Checking Your Breathing *Timing*

The timing of your breathing is something that is often overlooked by coaches and swimmers but can make a lot of difference to your ability to get a clear breath and also improve your level of relaxation in the water. When a swimmer rotates to breathe, the head should rotate and slightly lead the body rotation. Here's Jono Van Hazel from our Catch Masterclass DVD demonstrating this:

Many swimmers breathe late and rotate their head slightly after their body rotation, from the pool deck you can see this as a flicking movement of the head as the swimmer has to suddenly rotate their head in a hurry. Breathing late leaves you with a much shorter window to breathe in and you will still be trying to breathe as your recovering arm enters the water - which you might feel hitting your nose! :

Even advanced and elite swimmers can suffer from this problem and is something they can work on. A good visualisation to develop correct timing is to think about 'turning your head away from your hand' :

As your recovering arm and hand enters the water, turn your head away from it to breathe, as if you are trying to avoid seeing it. By doing this you will find you are in a breathing position much earlier giving you plenty of time to inhale smoothly. Of course, you should also make sure that you're exhaling into the water between breaths so that you only have to inhale, not exhale and inhale in that short window! See here.

One other observation: If you have a strong preference for breathing to one side then it's much more likely your breathing will be late on that side. On your non-preferred side you won't have any bad habits in place and your breathing timing will probably be much better: As you swim, see if you can compare the movements of the two sides and see if you are indeed breathing late to your preferred side.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

I like to breathe on both sides just to stay "balanced" but i am blind in one eye so how do I know my head is too far out of the water or in the correct position?

MarcP said...

Paul, great article(s as usual).

One thing you taught me was to lift my head slightly so the waterline is on my forehead (and looking forward rather than at the bottom of the pool. So, when I turn to breath I also try to look forward a little (like somebody else told me) rather than straight to the side of the pool like what you seem to be doing. Can you just clarify the head position and where I should be looking during breathing, as this might also help too.

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous,

Breathing to both sides is excellent technique - well done! OK, so you're not going to get the one goggle in the water, one out view but hopefully with your good eye you can judge when you're low in the water? Try angling your mouth to the side like popeye chews his spinach, this helps get lower too.

Hi Marc,

Take a read of this blog post, I think it answers your question:


Christian Wilson said...

This is one of the main areas I try to focus on with all my swimmers as it has such an impact on their stroke. Turning the head early enough not only improves inhalation and head position it also prevents the lead arm from dropping, often creating a scissor kick or sinking legs. Also returning the head early before the hand enters, prevents cross-over.

Christian Wilson

Tsahi Ohel said...

Timing is everything.

I was slowly working up to swim 1000 meters. This morning I read the blog, went to the pool, and instead of stopping at my 500m target, I went on to easily complete 1000 meters!

For the first time, I was fully aerated throughout the swim.

Thanks Paul for the catapult to a new level.

Adam Young said...

Tsahi - fantastic work mate, it is a very valuable tip this one. Keep working on your breathing (exhalation etc) and I'm sure there's more relaxation to come yet.

Abid said...

I start inhaling when I’m in push phase. It gives me more time to inhale and good body roll position to push the water backward. Is it right?

Crystal Riggs said...

This is one of the techniques that I want to learn but unfortunately I didn't learn it so the result was I lose my breath and end at the middle of the pool :( . May be I need a good swimming trainer.

Guila said...

WOW! I am practicing this "early breathing" both in open water and in the pool. I am not sure, but I seem to be going faster! Is this possible? It might also keep me from gulping air and getting stomach gas. Amazing!!

Lena said...

This was a very valuable blog post! As a beginner I struggle with breathing, but when I tried to breath earlier I actually felt more relaxed. It was like my swimming improved instantly and I did not get out of breath like have been doing so far.

Anonymous said...

I'm a unilateral breather. I'm doing the kicking on the side drill and 6-1-6 to improve my rotation so that I finally can switch to bilateral breathing. During training sessions I still breathe unilaterally. I have switched from breathing every 4 (hold, hold, bubble, breathe) to every two (bubble, breathe) to at least stop holding my breath. Although I haven't tested my endurance, I think every two has improved it, but it has made me slower. After todays rather easy session, I timed two hundreds at near max speed. 1:40 when breathing every two and 1:32 when breathing every four. It seems that I need to improve my breathing technique even for the good side.

Adam Young said...

Hi everyone, really glad you enjoyed this post!

Anonymous, wow, losing 8 seconds over 100m going from breathing every 4 to 2 strokes really highlights you are losing a massive amount of time when you breathe. It might not just be breathing technique, it could well be that you have a scissor kick when you breathe which is causing a lot of drag...

What happens if you breathe just to your bad side?

Cheers, Adam

Anonymous said...

When swimming a length or two breathing to my bad side I feel awkward. I feel I have to lift my head up. I have problems staying straight. It feels less rhythmical. I haven't timed me.

I am getting better on 6-1-6 and single arm drills. Will continue with those and do some lengths checking that the toes are brushing against eachother. Will also consider this post and the previous one about the bow wave.

PS. Have you considered having a search function in the blog? Lots of good info here.

PPS. I have several of your products. I have tried nearly all the drill but haven't followed the training plans yet. Is there any preferred, ie box set training plan first?

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous,

Do you think you could be crossing over in front of your head when you breathe to your 'bad' side? That normally leads to the feelings you are describing. Try practising kicking on your side to that side and pulling your lead arm straight by drawing your shoulders back and chest forwards. Then try introducing that same action into your swimming and see if it is any better? When you go to breathe to that side try saying 'straight' to yourself to shift your focus from your breathing to extending straight in front of your shoulder.

A proper index of the blog would be a great idea! There is already a search box in the top left hand corner but I admit it isn't obvious!

You can follow either the boxset training plan or one of our waterproof training plans first:

Both training plans have a good mix of training and technique work. The Boxset one is slightly more biased towards technique whilst the waterproof plans are more all-round. As you are working on your stroke it's probably best to start on the DVD Boxset program first.

Hope that helps!

Adam Young
Swim Smooth

Anonymous said...

How about the development sessions of the swim types guides and catch masterclass?

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous,

You could certainly use the Swim Type guides and Catch Masterclass sessions simultaneously. Obviously the Swim Type ones are a little more focused on your individual style but the Catch Masterclass is a more detailed - and insightful - look at the catch technique itself. They will compliment each other very nicely!


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