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Swim Club Blog: Don't Panic!!

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

So we are already well into our open water season and a few swimmers have asked about shortness of breath and panic in the water. It's probably worth at this point discussing the physiology, to understand why this happens.

It's all about the CO2

Your breathing and heart rate are largely controlled by CO2 levels in your blood stream. In simple terms, when you start to exercise, you create CO2, which accumulates in your blood. You have receptors in your bloody system which detect the rise in CO2 and they send a message to your heart and lungs to 'speed up'. When you stop and sit down, your CO2 production slows down and so does the heart and lungs.

It's important to understand that CO2 is the key factor, not oxygen. It's a build up of CO2 which is the trigger, not a lack of oxygen. Consider when you're gasping for breath in open water, it's more likely a build up of CO2 which is causing the problem, so when you're trying to get oxygen in.... you should probably be 'blowing out'.

Remember to breathe out

We've blogged several times in the last few weeks about the distractions in open water. It's very simple, there's so much other stuff going on, you forget to think about what YOU are doing and how YOU are feeling. Forgetting to breathe out in the first 200m is a very common habit and during that time, CO2 is building up in your bloody stream. Suddenly the CO2 levels hit such a high level, that it sends 'alarm bell signals' to your heart and lungs. You've been so preoccupied with everything and everyone else, that you've just allowed it to happen and then suddenly it hits you.

It happens to the most experienced people and can range from being very out of breath after 200m, to a full on panic attack.

Our top tips for your open water start:


2. Forcefully exhale under the water to get the CO2 out.

3. Empty 75% of the air in your lungs, NOT 100%. If you empty 100% of the air, there is a physiological response which requires you to immediately breathe back in. Try in now, exhale all of the air out of your lungs and you will feel a 'bounce back' as your lungs immediately inhale to go back to their normal size.

4. CO2 is linked to exercise intensity, if you go too hard, you'll create more CO2. Ignore everyone else, swim at the right pace.

If you found this interesting or useful, please do us a favour and share on social media.

The Endurance Store Swim Club


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