Breathing is something that we do subconsciously and we will continue to breathe even while being unconscious. It’s a natural process designed to provide our bodies with a steady and constant flow of oxygen.
In a normal situation, being terrestrial mammals, we don’t have to take extra measures for us to breathe properly. But when it comes to swimming, everything changes. For one we are not designed for a life aquatic which means we will have to alter our normal breathing behavior to be able to swim in the water. That’s why some people prefer to use swimming snorkels.
Let’s consider what you need to do to facilitate breathing when swimming.
Face into the water
The number one step to breathing while swimming is ensuring that you face the water. If you were to lift your head out of the water for example and have your feet sink further, there will be more surface area to deal with when propelling yourself forward as you swim.
The result would be more drag which will increase your body’s demand for oxygen because you will need to exert yourself to move forward in the water.
When you face down, there will be less drag which means you will need less energy to propel your body.
If you are not used to this position and if you are just learning how to breathe while swimming, it’s important that you take regular breaks. You can also make use of nose clips to prevent you from breathing in water through your nose.
If you start feeling anxious, remind yourself that the wall of the swimming pool is near and you can always get out.
Maintaining rhythmic breathing
Once you have become acquainted with swimming with your face in the water, the next skill you will need to learn is how to breathe properly. Ideally, once you have taken in a fresh gulp of air, you should exhale while your face is in the water.
Many beginners make the mistake of holding their breath for a while and then breathing out when the face is outside the water. This is the wrong way to go about it like all the time, body movements are demanding oxygen. If you do not breathe out immediately and then take a fresh gulp of air, there will be more carbon dioxide in the lungs as well as more lactic acid build up in the muscles.
It is therefore absolutely important to bring up your head, inhale and then immediately begin to exhale while the face is in the water. There is a rhythm to this and part of becoming a great swimmer is learning this breathing rhythm.
It shouldn’t, however, be too difficult and you shouldn’t force the breathing. Earplugs for swimming will help keep the water out of your ears when you are in the water.
Two-stroke or three-stroke breathing
What is so special thing about three-stroke or two strokes breathing? Well, you can achieve good mechanics when you are in the water on both sides of your body. However, there is a downside in that you will have to take more time between your breaths.
While it may sometimes appear small, it translates to a big gap in oxygen supply. A great way to get over this is to perform bilateral breathing during warm-up and your workouts including aerobics. Then you can change to one-sided breathing when performing mid-distance to long-distance sets.
For the stroke balance, you can practice by breathing onto the left when diving in the pool and to the right when resurfacing.
But there’s a problem breathing on one side. There is a high chance of developing an imbalance. What this means is that you become stronger on one side. When swimming in open water, this could cause you to veer off course.
However, the advantage is that you can take in more air which is great when you are swimming fast.
A few basic swimming tips
The first thing you need to ensure is that you have is a good pair of swimming goggles. These will keep the water out. Otherwise, your eyes will get irritated from the water leaving you virtually blind which might cause you to have anxiety.
And of course, you might require active swimsuits.
As a result of being relaxed, you are better able to maintain proper swimming breathing techniques.
To become good at breathing in the water and have proper breath control, you should practice blowing bubbles. Soon you will find that breathing flows naturally with each stroke. This also results in easier swimming.
Make sure you are in a relaxed state. If your facial muscles are tensed you may experience an inefficient exchange of air.
When you are breathing out, ensure that your timing is just right and also ensure that you spend twice as long as it takes you to breathe in above the water.
Why you should train your breathing
No matter which physical activity you are doing, breathing will provide your muscles with the oxygen needed for the task. When we are swimming, the human lungs are a marvel of engineering as they show just how efficient they are at adapting.
When our bodies require more oxygen, the lungs expand as we take in more air. And it works both ways. We also breathe out in large quantities to get rid of the excess carbon dioxide.
Practicing how to breathe while swimming allows you to breathe deeper and faster providing your body with higher amounts of oxygen. And the exercises enable you to breathe much better when you are in the water. As a result, proper breathing will help you improve your performance. Always ensure that you understand when is the best time to go swimming.
What’s more, with an improved respiratory rate due to proper breathing, your body becomes more efficient at using up the air and oxygen.
Not only should you perform better swimming breathing techniques when swimming but when doing warm-up and when doing recovery as well as stretching.
But what happens when there is a lack of sufficient oxygen? You become out of breath. And the respiratory system is not the only thing that is involved. There is also the heart function.
If there is bad breathing, you will also experience poor oxygenation also referred to as hypoxia. This can result in cramps and inflammatory lesions.
The front crawl technique
If you are swimming using the front crawl technique, many people make the mistake of turning their heads too fast or too slow. This can result in your body going out of alignment. The proper way to do this is to turn your head as you go onto the pulling phase.
When the arms are recovering over the water, quickly take a breath of air and take your head back to the starting position.
Always ensure that you turn your head sideways and avoid lifting your head completely out of the water. This is because the higher you lift your head out of the water the deeper your hips will sink. It becomes even harder to breathe.
To improve your swimming technique and to prevent you from kicking too much you can make use of pull buoys.
You might also like: How to Swim Like a Mermaid – 10 Steps Guide
Doing the breaststroke
Things are different when you are swimming using the breaststroke. In this case, you should time your breathing when your arms are moving towards your body. Your back muscles and pectoral muscles should be used to aid the movement of your arms which also allows your head to come out of the water.
Getting the timing right is crucial. Your stroke will be significantly affected if you were to breathe at the wrong time. Doing it correctly will also shield you from shoulder injuries. You can also take certain measures on how to prevent shoulder injuries.
The butterfly position requires you to pull down hard with your arms to make a forward motion in the water. Your body will also lift itself hard above the water. This should be near the end of the pulling phase where you will take in a gulp of air. Ensure that your mouth is off the surface of the water before going back to the starting position.
Breathing drills when swimming
The front crawl feels completely unnatural when in the water because it is. What’s more, breathing becomes more difficult because we are simply not marine animals. Putting your head in the water and exhaling then breathing in as you recover your arms can be one of the trickiest things to master.
Even while you feel like you are proficient at performing the front crawl, the combination with breathing can prove challenging. If you have been struggling with your swimming breathing techniques when doing your front crawl, there are a few tips you can use to be able to perform it correctly.
But first, there are things you need to be aware of. Every time you inhale air you will breathe out 75% of the air. The remainder sits in your lungs and stays there while becoming stale.
Breathing exercises help to engage your lungs much more and increase the amount of air that goes in as well as the amount that comes out.
Swimming then becomes much easier because your body can delay the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles due to delayed oxygen debt onset. If you are swimming with kids, make sure that you have taken the time to help you in understanding kids’ safety swimwear and gear.
The first breathing exercise should get you comfortable breathing out when you are in the water and prevents you from rushing back up and gasping for air in a panic.
Start by standing in a swimming pool. Next, bend your knees and go down to a level where the surface of the water touches your chin.
Then take a deep breath and go below the surface of the water. In this position exhale slowly through your mouth. Once your lungs are empty, go back up and take a deep breath. This second breath should feel deeper than the first.
Next, go back down and now exhale for longer than the first time. You can do this by counting time in seconds. Repeat the whole process six times. Once you are proficient at this breathing exercise and you are a good swimmer, there are certain ways to track your swimming workout.
The kicking drill
The first thing that you will need is a kickboard. In the kicking position, exhale through your mouth and blow air for 6 seconds.
When you count the 6th second, turn your head and inhale a good amount of air. Make sure the lungs feel full.
Next, lower the face back into the water and then exhale slowly all while counting to six seconds. continue with the exercise throughout the length. Feel free to swim for as long as you like while performing the exercise.
When you are finally comfortable with exhaling when your face is inside the water as well as taking a deep breath by tilting your head to the side, you can add in an arm stroke.
Start by having your face directly in the water. Blow air out of the lungs until they are empty.
Next, turn your head and inhale deeply as you did with the kicking drill. Then lower your face into the water.
Repeat the process while doing the arm stroke until it feels completely natural. When you advance in your swimming, you may find yourself using monofins for swimming for faster and more efficient propulsion. Some people prefer using swim fins.
Globo Surf Overview
As a beginner, one of the most difficult parts of swimming is learning how to breathe while swimming. The key is to practice regularly and soon you will be able to narrow the oxygen gap when in the water.