Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stop Breathing For A While!

If you have a problem with your freestyle stroke, it is most likely to appear when you go to breathe. For instance you might cross over at the front of your stroke, bend through your core or drop your wrist hurting your catch. It's only natural to focus on your breath and getting that air in - it feels very important - but this shift in mental focus away from your stroke to your breathing often introduces or worsens stroke flaws.

These movements become a habit when you breathe which hurts your speed and economy through the water. Here's a way of breaking those habits and bringing them to your attention so you realise what you are doing:

Short Technique Swims Breathing Less Often

Normally we'd ask swimmers to breathe bilaterally every 3 strokes (counting both arms). In these special breathing sets we ask swimmers to breathe every 5 or 7 strokes instead over short distances. Swimmers who are good at this sometimes go to breathing every 9 strokes.

Here's two example sets to try (insert these in your drill sets):

1) Repeat 3x 200m with fins at steady pace (kick only gently). Over each 200m swim 50m breathing every 3 strokes then 50m breathing 5s then 50m breathing 7s then 50m breathing 3s.

2) Swim 3x 100m breathing 3, 5 and 7s in turn - so first breath after 3 strokes, second after 5 more, third after 7 more, then back to 3 strokes.

Why do this? In these sets you perform many more 'good clean strokes' without the distraction of breathing. By focusing on smooth, well aligned strokes you dial in those good movement patterns. Then when you go to breathe you have a much better chance of holding good form - and of feeling the change in movement if you do introduce a flaw.

Aside: In years gone by swim coaches used to ask their swimmers to breathe less often - they believed the oxygen starvation made their swimmers fitter. This was known as hypoxic training. This is NOT what we are doing here - this is technique work not fitness training. You will normally feel a little short of breath doing these sets but that's OK, don't push it too far - it's not supposed to hurt. Keep exhaling long and slow into the water to get rid of the CO2 and focus on perfect smooth strokes.

If this sounds really tough to you still give it a go! For short distances it's not as hard as it sounds. Just relax, swim at a steady pace and enjoy perfect strokes without the distraction of breathing.

This method is just one of the subtle ways we work to improve your stroke in our highly regarded training plans: - They're the perfect mix of training and technique!

Swim Smooth!

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