I get asked quite a lot about breathing. It is, of course, a key aspect of life as well as swimming. It is also one of the fundamental reasons people get very anxious with swimming. If you are nervous in the water, questioning how you will comfortably take air into your lungs with swallowing lots of water can create further anxiety.
Mastering a rhythmical and balanced breathing pattern will truly help you discover much greater pleasure in the water. You will also reap the full health benefits of the aquatic environment. Here are some of my breathing tips.
- Never hold your breath. Here’s the science behind why. We as mammals and land dwelling animals breathe in oxygen. We use that essential oxygen for energy and we produce carbon dioxide as a by product. When we exhale, we get rid of that unwanted carbon dioxide. Holding our breath means we are storing carbon dioxide in our body tissues and blood and therefore our heart race increases as we try to purge it. Relaxed continuous breathing will keep you much calmer and less fatigued.
- Focus on your out breath and allow your in breath to happen more naturally. A slow, gentle, calm out breath is good. You’ll find you breathe in more calmly, naturally, and you don’t gasp for air.
- Breathing position changes depending on the stroke you are swimming. Your head position during front crawl is vital to a successful, relaxed breath. Lifting your head so your eyes face forwards should always be avoided. This creates pressure on the back of your neck and your lungs, causes your lower back to arch and restricts the windpipe. A relaxed breath should be taken by rotating the body on its horizontal axis, ensuring your neck stays in line with your spine.
- Timing – effective breathing during front crawl is all about perfect timing. You should practice your body rotation, turning your head laterally, while calmly inhaling in order to get confident and more relaxed with your stroke.
These are just a few points to remember in a complicated but essential part of healthy living, swimming and general activity.
Something to consider – good breathing is all about taking in oxygen (vital for life) and exhaling carbon dioxide and other toxins. This process is cleansing for your body. Shallow, ineffective breathing can lead to skin conditions, unhealthy complexion, fatigue and poor digestion.
For more breathing advice I would happily recommend yoga and meditation. My friend www.karanyoga.com is an excellent teacher.
I am always open to helping with swimming technique and posture. If you require support with your breathing technique please just email me firstname.lastname@example.org