The most common question in the tri-athlete world about swimming efficiently usually involves something to do with breathing and inspiratory muscle training. In freestyle, the first step is to get your body position right. Then, for many, you throw in breathing and everything goes haywire! This has to do with lack of balance, using your head instead of your core to breathe, and a few other factors.
Here are the top five challenges in learning effective breathing in freestyle swimming, along with the remedies on overcoming these challenges:
Not getting enough air
Typically this happens in freestyle a lot and there are a couple of reasons why it does. First, make sure you breathe out all of your air before you rotate to take a breath. When learning, some people try to exhale and inhale while they are rolling to the side for air. There simply is not enough time for this! Your exhalations should only be in the water in the form of bubbles. At first the timing may seem difficult, but eventually you will get used to it. Second, you may be sinking as you breathe. Make sure you are rolling to the side to breathe, and not rotating your head and looking straight up.
Extended arm sinks while taking a breath
This is mainly a balance issue. While you breathe to one side, your other arm should be extending. For many swimmers, this extended arm pushes down into the water and they are sinking while trying to inhale. The side kicking and shark fin drills will also help to improve this.
Speed is sacrificed because of a "Pause" while breathing
A typical scenario is that you feel like you are cruising along just fine and then you take a breath and it feels like you have just lost all your momentum. To remedy this, when you breathe, concentrate first on breathing to the side, then on having your mouth parallel to the water, instead of over the water. The latter will take a while to master, but once you do, it will take care of the pause, and improve your speed overall.
Difficulty breathing while navigating in a race
You need to look up to see where you are going, and at the same time grab a breath. How can you do both? Start with bilateral breathing (breathing on both sides every 3 strokes). This will help you to see where you are without lifting your head up as much. When you need to lift your head, try not to look straight ahead as this will make your hips sink and throw you off balance. Instead, take a quick peek at your target, roll to the side to breathe, and bring your head right back down into position.
Inspiratory muscle training will help improve your breathing power and control for swimming