I am working on increasing front crawl endurance but still getting somewhat out of breath while breathing every 3rd stroke on opposite sides. I try to breathe out as hard as I can as well. When I breathe every stroke on the same side, I don't get out of breath, but I want to alternate since I'm entering my first triathlon soon with a 750m swim. I am a marathon runner and cyclist, so have a good base fitness for those activities. I know my technique is fairly good as I've been practising several tips given to me. Any suggestions?
The breathing technique for front crawl changes over long distances, and the point at which it changes depends on the distance being swum and the stamina level of the swimmer.
Without meaning to state the obvious, your swimming stamina will develop and improve with training and eventually come into line with your running and cycling stamina.
As your swimming stamina improves, you will be able to maintain a bilateral breathing pattern every 3rd stroke for longer. A couple of things for you to consider when you swim:
There is no need to breathe out as hard as you can. The physically act of breathing out harder than normal itself consumes energy, the energy that you badly need.
Trickle breathing is usually easiest for front crawl because it is the most natural way of breathing in the water. Exhaling constantly and slowly into the water is easier on the lungs and consumes less energy than explosive breathing, where you exhale and then inhale in the very short second you turn your head to breathe.
As you run and cycle, your breathing patterns change as you cover more distance and hills, but because you are on land, it is less noticeable. It is important, therefore, to attempt to make your breathing in the water as normal as possible (as best a human being can in an unnatural environment!).
As you swim, there is nothing wrong with changing over to a one-stroke breathing pattern. Most of the best endurance swimmers use that breathing pattern most of the time simply because it is the most efficient over long distances.
When you train in the pool, ensure that you vary the speed at which you swim so that you train different energy systems in your body. Do some short sprints combined with steady-speed swims. This will force you out of your comfort zone and push your limits more. It will also force you to use both breathing patterns.
When you have switched to breathing every stroke and then recovered slightly, switch back to your 3rd stroke bilateral pattern and see you long you can sustain it again. The more you do this, the longer you will be able to maintain this breathing pattern.
How can I increase front crawl speed? I can swim front crawl well but would like to be able to swim much faster overall.
Increased swimming speed is achieved with increased efficiency.
In other words, you have to make your body move more easily through the water without increasing the level of effort you put into kicking and pulling.
How do you do that? Perfect your technique so that your stroke becomes smooth and effortless.
First of all, your body position must be long, flat and streamlined. Feet and hands must be together to give the position a point at each end. This position must then be maintained as near as possible during the stroke cycles.
Make your strokes long by stretching far forward with each arm action. This makes you cover as much distance per stroke and then results in swimming a length of the pool using fewer strokes.
Maintain your body position during breathing by rolling the head to the side. Avoid lifting the head to look forwards as this destroys your body position and forces you to use more energy.
Many swimmers make the mistake of kicking faster or pulling with their arms harder and faster. The result is a faster length of the pool, but it will probably be your only length of the pool because you will be too tired to do anymore!
Try counting your strokes for each length. For example, count the number of arm pulls it takes you to get from one end of the pool to the other. Then adjust your technique and swim a length by stretching further and pulling longer with each arm pull. The result should be a length swum using fewer arm pulls.
Stroke counting is a good way of keeping a check on how efficient your swimming strokes are.
My ebook How To Swim Front Crawl contains over 20 separate swimming exercises to help perfect all parts of front crawl technique, including body position and 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.