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Old 06-27-2010
Alex-SG Alex-SG is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Dubai
Posts: 415
Default BREATHING RATE: "Every 2" vs. "Every 3"

After months of drilling, I'd like to start focusing on the breathing part + swimming.

At this time I can swim 100m max and then I am out of breath. My goal is to swim a MILE in 32-33min in bilateral breathing

1. Shall I go straight to Bi-lateral breathing (every 3) or start "every 2" and then move to "Bilateral"?

2. What is a target BR = Breathing Rate ("1 breath every X sec") for a long distance, relaxed, 32min Mile swim?

3. Assuming BR is a constant, does this mean the SR (Stroke Rate) for the swimmer has to be faster when breathing "every 3" vs "every 2"?

Thanks in advance for your views on this. ALEX
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Old 06-27-2010
naj naj is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 624

Alex, the only thing I can offer is this, bilateral breathing will help you stroke be more symmetrical (I hope that's the word I'm looking for) and - in my opinion allow you to have a nice flow in long distance swimming. Besides, learning to breathe bilaterally well only serves to help you when it is difficult to breathe on your favored side.

Find your rhythm when you swim and the breathing will come and just focus on that rhythm. This helps me a lot in open water, but I'm assuming your talking about the pool, which it would aid you in that arena as well.

Keep Swimming!
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Old 06-28-2010
cmperkins cmperkins is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Stirling, Scotland.
Posts: 37

I can't give an adequate response to your second and third questions, but here's my experience in relation to Q1:

About two months ago when I was really focusing on integrating good breathing into my stroke (after 4 months of mostly drilling) I wanted to do bilateral every three. I could manage 100m before starting to feel uncomfortable - not out of breath, but just 'not right'.

A TI coach pointed out that I had a very slow SR (about 1.7s), I tried speeding this up to accommodate breathing every three strokes but that didn't work for me. I feel equally comfortable breathing to the left or right now (after 30 years of just breathing to the right!) so to try and maintain a symmetrical stroke I now breath to the right on one length, every two, and then to the left on the next, every two.

I'm now using a tempo trainer to try and find the right rhythm to extend the distance I can go bilateral every three, but my primary goal is to stay comfortable, so at whatever point breathing every three starts to feel uncomfortable I just switch to every two.

If you go every two I would recommend you practice both sides.

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Old 06-28-2010
forests forests is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 26
Default Relaxed Breathing

My comments don't address your questions in a direct way but I feel they are central to the overall goal of relaxed breathing.
My sole focal point in my am swim this morning was relaxed breathing. Not laps, distance or any of my usual focal points such as full extension,wide tracks, looking over my shoulder to breathe. It was truly a breakthrough workout because I realized in my 11 months of TI, I was never totally relaxed, in my neck, shoulders and core. With relaxed "everything" being my sole focal point, the other components of the TI stroke came together beautifully! I didn't experience this feeling until this morning, although I had read same from other posts. The fatigue factor was significantly less because I had released the tension. Take home message is that when you clear the "totally relaxed" hurdle, the rest naturally flows.
Stick with it and good luck,
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Old 06-28-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453


Why are you out of breath after 100m? Some reasons:
-you are swimming at your max effort, or upper end at least, for that 100m
-you are holding your breath
-you are not exhaling underwater (similar to above)
-you are working hard to overcome drag
-you are using more effort in propulsion than a more relaxed stroke would allow

there are a lot of overlaps from the above and it may be hard to sort out. Are you unable to swim further than 100m without resting? If so, why? What seems to be holding you back?

There is no magic in breathing every 2 or 3 or 4 or 5. Breath when you need air. In order to do so you need to be comfortabel breathing to both sides so that you don't have to wait. If you pre-plan your breathing pattern, you may be able to offset some of the breathlessness that comes from CO2 bulidup in your blood stream, which can cause the breathless feeling.

It's true that at very slow stroke rates, breathing every 3 may be too long between breaths. AT the same time, depending on your technique, a lower stroke rate doesn't use as much energy and therefore you won't NEED to breath very often.

When I do longer sets, I will pre-plan to breath every 3 strokes, even if it feels like too often in the beginning, it gets me into a patter that I don't have to think about. but if I need more air, I can comfortably swtich to every 2 strokes.

you will have to experiment.
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Level 3 USAT Coach
USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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Old 06-29-2010
terry terry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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At age 30 I could breathe every 5 or 7 strokes - if necessary. At age 40 I could breathe every 4 strokes - if necessary.
Nine months short of age 60 I can breathe every 3 strokes in the pool if I stay very relaxed. If I add any effort I need to breathe every 2.
Like CMP I pretty religiously breathe to the right on odd lengths and the left on even lengths.

In open water, with flip turns removed, I can swim a pretty brisk pace for a good long time, breathing every 3, but increase breathing frequency as needed by doing
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 07-02-2010
astafford astafford is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 6

One thing that helped me learn bilateral breathing in the pool was to concentrate on facing the same side of the pool on the way down and back. In other words, so that I could learn to breathe on my left, I would always face the lifeguard stand. On the way down I would breathe on the right every 2 strokes, and on the return, breathe on the left every 2 strokes. That just helped me learn to breathe on both sides before I had the endurance to go every 3rd. As my endurance increased, I tried to do it every 3rd and now I can do every 4, although I usually stay at 3.

My record distance swim in the pool is 3250m in 1:09+, but my only open water swim was 1500 in 39+. When I decided to do a tri less than 2 years ago, I hadn't been swimming since I was 14 (I'm 40 now) and was tragic in the pool. After a few weeks in the pool with dedicated drills and laps, it just clicked and everything since then has been improvement. Don't give up! Be patient and consistent.
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Old 07-03-2010
Alex-SG Alex-SG is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Dubai
Posts: 415

Thanks to all for your inputs. Each one of you gave me some great points to focus on.

At this stage I think the key issue is slow SR (=2sec) but I am sure the other points highlighted by CoachSusanne are also part of the problem.

Rather than focusing on breathing 100%, I will probably continue the DRILL+SWIM sets while trying to accelerate my stroke rate (->1.7 ->1.5).
The breathing may improve as I get air more frequently.

Having said that, there are a few of us on this forum who swim at low SR and of course face some problems such as lack of constant speed -> little bow wave effect -> forced to lift the head to breath.

I wonder if an experienced TI swimmer/coach is able to maintain a good stroke (technique wise + breathing wise) at SR=1.9/2. Or is it really too slow event for the best? ALEX
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Old 07-03-2010
madvet madvet is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 230

You don't need a bow wave to NOT lift your head to breathe.
John Carey
Madison, Wisconsin
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Old 07-03-2010
westyswoods westyswoods is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Rio, Wisconsin
Posts: 564

Terry's post is interesting in that I have found the same to be true but never thought of it in years vs respiratory drive or utilization. Many years ago without swimming TI I was able to swim bilateral with four or five strokes also. Pool swimming today it is indeed more comfortable to breathe on a two stroke cycles although I do intermingle three at times. OW is a completely different animal in that bilateral is the norm and I fall into a two stroke cycle as needed. It is an automatic response which works well in OW as there are no walls to reprogram after 25 yards. Very interesting note though, I have never thought of it in that light. My stroke rate is also very slow and find that I definitely need to breathe on a two stroke cycle until I get below 1.5. I have been playing with different tempos in the OW and it is interesting to learn the nuances of O2 consumption and CO2 build up related to SR. Thanks for the insight all and have a Great July 4th.

Be Well, Stay Safe and Swim Silent
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