Originally Posted by swimpaired
I'm still evaluating this but my name swimpaired is a REALLY accurate description for me. I'm the slowest swimmer you'll meet any time soon. But something happened this week. I welcome any comments on this experience.
I haven't been swimming long and started freestyle just for triathlons. Having never done it my first problem was breathing at all. I have a medical background and once you think about it - breathing (shortness of breath) isn't driven by need for oxygen in healthy people - it's driven by build up of CO2. So the concern to relax breathing in water is more in the "exhale when in the water" than in the "catch your breath while you're out of it".
I'd often get off course in open water and so this week with a race 6 weeks out I decided to "bite the bullet" and breath bilaterally so I can keep an eye on things. Adding distance to my swims is a really bad idea at my (lack of) speed.
Anyway, I've found the bilateral is easier (only a few days mind you) than I thought. The HUGE difference though (for me) is speed. My speed improved dramatically. Maybe 20 to 30% faster. All I can think is really bad rotation and balance that the breathing to the other side helped correct. Do you see this often as an easy stroke correction drill for beginners? Or is this just me?
What are the pluses and minuses of bilateral breathing vs one sided?
I teach open water swim skills to new triathletes and I can attest that it is indeed possible to make huge time improvements by breathing bilaterally. One of the tasks we do in class is to swim with eyes closed for about 100 strokes in open water and see how far off course the students get. There are usually students that will swim in a complete circle in that time.
Bilateral breathing has several advantages:
1. Just the action of breathing on both sides evens out your stoke so you don't tend to pull to one side. You swim straighter so you don't have to swim as far.
2. Bilateral Breathing doubles the sighting opportunities( above and below water) without lifting the head. If you open your eyes when you breathe, you can get your bearings and make constant, fine adjustments. I find that many beginners either close their eyes or don't really connect with what they see when they breathe so they take many head up strokes to see where they are going. Learning to minimize the number of head lifts will help your speed and will limit tendencies toward seasickness too.
3. It allows you to get air where and when circumstances allow. Sometimes the chop is only on your right side, so breathing on your left is the better option. Likewise, there might be a swimmer right at your shoulder and you don't want to be literally in his face when you take a breath so being able to breathe on the other side is an advantage.
Bottom Line: Bilateral breathing is excellent. Congratulations!