Recently, I have had three different swimmers come to me with specific complaints about being out of breath from swimming just a lap or two. There are likely a few more possible causes, but here are the three that I run into more often:
Obviously, then someone is fighting the water rather than working with it (think machine versus fish) he will be burning a lot more energy than he needs to. When we improve Balance, we remove Struggle.
2. Poor Breathing Technique
This is what each of my students has suspected and asked for help with. Of course, we would examine the way in which he is taking the breath to make sure he is getting enough in each breath and enough breaths per length.
3. Muscle Tension
A slightly different action than Struggle, but essentially the same effect inside the body. If all the muscles in the legs and the arms and neck, for instance, are being held in tension during the entire stroke cycle then that is a lot of extra oxygen being burned up, unnecessarily. In TI we train to turn off all that can be turned off, so that as much rest is built into the stroke cycle as possible- even in sprint technique.
My first month practicing (self-teaching) TI produced a 40% savings in energy. I became capable of swimming 1500m in the same time with 40% fewer strokes and a much lower heart rate and effort level. The obvious difference (besides far fewer strokes) was in the relaxed breathing.
4. Mental Tension
It may not be too hard to identify with this. Tense, anxious thoughts produce a tense body and that tension is likely not being channeled toward forward motion. And muscles held tense are consuming oxygen, not to mention resisting fluid movement. This is where the Mental Focus we train for in TI has additional benefits- by re-directing the mind toward productive, positive objectives and stress-relief becomes a natural byproduct.
When the tension and anxiety is caused by the swimming itself (fear of the water in some form), then that is where we begin in TI coaching. Relax! is the first skill we pursue in TI, for a very important reason.
What I have not mentioned is Poor Fitness. Almost everyone who has come to me, or come to one of our workshops is already an athlete or fitness-oriented person who has been swimming regularly or has other sports that they enjoy regularly. Fitness, in the sense that she does not have the cardio-vascular capacity to handle more than a couple lengths without breath-exhaustion is rarely the case.
Of course, there is sport-specific conditioning for muscle and the cardio-vascular system that must happen. Again, most swimmers who come to us have been in the water long enough that this should not be a problem.
So I might break down the oxygen Problem into two categories:
1. Not getting enough oxygen (volume, frequency of breath)
The solution is generally found in improving breathing technique- head position and rotation during breathing, timing of the breath, and air-management (or ballast-control, as I call it).
2. Consuming more than necessary (wasteful movement)
The solution for this is found first in Relax! and then in re-building smooth, economical stroke technique upon it. For the breath-srugglers out there I encourage you to examine your body to see how much you need to work on one skill or the other. With these proven TI skills you are entitled to swim as long as you want with great ease and peacefulness in your mind and body.