Do you have a breathing pattern?
Efficient breathing patterns vary. There is no right way, only the best way for you. In most cases, every 3rd or 4th stroke is the pattern I like to teach. Based on my experience coaching others, when they breathe to frequently, every 2 (left/right) arm strokes, they become breathless, like hyperventilating. If they struggle with breathing every 3rd, often it is because they are not efficient breathing to the non-dominate side, so then every 4th, keeping to the dominate side, seems to be the best pattern for them. Is Bilateral Breathing Important? Yes for balance, navigation, and strengths in both arms. You don’t make it a first priority, get comfortable breathing to the dominant side before you breathe to the non-dominate side, then get comfortable breathing to the non-dominate side before you bi-lateral breathe.
If a swimmer is struggling with breathing to the dominant side, it does not make sense to incorporate breathing to the non-dominant side (bilateral breathing) until you are comfortable breathing to the dominant side.
Once an athlete is comfortable breathing to the dominant side, then they will practice the same techniques breathing to the non-dominate side. The best way to become more comfortable breathing to the non-dominate side is to only breathe to that side. By practicing breathing on your weakest side you will also improve your bilateral breathing technique.
Why bilateral is often the “best” answer.
One issue with breathing to one side only is that it can create an imbalance of body rotation and arm strength. If you are a one side frequent dominant breather, chances are you only rotate to one hip and your non-dominate breathing sidearm is often weaker. The weakness happens when you rotate for an inhale, the non-dominate side/arm tends to pull wide, or “fall”, and pull too soon, while your face is out of the water to catch a breath; and that can create lack of a “catch and push”, propulsion from that arm, and over time that arm does not gain strength and your improvement in pace plateau.
To combat this issue I encourage swimmers not to breathe so frequently and when they rotate to inhale to leave their arm extended to inhale then as they rotate their face back into the water to exhale, initiate the catch and push when face returns looking down. Wearing a snorkel helps so you can watch your arm catch and push over the black line past their hip to gain strength.
Despite varying patterns in open water, I discuss more in this video, you want to practice in the pool to gain comfort and confidence.
Remember, the best breathing rhythm will vary from swimmer to swimmer. Practice the above techniques and patterns to see how you can get a good breath and how your technique changes to not only get a good breath, but also to get stronger propulsion on both sides.
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My initial T-pace time was a very un-respectable 2:30 min/100 yd. After I completed “How To Swim Faster in 30 Days”, I tested at 2:15/100 yd. So I made really huge progress and I am starting to feel better about my swimming. I really liked the program. My form got a lot better which allowed me to push my stamina. I can pretty easily swim 100 yards under 2 minutes now. I just have to string more of them together. Thanks. I think I will re-do the program to see if I can improve more. – Bill R.
The videos are easy to watch and follow so you can see exactly what to do and then follow up with workouts based on those. If you need help with swimming, highly recommend it. Swimming is easy for me but there were still great reminders and things to be thinking about along with the workouts. – KristiWendy just to say thank you for your youtube clip on body rotation and balance.I have spent years plowing up and down swimming too flat and “grabbing the water” and have spent years watching endless technique advice on the net. I had a light bulb moment watching your piece on extending deeper and how that helps rotation, balance, and catch and within 3000m can really feel the stroke for the first time and see the progress (times wise). Simple, practical, genius!! — Thanks, Rob
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