For most swimmers the concept of: ‘inhaling air when your face is out of the water and exhaling when your face is in the water’ is easily understood. Why then, do a lot of people struggle with their breathing when following these simple rules? To analyse and improve your breathing it is better to practise in the water when not swimming and apply the tips below:
Get comfortable. If you are a learner, in shallow water, try to get your face in and out of the water at as many different angles and following as many different trajectories as possible. If you are more confident try to get your face in and out by bobbing, drifting, rolling etc in deeper water.
Keep your breathing open. Make sure you are either breathing in or breathing out. Don’t close your breathing by holding your breath and stopping the flow.
Don’t think about amounts. The only person who can know what feels right is you. If you feel like pushing the air out a bit harder, do it. If you feel like inhaling a bit more sharply, do it. You’ll soon find out what is right for you.
Don’t let the surface of the water dictate the direction in which your breath flows. When your face breaks the surface of the water, different stimuli e.g change of sounds, what you can see and the feeling of air on your skin, may cause you to breathe in too early or hold your breath. Similarly the psychological effect of moving from water to air can cause anxiety resulting in unwanted changes to your breathing. The same type of things can happen when returning your face to the water. Use the stimuli as a guide to when it is safe to inhale, but try not to react to them involuntarily. When your face comes out of the water carry on exhaling until you are ready to inhale. As soon as you have inhaled enough, start to exhale straight away, don’t hold your breath while waiting until your face is back in the water.
Above all, treat your practice as play, exploration or discovery rather than an attempt to get something right.