Drill Sequence B for Breathing Tuneup – Freestyle Breathing Technique

Drill Sequence B for Breathing Tuneup – Freestyle Breathing Technique

Freestyle Breathing TIpsThis tuneup is similar to the previous tuneup, but we are now focusing on obtaining your breath during the recovery portion of the stroke. This sequence differs in that the one armed swimming is done with the opposite arm as the skating drill that precedes it.

During the initial one-armed swim with no breathing, focus again on how the body tends to sink during the recovery, and return to the surface after the entry of the leading arm. To sense this it’s important to stroke deliberately yet gently, recovery smoothly and then re-enter and pause in skate. Once you become tuned into the instability caused by the recovery arm, we can actually use this timing to help time the breathing.

Tuneup:
2-4 1/2 lengths: Arm Lead Streamline, a.k.a. Skating, with a sip of air or “sneaky breath”.
2-4 repeats: One armed swim, NB (opposite lead arm)
2-4 1/2 lengths: One armed swim, “sneaky breath” (towards recovery arm)
2 x 25 Swim

You may repeat this sequence as often as you like. Repeat on your “weak side” breathnig as well.

****Descriptions ****
Skating with sneaky breath: Body should be slightly rotated in skate position. Hips & Shoulders aligned. Lead arm is on it’s wide track. Sneaky breath: Pivot the head away from the lead arm to grab a bite of air while keeping lead arm on it’s track without moving under the body or pressing down.

One Armed Swim NB (No Breath): Do 4-6 one armed strokes without breathing first. Use the opposite arm as the leading arm from skating drill above. Note that this is the opposite of the previous breathing tuneup sequence. Focus on evenly rotating the hips & torso with each stroke while non-stroking arm remains at the side of the body. (ie when lead arm is out, that side of the hips and shoulders are rotated closer to the pool bottom. As the arm strokes, body rotation occurs and finshes with the opposite side hips & shoulders rotated near the bottom of the pool at the end of the stroke and during recovery. When the recovery arm reenters the water by spearing back to skate, the torso rotates back to original position. Pause a moment in skate to feel streamlining as well as letting the body return to the surface. Begin next stroke when you sense stability returning. **In this version, focus as well on how quickly the body begins to sink after finishing the stroke. Does it occur only after your arm exits the water? Before your arm exits the water? Does it change with the width and height of your recovery?

One Armed Swim with Breathing: Same as above, but now, let head swivel/rotate to grab a breath just as you did in the skating drill above. You are now combining it with the one armed stroking. Breath toward from the stroking arm as it begins it’s recovery. You’ll hopefully find that there is a clear, early window in which to grab air effortlessly as long as you don’t wait too long. During the recovery, the body begins to sink, and if the breathing occurs too late, you’ll be forced to lift the head and use an early downward push on the water to find air. Instead, the neck should remain relaxed and the head floating on the water as you look towards the recovery arm, and even observe the recovery forearm pass in front of your face while the elbow leads the recovery. ,

Swim 2 x 25 focusing on breathing towards the recovering arm, while allowing the elbow to lead recovery. The breath begins relatively “early” in the recovery phase. Allow the head to rotate with the body towards the recovery arm for a no-strain breath.

 

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Breath Better: Breathing Technique in Swimming – Timing the Rotation

Freestyle Breath Head above waterLast night at our masters swimming ‘Stroke Refinement’ Session as this swimmer termed it, I saw some really nice improvement in his breathing technique. Watching the transformation of strokes in a very short period of time is gratifying, and hopefully I can share with you what he experienced.

One of the most common breathing problems is that swimmers feel the must lift their head to get air, rather than rely on support from the water.   While lifting the head, they gain additional clearance by pushing down on the water with the extended hand.

Two Big Problems Caused by Lifting the Head

This solves the one immediate problem of getting air…but it causes two big problems in relation to swimming well.

Problem number 1 is that the hand and arm are pushing down instead of either anchoring or pushing to the rear, robbing the body of forward motion.   If you’ve been told you have a “nice stroke”, but your stroke counts are consistently high especially when swimming hard enough to breath every 2nd stroke, it’s likely that your forward movement is being stolen away by this thief…the perceived need for “space” to breath into.

Problem number two is that a sunken arm, usually locked straight at the elbow, is creating in creased drag and magnifies the rate of deceleration.  The body slows down as the breath is being taken because that arm pushing down is putting on a brake.  in order to get back up to swim speed again, the legs frequently compensate by spreading wide and scissoring back together.

A Mouthful of Water Means You’re Probably Doing it Better…

Obviously air is important.   Modifying the stroke to streamline breathing can be scary.  Occasionally there is no air present, or you take in a mouthful of water.   As long as you are confident that you are on the right path, and that your efforts will provide benefit in the long run, you’ll improve quickly.

Here are two screenshots from last night’s swim session.  I’ll note that the beautiful body position in the first shot was at the end of a 1 hour session of rotating through various recovery arm and leg focal points.   When working on breathing you’ll want to make sure the body is in it’s best alighment.  If that means spending 15 minutes or an hour doing whole stroke balance thoughts or drills, that’s what it takes. The more you practice the easier it gets and the faster you can arrive at your ‘starting point’.

Photo #1

In this photo our swimmer Erik displays nearly perfect breathing form except for one thing which you probabaly cannot see from the photo.  The great elements here include

  • Lead arm patiently extended
  • Lead arm on a wide track
  • Head laying down in the water
  • Water almost “splits” his face down the middle with one google in and one goggle out
  • Mouth is fully clear of the water
  • Eyes are looking to the side, not toward the sky
  • Recovery arm is just beginning to clear the water.

If all we were to see was this single still we’d assume that Erik has his breathing 100% sorted out…yet Erik continues to feel some struggle with his breath.  What you cant SEE from this photo is that he is still exhaling in this still frame, rather than inhaling. He has very good breath control, but spends just a fraction of a second clearing water from his face by blowing out after he’s already reached air.   he doesn’t start to inhale until just after this moment, which results in the next frame below…take a look. Before reading further see if you can ‘feel’ what he is feeling and identify areas for improvement.

 

Picture #2

In this photo Erik is just finished inhaling, yet his recovery arm is already making it’s entry back into the water.  Look at how much tension has developed in the neck as he continues to turn, turn, turn his neck toward air despite the body being ready to rotate back into left side entry & Skate.

Instead, imagine if in the first photo above, Erik is well into the inhale, having blown out remaining air just as he was rotating towards the surface. He’d start his inhale just prior to photo #1 an have completed it as the recovery arm passed the forehead/ear at which point he would rotate the head back towards the bottom of the pool, either just before or in time with the spearing arm.

(Well which one is it, just before or at the same time??)

I had this discussion with a TI coach over the weekend as I had demonstrated a land based drill which involved turning the head back down PRIOR to the recovery arm spearing.  The head would then be rotating independently of the body.    The althernative is to simply rotate the head back down WITH the spearing arm and body rotation.

I would use the former timing for a swimmer like Erik, pictured above, to reinforce that he really CAN get air and get his head back down without having to rely on the lead arm to push down and help the body to air.  Depending on the swimmers timing and tempo, it may be impossible for him to get the feeling that the head has it’s own component of control separate from the lead arm.  I would want to disengage the pushing down of the lead arm from the breathing movement of the head.

Update [3/1/14]: Here are two good breathing drill sets I just posted.
Breathing Tuneup Sequence A
Breathing Tuneup Sequence B

As soon as the swimmer can feel what it’s like to get to air, with the head supported by water only…and not by pushing down of the leading arm, I would only then encourage him to experiment with later timing of the head rotating back down.
I don’t feel that either is more correct than the other…but when trying to break bad habits, I think it’s valuable to enforce something like this…the quick bite of air with head back down BEFORE the lead arm has moved…in order to convince the swimmers mammalian brain of how easily air can be found while in the water.

Thoughts? What are YOUR biggest swimming concerns as far as breathing goes?

Fresh Freestyle: 99 Practices for Triathletes & Swimmers

Fresh Freestyle Cover

Looking for more practice ideas?  Pre-order my book of 99 Swim Practices for Swimmers & Triathletes.  Fresh Freestyle, a refreshing way to approach your freestyle practice. Fresh Freestyle is perfect for new swimmers, fitness swimmers and triathletes. This collection of progressive technique based practices will have you swimming with focus, ease, confidence and speed.

 

Now taking pre-orders at a discount, with shipping expected by May 31st, 2016

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