A good breathing technique will help you relax in the water and allow you to swim longer distances with more ease. It will help maintain a good body position and minimise drag. Everyone agrees that breathing is a key element to efficient swimming. Read further to uncover the do’s and don'ts of breathing.
You will breathe 20-30 times less per minute when swimming than you would breathe in land-based sports, depending on your breathing rhythm. There are two general breathing rhythms that most swimmers apply. One is breathing once every second stroke and the other is once every third stroke, hereafter referred to as 1:2 and 1:3 respectively. Our coach tip is to breathe 1:3 as often as possible. This rhythm gives a balance to the stroke and allows both sides of your stroke to develop evenly and your lungs to adapt to the water. Don’t worry if you can’t in the beginning, apply a breathing rhythm that suits you.
Inhale smoothly without trying to inhale too much air. Inhalation occurs by turning the head to the side and trying to maintain split-screen vision. Split-screen vision is when one goggle is in the water and one goggle out of the water. This technique creates a bow wave, much like a ship, and a space in which to breathe easily. Do look at the wall tiles in your line of vision.
Do not lift your head up out of the water. Your hips will sink which creates more drag and a poorer body position. Do not look up at the ceiling or behind you either while breathing. Both disrupt your body position and snakes one through the water.
So keep the head still and turn only to the side while rotating your body.
When do I breathe? Timing of the breath is important. We breathe when one arm is in front and one at the back. Turn your face to breathe when you are finishing the push out the back. Take a quick breath and turn your face back to the water before your arm reaches midway in its recovery. The face should be fully submerged at the hand entry.
Do stay relaxed by breathing out. Exhale lightly into the water by blowing out little puffs of air. Our coach tip is to sing or make sounds while swimming, this will help force out small amounts of air. Puffing out is timed to each hand entry. This technique relaxes the lungs and allows swimmers to comfortably swim until the next breathing moment.
Do not hold your breath. Holding your breath builds up levels of carbon dioxide and tension in the body, scuttling any hopes of swimming longer distances.
Also do not blow out all your air when your face is in the water. Try and blow out only 10-20% of the air in your lungs.
Blow harder when swimming fast and blow out softer when swimming slower.
We have a couple of tips for warming up to get your breathing zoned in. Firstly, don’t swim too fast in the warm up, swim slow and allow your lungs to adjust. Try and swim one or two lengths underwater. This will open up your lungs and allow for a more relaxed start to your training.
Breathing is numero uno in swimming. Neglect it at your own peril.