I would like some swimming advice as my front crawl technique gets me out of breath. I've been active all my life. I've run and cycled for many years. I am 56 yrs old. I recently took up swimming even though I thought I could swim well. I can go two laps in a 25-meter pool and then slap out of breath but not physically tired. I exhale under water and rotate to get a breath every 3 strokes. If I make sure my head is under the water looking down, my hips come up, but it's much harder for me to rotate to take a breath every 3rd stroke. My technique appears to be the problem. What can I do to be successful in the pool swim laps to enter a triathlon?
There are a couple of points to consider about your freestyle swimming technique.
Firstly regarding your head position as you swim, your head should not be under the water completely as this does indeed cause your hips to rise. Your face should be in the water with eyes looking down and slightly forwards. The back of your head should remain out of the water, and this will allow your body position to remain level.
Secondly, you rotate your head to breathe every 3rd stroke, which is an efficient and correct breathing pattern. However, you must accept that your breathing pattern must change at some point during your swim, and the point at which it changes will depend on your level of swimming stamina.
As a runner and a cyclist, you have a decent level of fitness, however, swimming requires a larger number of muscles to work simultaneously. Those muscles then work in a way that initially calls upon different energy systems to those of running and cycling. Those energy systems are unconditioned compared to running and cycling, which is most likely why you are out of breath after a relatively short period of time.
It is, for this reason, your breathing pattern must change from a 3-stroke pattern to breathing every stroke. Taking a breath every stroke makes breathing over a long distance easier and therefore makes swimming with the correct and efficient technique more sustainable.
The point at which you switch to breathing every stroke will depend on your swimming fitness, and that alone will increase the more time you spend and the distance you complete in the pool. You might change to breathing every stroke after 50 metres, settle into a steady pace and swim comfortably for a long time after that. You may even be able to switch back to breathing every 3 strokes for a short time.
Experiment with different breathing patterns, and combined with an efficient stroke technique, you will find yourself swimming longer distances without getting too breathless.
The best long-distance swimmers and triathletes breathe every stroke as this is the most manageable breathing pattern.
My ebook How To Swim Front Crawl contains over 20 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of freestyle, including breathing. You can download it, print out the parts you need and take them to your pool to try out. Click the link below for more information.