Swimming: Breathing basics

Terry Laughlin • For Active.com
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Practicing your breathing in a mixing bowl is a unique way to perfect your breathing skills. Among the major differences between swimming and all land-based sports is that breathing in the water is a skill, and a fairly advanced one at that. In recent weeks, since opening our swim studio in New Paltz, NY, I've spent many hours teaching in an Endless Pool, where proximity to my students has allowed me to observe how essential breathing comfort is to their progress and success. This has convinced me that, until breathing becomes routine, effective focus on other aspects of the stroke is impossible. But once they master breathing, other skills follow much more rapidly. This article will be in three parts: 1. How to eliminate discomfort 2. How to exchanging old air for new 3. The mechanics of fitting each breath easily into your freestyle stroke. Securing your airways The number one source of tension and inhibition for new swimmers is the very real fear that water will go up your nose or down your air passages. I see this fear manifest while trying to teach balance positions -- which are the non-negotiable first step to good technique. Keeping most of the head submerged while swimming is essential to good balance, but this brings the water perilously close to nose and mouth. When someone rotates from a nose-down balance position to a nose-up position -- the first step in learning the efficient breathing mechanics I'll discuss in the next installment -- they have difficulty completing the movement because they're afraid they'll inhale water instead of air.

and perhaps even your nostrils -. For an interesting challenge. Here are some simple steps. Then try the following:  Dip your chin into the water and leave it there while you breathe in through your mouth and out through mouth and nose.) Crouching with hands resting on knees or the pool gutter. Observe how your breath ruffles the surface.  Next. dip your face for a sustained bubbling exhale (four to five one-thousands). Repeat until you develop a relaxed and seamless rhythm." Lower your face and bubble out for a count of four or five-one-thousand. Continue for 30 seconds or more until this feels almost meditative.at least twice the circumference of your face -. that you can take to feel more secure about getting all the air you need. In this and subsequent exercises. If you have a mirror that can fit into the bottom of the bowl. lower your face into the water. Play at this with a spirit of curiosity for about a minute or until you feel almost "bored" with it. Your goal is to inhale with the tip of your nose -. Notice how natural air pressure keeps water from entering your nostrils or mouth. advance to "rhythmic breathing. while minimizing your chances of inhaling water: 1. notice how you can inhale easily. Repeat the final exercise in shallow water at the pool. Lift and inhale for a count of one-one-thousand.  With goggles on. lightly touch your nose and lips to the surface and practice inhaling through the small space at the corners of your mouth. before lifting to inhale again. but this time bubble gently from your nose. 2. keeping your mouth open but without exhaling (see right). Watch in the mirror. Lower and repeat. put that in too.still in the water and your mouth barely clearing it. As you lift your face. even with water dripping around your mouth and nose. notice the "blotting" created where your nose and lips touch the water. try to inhale with the tip of your nose still touching the water. In the mirror.filled with warm water. which include the Gruneberg Method. the longer you'll be able to sustain one exhale. then lift it to inhale with minimal . Practice breathing in a good-sized mixing bowl -. The smaller and quieter they are. precious balance and smoothness are lost.  When you can do each of the above in a calm and contained manner. (Precede it with the other exercises if you wish. alternate between mouth bubbles on one exhale and nose bubbles on the next.People respond to both fears the same: lifting their head abruptly so the nose and mouth will be at a "safer" distance from the surface. And the instant they do. Repeat this but bubbling only from your mouth. trying to keep your bubbles small and quiet.  Repeat as above.

just dipping to your hairline -. Start with shallow and brief immersion -.and work your way to longer. Repeat until this feels effortless and meditative. progress to bobbing. Swim some easy 25-yard repeats. . with a sufficient sense of ease that you need only three cleansing breaths before starting the next. bob back down again. we'll take a look at the specific oxygen needs of swimming and how they are met. count off your exhales and inhales by onethousands. you can progress to 50-yard repeats. If it helps. focusing on sustained steady bubbling. beginning to inhale as soon as your mouth clears the water. Its calming effect will help you resume swimming with much more sense of command in breathing and everything else. 4. For your rest interval between 25s. In our next installment of this article series on breathing. This time don't worry about keeping your nose at the surface. On these 25s. but focus on becoming comfortable getting air even as water cascades down from your head across your face. Bob up. deeper immersion. After a few minutes of the above. slow cleansing breaths. take several deep. let your need for air entirely dictate the speed and rhythm of your stroke. 3. as you did in the bowl. When you can repeat 25s.clearance. Then without pause.

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