Last week we looked at what the well dressed swimmer is wearing, now we’ll consider how they’re breathing.
Thought you didn’t need to be taught how to breathe?! Think again. Thought you didn’t need any technology to help you breathe?! You got it, think again. Even knowing all the inventive ways to earn money from athletes desperate for milliseconds we’ve already encountered, today’s tech really takes the top slot!
Firstly a bit of tech, as in technique. It is important to breathe out when your head is underwater. I was unaware of this & always simply held my breath. The reason becomes clear when you turn your head to breathe in freestyle or rise up out of the water in breaststroke – if you’ve held your breath you can’t let it out and breathe in again quickly enough before you go back under.
Also, breathing out slows your heart rate (breathing in quickens it – a phenomenon known as “sinus arrhythmia”, fact fans) and so you will feel much calmer with your head in the water as you perceive your pulse slowing with the out-breath. This is also why yoga 4-7-8 breathing works to calm you down for sleeping.
If you are doing breaststroke you generally breathe every stroke and you are looking forwards. So far so easy. If you swim “front crawl” you have a number of breathing choices. You can breathe every other stroke, every third stroke or any combination. If you breathe every other stroke you’ll always be breathing to the same side, which could off balance you or veer you off course. If you breathe every third stroke you may not be able to sustain a fast pace, but at least you get to turn your head side to side and avoid neckache. You should look behind you and try to breathe in the lee of your arm, or you’ll be snorting water.
In open water, however, every few breaths you’ll need to look ahead and sight the buoy you are heading for, or you’ll waste valuable time and energy plotting your own course. (& upset the kayakers looking after you)
Well, maybe not technology, more “kit”. If you are trying to perfect your stroke or your kick, you might want to eliminate the stress of concentrating on your breathing as well. Many swimmers use a snorkel for this. Not content with using a normal mask and snorkel from your last seaside holiday, “they” will sell you swimming specific snorkels!
If this doesn’t make you laugh, you’re an olympic swimmer. Luckily they don’t cost very much, if you do feel the need to try one. On a serious note, if you’re swimming for pleasure or leisure and have always struggled with the breathing, since they don’t cost much (<£30) maybe it’s a good investment to get you in the pool. Also, solves any neck pain issues as you can keep your head inline.
But, there is a gold-plated version of this. (of course!) For between 3 and 4 times the price you can get a swimmer specific training snorkel that has two tubes, one for “air in” and one for “air out”. I haven’t quite worked out the benefits but it looked so hilarious I had to show you one:
So there you have it – how to breathe! An essential superhero technique 😉