Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swimming and Breathing - What to think about by Neroli Nixon

Blog post from Fluid Movements Development Swim Coach : Neroli Nixon
Her credentials
1992 AUSSI Masters Swim Coach of the Year Award
2000 Australian Sports Medal for services to swimming and in 2001
Australian Age group Silver Medallist(200 Butterfly)
Australian Open Age Gold Medallist (400 Individual Medley), Bronze Medallist (200 Butterfly and 800 Freestyle)
Qualified to swim at the 1976 and 1992 Olympic Trials in Australia
National Masters Title and Record holder in all strokes and distances and World Masters Title and Record holder in Butterfly and Breaststroke.


Learning to breathe for swimming is paramount to an athlete’s improvement in the water.

How much do I have to breathe in and how much or hard do I have to blow out? Are you gasping for air and feeling there is none? Are you breathing every two strokes?  And if so, where is your cheat? Where do you get an extra breath when you need one?  What is your breathing pattern and what is it doing to your swimming technique?

Find your stroke rhythm through your breathing pattern.  One, two, will just not do!!  Three, four – now we are getting there.  Count those hand entries – hear your count by saying it out aloud.  One, two, three, four, breathe, one, two, three, four, breathe and so on.  Breathing every two strokes to just one side will create a muscular imbalance in the body.  As open water swimmers we need to learn to breathe to both sides, not just bilaterally, but consistently to the left and to the right.  Water and weather will dictate which side we breathe to.

You only need breathe in as much as you are going to breathe out.

But I can't breathe every 4!  Yes you can! A stroke count must be heard to be maintained.

Breathing for swimming is your first thought and action.  Before we start, from the wall, from a standing start, from a deep-water start, we breathe in and then we submerge.  We streamline into a swimming position, kick (yes we do!), we stroke and then we breathe, and then what? We exhale so we can breathe again.  Count for exhalation - speak aloud, because it will make you exhale!  Counting out aloud allows the swimmers to exhale to a pattern, to stroke with a length and a pace.

Practicing a four count, left and right sides to equal value, allows the swimmers to lay flat in the water and create a rhythm.  It will give the swimmer time to see and feel the stroke happening beneath and above them.  There is only so much of the stroke that the swimmer can actually see, yet by practicing a rhythmic count the swimmer has time to tune in to the drills and skills required for a good swimming stroke. 

The swimmer will become proficient at mouth exhalation and now that the ‘breathe holding’ pattern is broken the swimmer can practice different and more extended breathing patterns:

Breathing 2, 4, 6, 8 or 3, 5, 7, 9
Breathing left side and right side and bilateral
Tumble turns

A very simple tactic for breathing practice in cold water is to speak into the water.  It is so hard to exhale when placing your face down into the cold water, so speak.  Say the word – breathe – and the lift your head, sight and take a breath.  Place your face in the water and say it again – breathe.

Backstroke requires a breathing pattern so as not to inhale water through the nose.  Breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth.

Breaststrokers exhale as the kick drives the body forward into a streamline position.

Butterflyers generally breath in on one stroke and out on the next. 

What is your breathing pattern?  What do you think about while swimming?  There is no social communication when you are face down in the water, it is you, yourself, your own company, you!  Talk to yourself – no one will hear you J

Neroli's next article will be to do with body position and sculling.

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