On the Mediterra Swim Dojo, we have a few swimmers currently following the Master Class Breathing course. Among those in the course and some who have taken it previously, we have had some discussions about what creates breathing stress and what are the solutions available to us.

What are some of those things that can cause your breathing distress?

  • Poor body position and control over movements which increase the demand for air exchange.
  • Poor breathing technique which makes it difficult and disruptive to turn to air.
  • Unsuitable timing of the breath.
  • Deficient physical conditioning – both in volume and type of conditioning.
  • Lack of mental conditioning – understanding and embracing the sensation of healthful effort.

The breathing course, in conjunction with the coach’s guidance, is designed to touch on all these areas. But it may not be obvious that we are when obsessed with just one cause. It’s rarely just one cause. Many people assume their problem comes from either poor breathing technique or poor fitness, when much of the problem may be caused by underlying foundation of body control and in the mental relationship the swimmer has with his own body.  I have been prompting our swimmers to think through all these areas to consider where else they may need to give attention in training process.

One gal in the course wrote about some profound observations that I wanted to share with you all. Her first few weeks were not going as smoothly as she hoped but then she made a “breakthrough swim today”.

My pool is about an hour away so I have time to get my [focal points] together… So I practiced deep belly breathing on my way to the pool. It made a huge difference in my anxiety level and my general well being. By the time I got to the pool I was calm. And able to make better decisions.

Each week, for the first few weeks of the course I assign a breathing exercises that the swimmer should do at home, or before getting in the water. She was practicing one of these on the way to the pool. 

Since I have been sick with a low grade bug for five weeks I decided not to swim for forty five minutes to an hour and limit myself to thirty minutes. Likewise, I decided to strictly follow the sets in [practice 1.1] which are small and doable.

These first weeks she was adding some work that was beyond what was assigned. In many cases I let swimmers make such decisions and let the results offer the feedback on whether that was a beneficial decision or not. In this case, it seems she was trying too hard to make easier breathing happen, when the fairly small and simple activities in the assignments were sufficient to produce the positive effects she sought.

Once I established a calm way of breathing out of the pool I didn’t overwhelm my system by starting a whole new breathing pattern at the beginning of the swim. I had started a whole new breathing pattern an hour before the swim.

That was the line that caught my attention and the main point I wanted to share with you. This gal did something profound for the hour leading up to her swim and this made the difference in how she experienced that practice.

There is so much to be said for creating a long, gentle approach to your swim practice time. Many use swim practice as an approach to the rest of their day, but imagine how much better that swim-as-preparation-for-the-day could be if you also had a breathing-and-mindfulness-approach leading up to that swim practice!

I was able to digest the tasks at hand, one focus on the way up, one focus on the way down. If I lost my breath, I reverted to deep belly breathing on the inhalation and slow bubbles out through my nostrils on the exhalation.

More often than we probably realize – simple is better.

Whittling down the variables to thirty minutes, short sets, two to three [focal points] and preparing my breathing before I got in the pool was instrumental in giving me a taste of what it’s like to breathe comfortably.

This is really what you need to work on achieving before you consider any other achievement goals in swimming. Once you can breathe with ease in smaller tasks in the water, you can then consider bigger ones with much more confidence and peace.



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