What is wrong with my swimming breathing technique? Probably the most commonly asked question to a swimming teacher and coach.
Discover the two most common mistakes when it comes to breathing in swimming that could be the cause of your exhaustion.
It all comes down to how to breathe, when to breathe and how often to breathe. All of which will depend on which stroke you are swimming.
The breathing technique for front crawl is slightly different to the breathing technique for breaststroke. However, there are some similarities too and common mistakes.
When it comes to swimming breathing technique, whichever stroke you are attempting to swim, there are two common mistakes that many adults make.
Sometimes we hold our breath, even though we think we are breathing out into the water. Our breath is held instinctively without knowing it. Then as we swim and need to take the next breath, we have to exhale and inhale in the short second our mouth is out of the water. This is not enough time to take a controlled breath and can often result in a mouth full of water, or at best, complete exhaustion.
Holding breath underwater causes a rapid increase in carbon dioxide in our respiratory system. This increases the urgency to breathe again because carbon dioxide is a waste product and needs to be exhaled. The net result is more frequent and rapid breaths, which is counter-productive when it comes to relaxed and smooth swimming.
The solution is to ensure you are breathing out into the water as you swim. Breathe out in a slow controlled way without forcing the air out so that when you turn your head to breathe in again, inhaling is all you need to do, and you have plenty of time to do it comfortably.
The second most common mistake is to leave it right to the last second to take a breath. In other words, we wait until all oxygen has expired, and we are almost gasping for air. We turn our head to breathe, and the action becomes a rushed panic, resulting in either a mouth and nose full of water or sudden exhaustion.
The solution here is to breathe long before you need to.
Set yourself a certain number of arm pulls (3 or 4 is usually most comfortable for front crawl) and breathe at that set point. The breathing pattern will change as you become more tired over time, but your breathing should be easier.
Combine breathing out into the water in a slow, controlled way with taking breaths early.
As long as your overall swimming is relaxed and smooth and you have decent technique, you should find yourself swimming longer distances and becoming less out of breath.
That is the theory of easier swimming breathing, and it will, of course, take practice and time.
Holding breath underwater is an unnatural act for a human being to carry out. That is why some people find it difficult and even stressful.
The human body has several responses to breath holding underwater and some other reactions to being submerged in water. How we deal with these responses determines how comfortable or uncomfortable we are and, therefore, what duration of time we can spend underwater whilst holding our breath.
Firstly, the amount of air we can inhale into our lungs depends on the size of our lungs. A taller person will have larger lungs and, therefore, will fill them with more oxygen and remain underwater for longer.
Whilst we are holding our breath, the amount of oxygen in our lungs decreases as it is carried away in the bloodstream and used, and the amount of carbon dioxide increases. Carbon dioxide is a waste product, and when a certain level is reached, a signal is sent to the brain to tell you to breathe again.
Changes in heart rate occur whilst breath-holding, and the more relaxed a person is, the slower they consume oxygen and, therefore, the longer they can remain holding their breath.
Submerging under the water brings its stresses, especially for a beginner learning about the swimming breathing technique. The experience can be made more accessible by wearing goggles or a mask so that the eyes can remain open, giving the swimmer awareness of their surroundings and keeping them relaxed.
Relaxation underwater is governed mainly by a slow heart rate. Movement of any part of the body will increase heart rate and oxygen consumption. As heart rate increases, so do oxygen levels and, then stress and anxiety begin to set in.
Holding our breath underwater is made more comfortable by slowly breathing out short bursts of air. This action expels carbon dioxide, reducing the amount present in the lungs. The trigger to breathe is then delayed. Click here for more on how to relax when swimming.
Learn how to relax, glide and master swimming breathing technique for each swimming stroke. Get the whole package right here in The Complete Beginners Guide To Swimming.
Click below to download your copy, or click here for a preview and more details.