TES Swim Blog: Breathing Technique

TES Swim Blog: Breathing Technique


One of the most common problems which swimmers fail to grasp is how to breathe correctly. If you ask them to swim one length of a pool with their head in the water, without breathing, then everything generally looks good. As soon as they start breathing, things go dramatically wrong and it impacts on the whole stroke!!

Here's our quick fix guide:

1. Lifting the head too high is a common issue. In a 'see-saw' manner, if you lift your head too high, your legs will drop and you'll slow down. When you turn your head to breathe, try to leave one goggle lense in the water, so your mouth is only just clear of the surface. We like to call that sneaky breathing... do it without anyone knowing! Novices in particular feel the urge to get their mouths as far from the water as possible when they breathe in, for fear of breathing in water. You need to be comfortable breathing whilst your mouth is still partially in the water. 

2. If your head and shoulders move to the left or right, this results in 'snaking' where your body forms an 'S' shape in the water, this ruins streamlining. Imagine your head is on a single rail, running straight down the pool. It should not move to the left or right of the rail. If your head perfectly follows that rail, your body will follow in a straight line behind. 

Looking behind you when you breathe is one of the most common causes. You must look directly to the side when you turn your head or slightly ahead of yourself, don't twist your head and shoulders to look behind you or upwards at the sky. When you breathe, look at the side of the pool, are you looking directly to the side or slightly ahead of yourself? Or are you looking behind yourself? 

3. After breathing, you need to put your head back into the water. Your start position is head in the water, looking directly down / slightly ahead. You need to get back to that 'rail' that your head is running along. Use the tiles on the floor as a line to follow. After breathing, return directly back to this position. Sometimes, when you're thinking about breathing, you forget to think about going back to your original position. Thinking about your breathing technique is important, but make sure you go back to your streamlined swim position between each breath. To practice this, only take a breath every 4-6 strokes and focus the rest of the time on following the line / tiles on the bottom of the pool. If you get out of breath quickly, then take 10 seconds recovery after each length. 

4. Breathe out under the water. There is a tendency for novice swimmers in particular to get worse as the distance goes on. They look great for the first couple of lengths, then it deteriorates rapidly as they 'run out' of breath. Turn your head and breathe in, then turn it back and blow out in a relaxed manner. IMPORTANT - Gasping for breath is largely due to a build up of carbon dioxide, NOT a lack of oxygen. Too many swimmers don't breathe out under the water then lift their head to gasp more air in. The issue is due to not breathing out correctly and an accumulation of carbon dioxide. As above, breathe every 4-6 strokes, follow the line on the bottom of the pool and trickle breathe out. Take 10 seconds after each length if you quickly get out of breath. 

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