7 Breathing Exercises to Make You a Better Swimmer
Naturally, as land creatures, we will occasionally have difficulty in breathing during a swim. Like everything else, all it takes is practice to get it down pat. As a competitive swimmer, it’s vital to try many different methods to find the one that works best for you. For amateur and professional swimmers alike, below are 7 breathing exercises and tips that you can do both in the pool and dry land.
1. Use a respiratory device
Increase your lung capacity by training your breathing muscles with a respiratory device. These small devices are generally used for those undergoing respiratory treatment, however swimmers are known to use them as well to promote diaphragmatic breathing. By building up the muscles down there, you will have stronger control and capacity for breathing. Most breathing trainers like this one come with adjustable dials for resistance settings, which means it’s also easy to measure your progress and see how much you’ve improved. Small enough to put in your bag, you can take it anywhere with you and practice your breathing on the go.Check Price on Amazon
2. Prolong your under waters
For the uninitiated, under waters are when you swim completely under the water. The most commonly known stroke is dolphin kicking, and any form of underwater kicking is often considered the fifth and fastest stroke of swimming. It’s often utilized to kick off starts and turns before you get into the main stroke, such as freestyle or butterfly. By excelling your underwater kicks, you can also master your breathing. One main way to improve your breathing is to add one extra dolphin kick when you start, but don’t get too intense, as it’s advised to hold your breath underwater for less than 30 seconds at a time.
3. Take advantage of dry land breathing time
Who says you need to be in the water to improve your breathing? Maximize the practice time by doing it while you’re dry on land as well. One effective exercise is to sit by a wall and breathe deeply. To do this, simply sit and lean against a wall, stretch your arms forward, and take long, slow, and deep breaths. Inhale deeply and exhale completely for about five seconds or for as long as you can expel the air out. A good tip for when you do this is to strictly keep your spine against the wall, as this forces you to use your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, rather than expanding your rib cage. Don’t rely on your spine, neck or shoulders! When you sit by the wall, you can feel if you are shallow-chest breathing, as your shoulders will be grazing the wall up and down.
4. Rhythmic breathing
When you are in the water, always use the time to practice your breathing patterns. Just like with patterns in life, once you’ve established a breathing pattern, it will help you learn to know when you’ll be out of oxygen. By knowing when you should breathe, it can maximize your breathing efficiency and it will become muscle memory. For instance, ask yourself how many strokes you can last before having to take a breath. Some competitive swimmers should be able to breathe every five to seven strokes, but go easy at first and find your pace. Do it for all strokes, as your breathing in freestyle will be different than butterfly. Once you’ve got a pattern going, remember it while you practice.
5. Train with gear that helps with breathingCheck Price on Amazon
To put it more literally, use gear that will restrict your breathing. When your breathing is limited, it forces your body to raise your tolerance on holding your breath longer. For example, train with a snorkel and snorkel cap. Unlike regular snorkel sets, a cap is placed over the opening of your snorkel to limit the amount of air you inhale. Your lung workout load can increase immensely and the tougher training makes for stronger lungs. Ultimately, your lung capacity will expand, as well as your ability to effectively inhale air. Since you’ll be getting less air, this exercise teaches you to breathe deeper and to control your breathing. So, it’s not about how often you get to breathe, but how you can maximize each breath you take.
6. Exhaling is just as important
When we breathe out, our natural instinct is to breathe in straight after. Exhaling is an important part of swimming and it also needs to be trained. To improve exhalation, try breathing where it feels most comfortable instead of breathing to a certain set pattern. This way, you’ll get to focus on exhalation rather than inhalation. To find out if you’re exhaling effectively, try the hovering technique. First, find the deeper end of the pool then hug your knees to your chest so that your head is above the surface. Take a normal breath, submerge your face and continuously ‘sigh’ in the water to exhale as much air as possible. You’ll find yourself sinking deeper underwater if you are breathing out effectively. If you’re still hovering just beneath the surface of the water and find this a challenge, you may not be exhaling to the best of your abilities. If that’s the case, continue to practice exhaling deeply in the water and on land whenever you get the chance.
7. Box breathing
Taking an exercise from the Navy SEAL, the box breathing technique is an effective way to calm yourself down before a big race and get you into a focused mood. To do this, inhale for four seconds, hold your lungs full for another four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold your lungs empty for four seconds. Then, repeat if necessary and for longer lengths of time. When in doubt, just remember there are four steps and four seconds to do each of them to make a box. It’s a good way to get on top of your mental game and get into the zone. It’s proven that performance is hindered when under stress, and the box breathing exercise can easily put you off it.