How Do You Know If Your Breathing Timing Is Correct? How Should You Fix It?

Paul Newsome

Good Breathing Technique Is At The ❤️ Of A Good Stroke!

Breathing timing: getting this right can seem technically challenging, but improving it can be very rewarding for the stroke, how you feel and how fast you swim.

Many people reach full extension with their left arm (when breathing right) or with their right arm (when breathing left) and then - as a separate movement - twist and turn their head to breathe too late.

You can see Nolan doing this (albeit not terribly as he’s a great swimmer) in this video clip above. 

Doing so requires the lead arm to push down like a lever to give him height to be able to breathe in, but in doing so, compromises his ability to catch well with that lead arm.

Chances are you do something similar. In fact, this is a very common characteristic of very Smooth swimmers who seemingly have “nothing much wrong” - but as a coach, if you look closely at the nuances of these strokes, you will see it, especially at 240 frames per second like in this clip.
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If you’re breathing every 2 strokes, 50% of the time you’re swimming you could see your stroke being ‘wasted’ due to this timing issue.

It’s a numbers game - breathe every 3, and this issue will possibly affect you only 33% of time, breathe 4s and you’re down to 25% of the time.

The solution? No, not hold your breath to try to get that percentage down to 0% (the reason why 50m sprinters breathe only once or twice in their event as they’re trying to minimise the disruption to their rhythm and fluidity by breathing less), but work to improve the timing of your breathing so that you’re not breathing so late.

You want to focus on rolling your head to breathe in-sync with the body’s natural rotation. You can think of this as being triggered as your left hand passes your head to breathe to the right as opposed to waiting until that left hand has entered and reached full extension. It should be one, smooth, flowing action (head roll with body roll) not two separate movements (body roll then twist and lift to breathe).

Getting this right has a dramatic impact on your catch with the lead arm as no longer is it being used to lift and prop you up, but can be used to propel you correctly forwards #gamechanger

So, whilst the obvious thing is to say “breathe less and this issue goes away”, as a distance freestyler this is not an option, but you can of course work to improve your breathing strokes specifically and THAT is the key difference between very good swimmers like Nolan (featured in the video) and elite swimmers - every stroke counts, including those when they breathe.
Let me know if this tip helps you? It’ll certainly get you thinking about your timing and one way to give it a real test is to purposefully breathe too late and see how it really messes up your stroke and rhythm.

Have a good week,

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