Trouble With Freestyle Breathing

I am 60 and recently started training seriously for triathlons. About my swim training, I have trouble with freestyle breathing on the left side and started breathing every 4th stroke just on the right side. I ran out of breath quickly, and my endurance suffered.

I then started to alternate breathing every second stroke with every fourth stroke, which seemed to significantly increase my endurance, still only on the right side.

Is this a reasonable alternative for some swimmers, or should I concentrate on breathing on both sides, perhaps every third stroke?

As you train for triathlons, you must have a steady breathing pace over a long distance.

Breathing every third stroke is usually the ideal pattern to start with, and then swimmers usually switch to breathing every stroke over a long distance.

You seem to have found a breathing pattern that works for you, which is excellent.

Everyone is different, and for that reason, I always say that there is no right or wrong. A lot will depend on the total distance you need to cover and if your chosen breathing pattern lasts as long as you need it to.

However, it would help if you considered the following:

If you breathe only on one side, the muscles in your head, neck and shoulders that turn your head when you need to breathe are only working on one side. The result will be a muscular imbalance developing slowly over time in those muscles because the equivalent muscles on the other side are not being used the same way.

The overall result will not be serious, but it could have a subtle effect on your posture.

Muscle imbalances are very common in all of us and in all areas of our body, usually caused by our lifestyle. Any muscle imbalances in the body can easily be rectified with plenty of stretching (which you should do at the end of your swim anyway) and sports massages.

You could prevent it from happening in the first place by breathing on both sides as evenly as possible. Even using your breathing pattern of every two strokes and then every 4, do it on one side for a few lengths and then switch to the other for a few lengths.

Most long-distance swimmers find breathing every stroke the most efficient for front crawl, so try this pattern and see how it feels compared to yours.

If breathing on your left side is difficult, it is simply because you are not used to it, and those muscles are not trained to perform that action. Keep practising, and soon you will forget which side you used to prefer breathing on!

I hope you find this information helpful, and I wish you every success with your swimming and triathlons.

My ebook How To Swim Front Crawl contains over 20 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of front crawl, 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.

Basic Freestyle Swimming Technique Made Easy

Basic drills for learning how to swim front crawl
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