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Trouble Breathing While Swimming Freestyle: Run Out of Breath

I Run Out of Breath Really Soon While Kicking!

If you have been following this blog regularly you will have noticed a comment that came in from a swimmer who was having problems with Kicking & Buoyancy - Floating face down. In particular he was having trouble breathing while swimming freestyle and running out of breath. I thought that the concerns were worth a little more than a passing reply so I decided to put them in a separate post.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

This is the second question that was asked, the first was dealt with when I posted on Kicking & Buoyancy - Floating face down 2:

“If I start kicking only keeping a streamline, things are fine till the first exhale, once I do that I somehow lose composure and then I have to stand up gasping for air. I am an athlete and am used to taking quick exhale inhale breaths during sprinting. Is that a factor here?

Even if I am using a kickboard, things are ok till the first breath and then after that no matter how hard I kick I am at the same place. I have to stand up, push off and kick again.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated since I love being at the pool (took me 20 years to step into a pool :) and I would hate to walk away from it since I cannot swim a stretch without gasping (literally, no exaggeration here) for air every 5-10 seconds.”

As far as your kick goes, I hope I’ve covered that well enough in my Kicking & Buoyancy - Floating face down 2 posts. You need to learn to flick you legs and flip you feet.

Trouble Breathing While Swimming Freestyle

Running out of breath is very common in adult swimmers and it can stem from a number of factors:

1) If an adult has not been bought up to swim then they have a lot of fear to deal with. Even once a person has learned how to control him or herself in the water they have to convince their unconscious that they are safe. This is not easy to do because there has been such a long period of programming the uncurious that swimming is an un safe thing to do.

It’s like you can hear your unconscious say “What! For all these years you’ve been telling me that this is not safe and now you want me to do what?” “ You’ve got to be kidding”.

The only thing that will help fear is gradual slow progress and practice with a lot of patience.

Soon I will be publishing something that was written by one of my Beginner adult students. You may find that very useful.

2) I am an athlete and am used to taking quick exhale inhale breaths during sprinting. Is that a factor here?

This may in fact be a factor but patients and practice will also resolve this.

One thing that you can do is grab a kickboard and walk along the pool with the Kickboard in front of you.

Place you thumb underneath the board and your fingers on top.

Now put your full face in the water and practice blowing all you air out before the count of 2. Try not to finish before the count of 2 but make sure all the air is out by the count of 2. That’s 1 and 2 making sure you pronounce each word clearly in your head. That is you should blow all your air out over about 2 seconds.

The purpose of the 2 count is that is the approximate time that it takes to do the two freestyle strokes before a breath.

It is most likely that you are not managing to do any kind of proper freestyle breathing with your problem so the next step, once you have mastered the above, is to repeat the process whilst turning your head.

When turning your head it is my firm belief that you should practice correct breathing position from the start. Hence you when you turn your head, you should keep you head as flat to the water surface as possible.

Image of a swimming doing freestyle taking a breath. You can see the she keeps the tip of her goggles in the water this is important when you are having Trouble Breathing While Swimming Freestyle
Keep The Tip of Your Goggles in The Water
The best way to do this is to try and keep the tip of your goggles in the water as you breathe in. That is your mouth should be clear of the water but you should be able to see a tiny bit of water floating over the goggle lens that is closest to the water when your head is turned. (see Pic)

Remember you are doing all this as you are walking along with the kick board in front of you and make sure you are blowing out for the count of 2. That’s “1 and 2”.

Now you need to practice the same thing as the above whilst you are kicking. But don’t do this without fixing your kicking first.

And there is the rub. You cannot expect you get a good freestyle breath unless you have a good strong stroke and a good strong kick.

As a beginner swimmer you need to have a good strong kick to help keep your head in position when you breathe and you need a good strong stroke to help lift you head out of the water to breath as you move in the water.

There are two things that a beginner freestyler has the most trouble with when they begin to breathe.

1) They do not pull hard enough on their breathing arm to be able to lift their head into position.

2) They do not continue kicking as they take their breath.

Basically you have to make sure you pull extra hard with you arm just as you take your breath and you need to maintain your kick during the breath.

You can practice both of these using catch-up stroke  I would not use a kick board to practice your breathing and freestyle stroke unless you really are having problems with timing. Kickboards have a nasty habit of allowing you to introduce other faults that then have to be fixed later on. Some of them are hard to fix too.

I hope this has been help full I realise that it is not comprehensive. Over time maybe I can be more comprehensive in the mean time never underestimate the value of searching out a good teacher to help you.


1 comment:

  1. I too used to find myself in the same spot with a kickboard during kicking exercises. Seems my cycling skills were interfering and my guess is you are a pretty good cyclist. The "I'm still in the same damn spot" seems to stem from the way we kick. My coach fixed me on this after pointing out that I was using all knee to toes with a downward chopping of my feet....just like a good cycle stroke. Do it hard enough and those feet can dig into the water and get you going backwards!! The fix: kick from the hip with a very fluid stroke and toes pointed behind you. That begs the question.....What the hell does that look like? Remember when we were kids and you would center a pencil between two fingers and shake it really fast to make it look like rubber.....there you go. Flexible, fluid and the entire leg (not to mention it looks effortless) kicking and propelling us forward.