keeping the lead hand “patient” as you breathe, stroking only after you inhale. And if you keep your fingers tipped down, your next stroke will be far stronger.

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Breathe Two Ways

Alternate-side or bilateral breathing promotes symmetry better than single side breathing. If you breathe only to one side, it’s likely that you’ll veer off the “tracks” in that direction. I try to breathe as often to one side in practice and when racing. Breathing to your unfamiliar side may feel awkward at first, but patient practice will gradually reduce that awkwardness. As well, all the T.I. drills improve symmetry and build a better foundation for efficient bilateral breathing. 

To learn more in-depth detail about the breathing mechanics of efficient swimming, check out our video “O2 in H2O: A Self Help Course on Breathing in Swimming”– available as a digital download or on dvd.
O2 in H2O cover imageNothing is more essential to a swimmer than air. Yet few swimmers truly understand how to breathe efficiently… not just to get air, but to integrate breathing seamlessly with the stroke. Breathing is sometimes viewed as a liability or inconvenience, but when you do it right, breathing can actually make your stroke better. This video shows you how, using water bowl exercises, shallow water exercises, skills in drills, and whole stroke breathing skills. Detailed studies with focal points for practice cover these three major strokes: Freestyle, Breaststroke, and Butterfly.