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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Default 3 phases of breathing--Back to Terry's articles in 2005

Thanks to Terry and TI, I have been a swimming fan who can enjoy swimming in the pool just like walking on the land. Without TI, I believe that today I would still struggle in the water.

4 simple words can summarize what I learnt from TI: Breathing, Floating, Gliding, Reducing-Resistance. The way to improve my swimming is practicing these 4 words again and again. The breathing practice make me relax in the water--stroking or doing nothing at all, the floating practice helps to build up a clear feeling of my body position in the water--is it one foot under the water, one meter under the water, or just one inch. Gliding practice make me understand that gliding is swimming--enjoy the gliding as much as I can is my first feeling of enjoying swimming. Reducing-resistance is a life-time topic which reminds me that I can improve all the time.

In the year 2005, I have translated into Chinese Terry's 3 articles on breathing which I discovered in the e-magazine zone of TI website at the time. And I also shared my translation with many Chinese swimming fans who immediately gave very grateful feedbacks. I also remember that I had sent a mail to TI website for allowing me to do so. And a lady replied my mail (seems to be Terry's daughter) saying Yes.

Now 6 years has passed, I would like to put my Chinese translation here so that many Chinese swimming fans who don't read English well can benefit from the TI forum directly.


Last edited by mikeleegang : 08-02-2011 at 07:23 AM. Reason: 'sliding' shall be gliding
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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Default Phase 1--Breathe: It's Job One for New Swimmers

Breathe: It's Job One for New Swimmers

By Terry Laughlin

I've always thought you should swim with longer strokes, but lately
someone has been telling me to windmill my arms for speed. When I do that, everything tenses up, and I lose my breath. In fact, even when I'm taking it easy, I have little panic attacks, choking on the water and feeling so anxious that my heart races. Out of the water, I’m in the best shape of my life from running and teaching spin classes; in it I feel helpless. What should I do? Kerry O.

Dear Kerry

Start by making “Never Practice Struggle” your swimming mantra. Your discomfort in the water doesn’t suggest there’s anything wrong with you;
120 million American adults feel much the same…if indeed they can swim
at all. However, any of them – and particularly YOU – can learn to be at home in the water by taking the time to become comfortable and to make breathing matter of fact.

Since we opened our Swim Studio, I’ve been teaching regularly in our Endless Pools, which brings me much closer to my students than I’ve ever been. That proximity has shown me something that I never fully appreciated until now: Difficulty with breathing is the #1 issue for every inexperienced swimmer.

These experiences have convinced me that, until breathing becomes routine, effective focus on other skills is impossible. Your anxiety, racing heart, and choking have everything to do with breathing and little to do with your stroke. The recommendation to windmill is just making it worse. So let’s hold off on consideration of your stroke and focus on breathing basics. When you achieve breath control, stroking skills will come easily.

Securing Your Airways
The #1 source of tension for new swimmers is the very real fear that water will go up your nose or down your air passages. I particularly see this fear manifest while teaching balance to novices. Minimizing head lift is essential to good balance, but this brings the water perilously close to nose and mouth. When they rotate to breathe, they fear they’ll inhale some water rather than the air they seek. So they lift the head abruptly so the nose and mouth will be at a “safer” distance from the surface. And the instant they do, they become unstable, which increases their discomfort.

Here are some simple steps you can take to feel more secure about getting all the air you need, while minimizing the chances of inhaling water:
1. As illustrated by TI coach Cari Laughlin, practice breathing in a mixing bowl filled with warm water. If you have a mirror that can fit into the bottom of the bowl, put that in too. Then try the following:
• Dip your chin into the water and leave it there while you breathe in through your mouth and out through mouth and nose. Observe how your breath ruffles the surface. Continue for 30 seconds or more until this feels almost meditative.
• Next, lightly touch your nose and lips to the surface and practice inhaling through the small space at the corners of your mouth. In the mirror, notice the “blotting” created where your nose and lips touch the water. Play at this with a spirit of curiosity for about a minute or until you feel almost "bored" with it.
• With goggles on, lower your face into the water, keeping your mouth open but without exhaling. Notice how natural air pressure keeps water from entering your nostrils or mouth. As you lift your face, notice how you can inhale easily, even with water dripping around your mouth and nose. In this and subsequent exercises, try to inhale with the tip of
your nose still touching the water.
• Repeat as above, but this time bubble gently from your nose. Watch in the mirror, trying to keep your bubbles small and quiet. The smaller and quieter they are, the longer you’ll be able to sustain one exhale, before lifting to inhale again. Next, repeat this exercise, but bubbling only from your mouth.
• When you can do each of the above in a calm and contained manner, advance to “rhythmic breathing.” Lower your face and bubble out for
a count of four or five-one-thousand. Lift and inhale for a count of one-one-thousand. Lower and repeat. For an interesting challenge, alternate between mouth bubbles on one exhale and nose bubbles on the next. Your goal is to inhale with the tip of your nose still in the water and your mouth barely clearing it. Repeat until you develop a relaxed and seamless rhythm.
2. Repeat the final exercise in shallow water at the pool. (Precede it with the other exercises if you wish.) Crouching with hands resting on knees or the pool gutter, dip your face for a sustained bubbling exhale, then lift it to inhale with minimal clearance. Repeat until this feels effortless and meditative. Its calming effect will help you resume swimming with a greater feeling of comfort and control.

3. After a few minutes of the above, progress to bobbing. Start with shallow and brief immersion – just dipping to your hairline – and work your way to longer, deeper immersion, focusing on sustained steady bubbling. Bob up, beginning to inhale as soon as your mouth clears the water, working on being comfortable getting air through the water flowing down across your nose and mouth, then without pause, bob back down again.

4. Resume swimming, beginning with easy 25s. On these 25s, let your need for air entirely dictate the speed and rhythm of your stroke. If it helps, count off your exhales and inhales by one-thousands, as you did in the bowl. For your rest interval between 25s, take several deep, cleansing “yoga” breaths. When you can repeat 25s, with a sufficient sense of ease that you need only three cleansing breaths before starting the next, you can progress to 50-yard repeats.
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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Default 呼吸三步曲之第一部


特里 拉夫林

我一直认为游泳时划水要尽量更长,但是最近有人告诉我说:要想提高速度,必须要象风车一样舞动手臂。当我这 样尝试的时候,一切都变得那么紧张,而且我也无法进行呼吸了。实际上,即使当我试图放松地游的时候,我没有 任何恐慌,但是窒息感和紧张感还是让我心跳加速。离开水池,我立刻回到生命的最好状态――不论是跑步还是教 舞蹈;但一到水里我就感到无助。我该怎么办?凯利


让我们从一个游泳咒语开始:“永远不要练习挣扎”。你在水中的不适感并不意味着你出了什么问题――1亿多成 年美国人有和你一样的感受,如果他们真的游泳的话。但是,他们中的任何人,特别是你,通过花时间感受放松和 掌握水中呼吸,完全可以学习如何在水中自由自在。.
自从我们的游泳工作室开张之后,我比较规律地在我们的“无尽泳池”(译者按:其实是个非常小的池子,但是一 端有一个出水口,可以控制出水水流速度,这样在水流里维持不后退就象我们在静水里前进一样,可以练习各种动 作。由于在这个小池子里永远都不会游到头,所以戏称之为无尽的泳池。)里进行教学,而这让我可以在前所未有 的近距离里观察学生。这种接近向我展现了我从未好好体会过的东西:呼吸的困难对每一个不熟练的游泳者来说都 是第一大问题。

这些经验让我坚信,除非水中呼吸已经变成习惯,有效的专注其他技能都是不可能的。你的着急、加快的心跳、窒 息感都和呼吸有关,而和划水没有关系。风车划水的建议只是让这个变得更糟。因此,让我们先放下对你划水的考 虑,而专注于呼吸的基本功。当你能很好地控制呼吸的时候,划水的技能就变得非常容易了。
对于初学游泳者来说,第一号紧张源就是非常害怕水会进鼻子或者进入呼吸道。特别是当我教初学者做平衡练习的 时候,这一点显露无疑。因为最小幅度的抬头对于平衡来说非常重要,但是也让水“危险地”接近了鼻子和嘴。当 他们转体呼吸的时候,他们担心吸入的不是空气而是水。因此,他们“猛然地”抬高他们的头,这样鼻子和嘴就可 以离开水面“足够安全”的距离。但是一这样做,他们就会失去稳定和平衡,从而更加感到不舒服。

1. 就像如图所示的ti教练展示那样,你可以用一个盛着温水的大碗来练习呼吸(在家里)。如果有镜子的话,放到 碗的底部。接着做如下练习:
• 把你的下巴放到水里,当你呼吸的时候,用鼻子和嘴呼气,用嘴吸气。观察你的呼吸对水平面的影响。每次持续3 0秒或者更长,直到感觉非常自然(如图1)。

• 接下来,轻轻地用你的鼻子和嘴唇接触水面,并且试着通过你的嘴角边的小小空间来吸气。在镜子里,注意你的鼻 子和嘴接触水面所形成的蘸水效果。带着好奇来尝试这个练习到1分钟左右,直到你感觉太“无聊” 了。
• 睁大眼睛,把脸浸入水中,张着嘴,但不要吐气。你会惊奇的注意到,自然的气压阻止了水进入你的嘴或者鼻孔( 如图2)。 然后使脸抬离水面,再次注意你可以多么轻松地吸气,即使水还在嘴边和鼻子边向下滴。在这个和接下来的练习中 ,试着在吸气的时候,你的鼻尖始终接触水面。

• 继续把脸浸入水中,不过这次开始从鼻子里轻柔地吐泡泡。通过镜子仔细观察,试着让气泡保持小而且有序。气泡 越小越柔,你就可以坚持吐气更长的时间,直到抬头吸气。接着,重复一次这个练习,不过这次用嘴 吐泡泡。
• 当你可以平静地从容地做完以上练习时,进入到如下的“有节奏的呼吸”部分。放低脸浸入水中,向外吐泡泡,数 数到4或者5;抬头之后吸气,数数1,然后把脸放入水中,重复做。接下来,就当是有趣的挑战,变换你的呼气 ,一下用嘴吐泡泡,接着一下用鼻子吐泡泡。反复做这个练习直到你达到了放松和无停顿的节奏。
2. 在游泳池里的时候,在浅水区做上面这个练习。手放松放体侧或者抓住泳池边,把脸浸入水中做持续的泡泡吐气, 然后抬头吸气。反复做直到这个呼吸练习变得毫不费力而且很自在。这个轻松呼吸的镇静效果可以让你在重新游泳 的时候,感到从未体会过的舒适和控制感。

3. 上面的练习做了几分钟之后,进入下面的泡泡练习。开始还是把脸比较浅地浸入水中――到耳鬓就可以,逐步过渡 到更深地浸入水中,注意力集中在持续地稳定地吐泡泡。当嘴出水的时候,做爆发时吐气,然后吸气,这时要让吸 气过程非常舒服,然后不要停顿,立刻回到水中开始吐泡泡。

4. 进入游泳练习的时候,开始以25米为间隔练习。在这些25米的练习中,让你对空气的需求来完全决定你划水的 速度和节奏。如果这的确有帮助,那么就象我们用碗练习的时候一样,给呼气和吸气报数(呼和气的比例应该是4 -1或者5-1)。在25米间隔休息时,做几次深呼吸(比如瑜伽式腹式深呼吸)。当你可以重复25米练习, 而且在间隔中只要3次深呼吸就可以恢复足够的放松感时并且接着做下一个25米的时候,你就可以进入到50米 的练习了。

Last edited by mikeleegang : 08-02-2011 at 02:50 AM.
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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Default Phase 2--Inside Out Breathing: Get the Air You Need

Inside Out Breathing: Get the Air You Need.


The second installment in a 3-part series on Aquatic Breath Control. In Part One, we focused on securing your airways, ensuring that no water invades your mouth or nose when you mean for air to do so. In this installment, we’ll describe the best way to exchange old air for new. In Part Three, we’ll cover the mechanics of breathing in freestyle.

Breathing is such a natural activity that we seldom give it a thought. The only time we even become conscious of it is when we’re breathless from exertion or, well, panic. Or in the case of swimming, sometimes both at once.

There is probably a greater range of breathing skill in swimming than in any other activity. Elite swimmers can breathe effortlessly while maintaining perfect form at maximum exertion and world-record pace. Seasoned open water swimmers can do the same with waves or wind-chop smacking them in the face or a pack of churning swimmers at their elbow. At the other extreme, novices may be unable to experience any comfort so long as any part of their face or head is in the water and the challenge of getting air is so all-consuming that they have no presence of mind left for focus on form.

Breathing is unquestionably the most fundamental of all swimming skills. If you can learn to do it nearly as well and automatically in the water as on land, it helps calm and focus you to work on basic skills. It also provides the aerobic capacity to swim long distances and fuels the power to swim at maximum speeds. Finally, the swimmer who masters Aquatic Breath Control can use breathing skills just as effectively to relax, improve their ability to concentrate and deepen self-awareness while working on skills, and to recover more fully and completely from any level of exertion. Since you have no choice BUT to breathe while swimming, why not choose to become a true master of Aquatic Breath Control?

Bad Air Out, Good Air In
For most folks, the most instinctive way to breathe is to pay attention to the inhale, but for the exhale to be an afterthought. In swimming, as well as other activities that involve enough exertion to lead to breathlessness, it should really be the opposite. Focus on the exhale; let the inhale take care of itself.

Here’s why: Each time we take a breath, the air that goes into our lungs is about 21 percent oxygen and the barest trace carbon dioxide. The air we exhale is about 14 percent oxygen and nearly 6 percent carbon dioxide. What this means is that, when we feel “out of breath” it doesn’t mean we’re suffering a lack of oxygen since we consume only about one third of the oxygen we take in. Instead, that breathless feeling is caused by an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Thus, to maintain a sense of relaxation and comfort, you should focus mainly on exhaling, because that will more fully clear accumulated carbon dioxide. You can heighten your awareness of the distinction between inhale-focus and exhale-focus through a series of exercises we might call “Inside Out Breathing.” You can do this while sitting comfortably at your computer as you read this:
1. Start by actively and emphatically drawing air into your lungs. Exhale simply by releasing it, rather than actively pushing it out. You can do both through your nose. Repeat five or six such breaths.
2. Switch emphasis, by actively pushing air out. You can heighten awareness for this change by practicing a breathing exercise, known aspranayama, drawn from yoga. As you exhale, constrict your throat slightly to produce a rushing sound, loud enough to be heard by someone across the room. As you do, you’ll be more conscious of the air passing through your throat than through your nostrils. Repeat 8 to 10 such breaths.
3. Finally, continue your exhale-focused breathing, but consciously shift to making each inhale as passive as possible. How much of your lungs can you refill simply as a response to the “vacuum” you created with your exhale, before transitioning to a more active inhale. Repeat until you notice an increase in your ability to refill passively.

A Practice Devoted to Breathing Focus
The next time you go swimming, I suggest you put your primary focus on breathing, and specifically on using your exhale as a way to both regulate and control effort. Do this with a series of three sets of repeats, each set lasting about 10 minutes. Choose any repeat distance from 25 to 200 yards. Rest for 3 to 6 deep, slow breaths between repeats in each set. Rest for an additional one to two minutes between sets. Breathe every two to three strokes (not cycles) throughout.
• Swim the first round at a moderate effort, perhaps 65% effort. Maintain consistent effort throughout the set, or increase your speed slightly every few minutes. Put most of your focus on exhaling steadily, beginning as soon as you complete the inhale. As you progress through the set, consciously make the inhale more and more passive.
• Swim the second round at about 75% effort. Support the increased effort purely by increasing the force with which you exhale. Your goal is to gradually feel that your more emphatic exhale, rather than more muscular effort, is providing all the energy needed to support your increased speed.
• Swim the third round faster yet, at perhaps 85% effort. On this round, increase the force of your exhale as needed, but this time put a bit more focus on finishing each exhale – just as your mouth clears the water, with about 20% more force. Feel as if you’re blowing the water away from your mouth, making it easier to get your next breath. Continue to focus on a goal of inhaling passively. Certainly you’ll gulp more air more quickly, but how completely can you make it occur purely as a result of emptying your lungs?
I suggest you repeat this set, or a variation on it at least once a week for several months. On subsequent repeats, experiment with adding additional elements to the set, including:
1. Do the first round with a controlled stroke count – call it “N.” Swim the second round at N+1 SPL and the final round at N+2 to N+3.
2. Experiment with the amount of exhale you do through your nose, and how much through your mouth, with a goal of bubbling out through your nose for at least the first round and involving mouth-bubbles later in the set.
3. Don’t pay attention to the clock the first few times you do these sets. After you sense an increased ability to change speeds mainly by exhaling more emphatically, then by adding strokes smoothly, you can check the clock to measure how much you can increase speed by either or the combination of both.

Last edited by mikeleegang : 08-02-2011 at 02:39 AM.
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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Default 呼吸三步曲之二:由内而外的呼吸


特里 拉夫林

这是“水中呼吸控制”三步曲中的第二部分。第一部分中,我们关注了保证你的呼吸通道畅通,当你试图得到空气 的时候,确保没有水会进入你的嘴和鼻子。在这个部分中,我们将讲述空气以旧换新的最好方法。在第三部分中, 我们将涉及自由泳中呼吸的机制。

呼吸是如此自然的一个动作,因此我们很少给与关注。我们唯一能够清醒地意识到它的存在是我们因为猛烈活动而 上气不接下气,或者非常惊恐而呼吸紧张的时候。而在游泳的时候,两者有时会同时到来。

和其他活动的呼吸相比,游泳的呼吸技能涉及的范围大概是最大的。游泳精英们可以在世界级比赛中拼尽全力的时 候,还能毫不费力地呼吸从而保持完美的游泳姿态。多年在开放水域游泳的选手在波浪中或者当风浪吹打到脸上时 或者在一群人挤在一起游时也能够做到这一点。另外一个极端情况却是,当初学者的脸或者头部刚浸入水中,他们 就会感到非常不舒服,这时获得空气是如此巨大的挑战,以至于他们的心思都被占用,已经没有一点可以专注于保 持身体姿态。

呼吸,毫无疑问是所有游泳技能中最基本的技能。如果你可以学习做到在水里呼吸就像在陆地上一样好一样自动, 将会帮助你在水里保持镇定,并且专注于其他基本技能的练习。它还能提高你的获氧能力从而为长距离游泳提供帮 助,并且确保在你全速全力游泳时有充足的能量。最终那些掌握“水中呼吸控制”的选手可以高效地利用呼吸技能 来放松,在其他游泳技能练习时可以提高专注力和增强清晰的自我意识,并能在任何级别的强度练习后,更加充分 和完全地恢复体能。

对于绝大多数人们来说,本能的呼吸方式就是关注吸气,而呼气是顾不上想的。在游泳中,这个过程却是恰恰相反 的――在其他一些运动中,因为足够猛烈的活动导致喘不过气来的情况下也是如此(比如田径短距离冲刺之后的呼 吸)。

原因如下:每次我们吸入一口气时,进入我们肺部的气体中21%为氧气,而几乎没有什么二氧化碳。而我们呼出 的气中,14%为氧气,约6%为二氧化碳。这意味着什么呢?当我们感到“喘不上气”时,并不意味着我们是缺 乏氧气,因为我们只是消耗了吸入体内的氧气的1/3;而实际上这个喘不过气来的感觉是由于血液中二氧化碳浓度增加导致的。因此,要维持放松和舒服感,我们应 该把注意力放到呼气上,因为这将更好地清除累积起来的二氧化碳。通过一系列的练习(我们称之为由内而外的呼 吸),你可以大大提高对于专注吸气和专注呼气之间差别的感受能力。而你只需要舒舒服服地坐在电脑前看下面这 段就可以做到:
1. 开始:主动地用力地吸气,呼气只不过是简单的释放,而不是有意识地把它压出来。可以通过鼻子来做这个练习。 重复5到6次。
2. 交换重点:主动地把气压(呼)出来。你可以通过一个瑜伽中称为“pranavam”的呼吸练习,来提高对这 个变化的感知力。当你呼气的时候,挤压你的喉咙使之发出一个低吼的声音(就像动物发出的警告声),声音足够 大到走过房间的人可以听见。当你这么做的时候,你会比空气通过鼻孔更加清楚地感受到空气通过你的喉咙。重复 8到10次。
3. 最后,继续你的强调呼气的呼吸,但是有意识地让每次吸气尽可能地被动。你的肺能多大程度地被充满,只是取决 于你呼气时创造了多大的“真空”,在过渡到一个更加有意识的吸气之前。重复直到你感到这种被动充气的能力有 了提高。

下次你去游泳的时候,我建议你把首要注意力放到呼吸上,特别是放到呼气上,并把它作为调节和控制体力的方法 。按照这个思路重复下面的系列练习,每一个持续10分钟左右。可以选择从25米到200之间的任何距离来做 练习。每个练习中重复的间歇,做3到6个深而慢的呼吸。练习与练习之间多休息1到2分钟,自始至终都是每划 水2到3下呼吸一次。
• 首轮练习使用中等体力,大概65%左右。在这个练习中维持一致的体力分配,或者每隔几分钟就稍微增加一点速 度。把你的注意力都放在有规律地呼气上,每次吸气完成之后立刻开始呼气。在这个练习持续的过程中,有意识地 让吸气变得越来越被动。
• 第二轮练习使用大概75%的体力。完全通过增加呼气时的力量来维持增大的体力消耗。你的目标是逐渐感到:更 加用力的呼气,而不是更大的肌肉发力,提供了提高速度所需要的所有能量。
• 第三轮练习更快,使用大概85%的体力。在这个练习中,根据需要增加呼气的力量,但是同时更加注意呼气的结 束――当你的嘴刚好清开水面的时候,这时增加呼气的力量大约20%。要感觉你是把嘴边的水吹开的,从而呼吸 变得更加容易。继续注意维持被动吸气的感觉。当然你吸气动作越快的话,就可以吞下更多的空气,但是你能完全 把获得空气变成清空肺的一个产物吗?

我建议你至少在几个月的时间里,每周至少一次来重复上面的练习或者其变化练习。在后来的重复中,可以增加如 下的元素进行试验:
1. 第一轮练习时数着你的单程划数,假设它是N。第二轮将划数控制在N+1,最后一轮的划数控制在N+2或者N +3。
2. 试验通过鼻子呼气和通过嘴呼气,目标是首轮只用鼻子呼气,而在后面练习中才加入嘴呼气。
3. 不要在开始的几次练习中看表。当你感到主要通过加强呼气就可以提高速度的能力提高了,这时你就可以通过比较 平稳地增加划数来提高速度。到了这个程度你再来看表,来测算通过加强呼气或者增加划数对于提高 速度的效果。
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Old 08-02-2011
mikeleegang mikeleegang is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2011
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Default Phase 3--Breathing Made Easy

Breathing Made Easy

How to get your muscles all the oxygen they need…and stay efficient as you do.

By Terry Laughlin

The rules of breathing are simple in sports like cycling or running. You need a breath, you take a breath. Oxygen is always there for the taking. But not in swimming where, to frustrated novices and cross-trainers, even the simple act of getting oxygen to your muscles is a technique. And the stakes are high. You'll never know how well you could really swim if you’re not getting air. Wiped out by just a few laps? It’s probably not your fitness. It’s far more likely your breathing that gets in the way of a good workout or discourages you from swimming altogether.

Poor breathing technique and poor balance are the two primary challenges faced by unskilled swimmers. Both seem manageable so long as your face is in the water. But sooner or later they have to get some air and instantly they’re struggling instead of cruising, with their stroke falling apart 30 or more times a minute (or about 10 times every 25 yards). When you get the breathing right, it fits naturally into the stroke flow, and in fact, can even add power to your stroke because body roll is what produces power and you should roll more when taking a breath. But the key is to breathe with body roll, not by turning the head. This exercise will illustrate why: As you sit comfortably reading this, turn your head 90 degrees, pointing your chin at one shoulder, then the other. I enjoy good range of motion in my neck, but head-twisting like that creates noticeable tension in my neck and upper back. Next try that head-twisting action while craning your neck in the head position typical among novice swimmers. Even more tension and discomfort. Repeating these biomechanical errors 1000 or more times an hour will cramp anyone’s style.

So if we shouldn't breathe in the traditional way, how should we do it? Very simply. Rather than turning your head, breathe by using body roll to take your head to air while keeping your head aligned with your spine and your chin aligned with your sternum; you'll start swimming more easily, comfortably and efficiently immediately. Here are five skills that should help you breathe easy immediately:

1. Align Your Head and Spine. Before you can breathe with body roll, you need to be able to roll easily and smoothly – and that takes a long straight body line. Start by holding your head as you do when you're not swimming. Between breaths, point your nose directly at the bottom of the pool. Imagine you’ve got a laser beam coming out the top of your head directly on a line from your spine. Keep that laser line pointing straight ahead at all times – particularly as you roll to breathe. That means keeping the top of your head pressed into the water as you roll for the breath.

2. Roll like a Log. Now that you’ve got your head on straight, try this exercise while standing: Looking straight ahead with your head aligned with your spine (remember that laser beam image), and with your right arm extended overhead, bicep pressed to ear, turn your entire body 90 degrees toward your left side, keeping your chin and sternum also aligned – as if doing a military left-face. You’ve just rehearsed the correct movement for freestyle breathing. The object is to keep head and spine aligned as you roll a long, sleek, balanced bodyline. The degree of your roll should be sufficient that it takes your mouth easily to the air. In fact, if you imagine that you’ll breathe through your navel, not your mouth, you’re almost guaranteed to do it right.

3. Stay “Tall” as you Roll. Years of bad breathing technique virtually always creates habits that destroy efficient stroke technique. Turning or lifting your head create pressures that drive your extended arm down and back. By the time you inhale, your arm has collapsed below you, hurting your efficiency because: (1) that collapsing action is non-propulsive, wasting most of each breathing stroke, and (2) the water resists you far more in that position, than when you have your arm extended. The fix is similar to the exercise above – rotate your body while keeping your arm extended. During each breath, your arm should be stretching forward. And just as important, your hand should be angled downward to help you “hold onto your place” in the water. You should almost have a sensation of hanging onto a hand-grip in the water, with your hand extended well forward, throughout your inhale. You begin stroking only as your head begins to return to the water.

4. Breathe Rhythmically. Your stroke rhythm is a body-rolling rhythm. Since you breathe by rolling your body, your breathing and stroke rhythms should be indistinguishable. One of the most common stroke errors among novices is trying to prolong the breath by staying on your side just a bit longer. Breathe by rolling to where the air is and immediately roll back the other way with no interruption in your rhythm. When you want to stroke faster, you do it by speeding up your body-rolling rhythm, so you also breathe faster.

5. Emphasize the Exhale. You spend more time in each stroke cycle exhaling than inhaling and completely clearing stale air from the lungs is one of the most important things you can do. An increase of carbon dioxide – from breath holding – not a decrease of oxygen, is what makes you feel oxygen deprived. Because of the pressure differential between air and water, you need to exhale more emphatically into water than into the air - and you do exhale into water for 80% of your breathing cycle. So begin exhaling as soon as you finish inhaling – without the slightest interruption – and put more emphasis on the exhale, particularly the final 20% just as your mouth and nose clear the water again.

And one more key issue:

Should I Breathe to Both Sides? Virtually all swimmers favor one side in breathing, because it feels more natural. Trying to breathe to the other side feels awkward and who needs to feel even more awkward in the water? The problem with breathing only to one side is that it tends to make your stroke asymmetrical. In an hour of swimming, you'll roll to breathe 1000 or more times, meaning all your torso muscles pull more in that direction and less to the other side. Multiply that by hundreds of hours of swimming and you'll soon be making a lopsided stroke permanent. The best correction is bilateral breathing which can be done in several ways.

Breathing every third armstroke is the simplest, but that also means you breathe one-third less often than when you're breathing every cycle on one side. That shouldn't be a problem when you're swimming easily, but could leave you feeling winded when you go faster. So I breathe every third stroke when going easily, but add more consecutive breaths on one side – two, three or four before switching to the other side for a similar number of breaths – as I swim longer or faster. When going at race intensity, I breathe to my right side on one length and to my left side on the next – or when racing in open water, I may take 10 breaths to the right, followed by 10 to the left. That gives me more oxygen when my muscles need it. And breathing 8 to 10 times consecutively on your “weak” side gives you a concentrated opportunity to work on the five skills cited above. And if you move beyond fitness swimming to racing, you’ll find it’s helpful to be comfortable breathing to either side in a triathlon or open water swim race as well as in pool races.
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