17 November 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Swimming & Breathing

This fall, because it is too cold to cycle comfortably, and since there is not enough snow to ski, I have decided to try swimming for part of my cardio workout (I also visit the weight room). I have been going to the local college pool where I have been receiving lessons from a student there (Kamie at Snow College). As an adult I have never received formal lessons, so this is basically starting from scratch. She (and most other coaches) recommend bi-lateral breathing, or breathing from each side, i.e. taking a breath every third stroke. I can do the bi-lateral breathing OK, except that after a lap or two (25-50 yds), I just feel like I’m not getting enough air to swim continuous laps. I’m wondering, as a 57-year old, should I be breathing more often, like other second stroke? Below is some research I did online regarding this topic. Type bolding was added by me.

1 • Excellent video on breathing by Michael Phelps coach

2 • http://www.osbmultisport.com/articles/onesidebreathing.html > Bilateral is for shorter events only

3 • http://www.olympicswim.com/bilateral-breathing-should-you-breathe-to-both-sides-in-freestyle-swimming/ > Breath from both sides, but go a whole lap on each side before switching

4 • http://forums.usms.org/archive/index.php/t-15701.html > This guy has similar comments to what George Andersen said to me recently. “sjsturat” on this forum said:
“My solution is to do the majority of my practice yards breathing bilaterally, switching to breathe every two strokes only when the pace gets fast enough that breathing every 3 would limit my ability to hold the speed. Then in a race, I breathe every two. Those 1650 yards of lopsided breathing aren’t going to destroy my stroke, but the lack of oxygen would hurt my time.”

So no, I don’t practice like I race. I guess the bilateral breathing in practice is like a constant, low-grade drill.

5 • http://h2oustonswims.org/articles/breathe_how_often.html > “So, in training, while I do want swimmers practicing excellent breathing technique on both sides I encourage breathing on the left for this lap and on the right for the next lap, or perhaps breathing on the left for 200 and on the right for 200, and so on.”

6 • http://www.swimsplit.com/ssa1.htm > An excellent one-page primer. “Also, you should hold the air in your lungs until the moment just before your mouth breaks the surface. If you blow air out the whole time your face is in the water you may feel the need to inhale before you actually can. You’ll also lose buoyancy. So for most of your stroke you’re holding the air, then exhale-inhale just before and just after your mouth is above the waterline.” “If you need more oxygen than you can take-in every third stroke, breathe every second stroke and switch sides often.”

7 • http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-1512.html see “terry” > Finally, something online about older people and their breathing rate:

“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

Here’s one comment debunking bilateral every 3 stroke swimming…RobM77 said
“Assuming we’re talking purely about longer distance swimming (100m+), bilateral breathing is my preferred breathing pattern. However, my [very good] TI coach tells me that breathing every stroke cycle to one side only (i.e. every time the left arm recovers, you breathe; then swap after a length to the right etc) is the best way to swim. Apparently it’s been scientifically proven that the advantages of more regular intake of air outweigh the disadvantages of breaking one’s streamlining slightly. In addition, when one breathes to a ‘new’ side, the head is inclined to lift higher, whereas after two or three breaths to one side you become better at it (short term muscle memory).”

8 • http://www.virginactive.co.uk/active-matters/articles/exercise/open-water-swimming > Doesn’t this comment contradict the comment # 5 above?
“Master bi-lateral breathing…Not exhaling fully is one of the most common reasons for running out of oxygen.”

9 • http://www.livestrong.com/article/415452-how-to-breathe-during-triathlon-swimming/ > “Exhale your entire breath through your nose while your face is in the water. You should continue to exhale through your nose until you lift your head out of the water for another breath.”
“You should continue to exhale through your nose until you lift your head out of the water for another breath.”

10 • http://forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.cgi?post=3414931 > Excellent comments “I’ve coached college swimmers and triathletes with the advice of bilateral breathing.” “The pattern is too long as an interval. Most triathletes try “breathing every 3rd”, which means something like “right breathe, left stroke, right stroke, left breathe.” This is too long between breaths and compromises aerobic capacity.” “I still “come home to mama” and breathe right-sided when a pool race gets intense or in the longer reaches of a tri swim.” “My advice: find videos of the 2008 Olympic Open Water swim or any of the major triathlons, or the 1500m pool swims. You’ll see that these swimmers are breathing bilaterally. The difference is that they breathe one side for a long stretch of strokes and then breathe to the other for a few strokes. They do this to maintain aerobic respiration and balance and sighting. Breathing every third is great for moderate warm-up or practice pace, but not for competition.”

11 • http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=14732&highlight=breathing
“If you run out of breath and can only do 1-2 laps it’s not because you don’t have endurance. It’s because you are swimming a wrong technique.
When I started with freestyle I was already swimming breaststroke for a year or two.
I was also a good cyclist and had a high endurance but still could only manage 1 lap and then I was totally out of breath.
Swimming with a pull buoy helped a lot.
You need to find the right body position. Don’t worry. You will eventually be able to swim 4 laps, then 10 and all of a sudden 100.”

12 • http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=14505&highlight=breathing
“2) The first thing I ask swimmers to work on is to NOT exhale powerfully and completely empty out their lungs when they push off the wall and/or on the breakout after a turn. Rather use a slower/controlled release.
3) On the first arm stroke/breath I find that have a small amount of air left that I exhale quickly/forcefully just as my mouth reaches the position of taking a breath…it has the effect of clearing water as well as that last bit of depleted O2.
4) The inhale is not a long/slow/deep process but rather a fairly quick and somewhat shallow inhale the length of which should be determined by your arm tempo/speed vs. the other way around.
5) At lower speeds I actually hold my breath for what is probably about 1 second in the stroke cycle and begin a controlled exhale as my opposite arm cycles into it’s entry phase.”

13 • Swim Smooth is an excellent site if you are looking for “how to videos,” although I didn’t see any videos on flip turns.

Leave a Reply