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Swimming and Anxiety

Im training for my first triathlon on 9th April. And everything is on schedule except the swimming. My issue is not in technique or speed, Im fortunate in having a former  national and international swimmer for a girlfriend. But, I do have a problem. After 50 to 100m, it varies, I have to stop as feel hugely out of breath and like my heart is trying to hammer it way out my chest. However I use a Suunto Ambit 3 for monitoring my swim and when I check the data my heart rate is in the low to mid zone 1 for me (using 3 zones) and my respiration rate is pretty constant around 23 bpm. The data doesn't match how Im physically feeling. 
The suggestion has been made that Im suffering some kind of anxiety attack type issue after a certain distance. Im wondering if folk with more experience than me can shed any light on this or how I can solve it?


  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    I've worked with a lot of swimmers and you are not alone. Generally there are two components that need sorting. Firstly, water is an alien environment in which you cannot breathe and your brain knows this. Secondly you may be over-breathing. This is where you inhale more air than you exhaled and the increase in pressure gives your chest the same feeling you get when you hold your breath so it is easy to confuse the two and your brain tends to.

    Overcoming the alien environment. Do loads of sink downs in the pool but tell the lifeguard what you are doing first otherwise you may get rescued. The are videos on YouTube. Go into a dead mans float then blow out until you lungs are empty. The objective is to sink to the floor. You have to really blow hard and fast. When done come up for air. Go again. Expect to get chest pains and possibly anxious. These are survival signals. Most hardly sink at all to start with but keep practising and you will get down deeper and for longer. The chest pains and anxiety will reduce and soon you'll be able to sit or lie on the floor for ages.

    Over-breathing. Try this exercise. Blow out until your lungs are 'empty', hold your breath for 1 second, now open your mouth to let the air in. Allow the air back in rather than consciously sucking in for no more than a second then immediately blow out again and see how long it takes to empty your lungs again. You should take in enough air to fill your lungs. Takes a bit of practice. So breathing while swimming is about continuously blowing out when your head in under water and allowing air in when you turn to breathe. Don't wait until you need to breathe, you don't when running or cycling.

    OK so this takes a bit of practice but once learned your swim distances will soar. You will get the odd mouthful of water but if you do keep going, do not stop. You may loose technique for a few strokes but will soon pick up how to cope and overcome such issues. You can swim ugly at times but don't make a habit of it.

    Let us know how you get on
  • MarkGBMarkGB Posts: 2

    Thanks Harry,

    I will try your advice. Sounds like you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Thanks very much. I will Let you know how I get on.

    Thanks again,


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