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Breathless Swimming - A dilemma on the best approach

Hi all; I've been a breaststroker for many years and can pretty much knock out a decent distance without any issues. However, I'm new to crawl and find after around 100 metres I'm breathless with burning lungs! I think there are three reasons for this: overbreathing, stressing about getting breathless, and not being used to crawl. I've tried breathing on 2, 3 and 4 strokes and always have the same experience: for the first 50 metres I'm fine, then I have 25 metres sucking in air like a demented hoover, with a final 25 metres pushing myself to get to the end. Then I need a breather. 


Talking to other newer swimmers and reading various things seems to indicate the best way to get past this is to grow a pair and push beyond my comfort zone. However, I have two ideas about how to achieve this and am not sure which is best.


Idea #1 is to do longish sessions (1,000 metres plus) without a break, alternating between a few lengths of crawl and a length of breaststroke as active recovery. Over time the idea would be to increase the number of lengths of crawl (3:1, 4:1, etc.), until I can complete a decent distance.


Idea #2 is to only swim lengths of crawl, starting off in 100 metre blocks, with a rest between each 100 metres. The goal would be to slowly increase the distance between rest intervals.


I know Idea #2 is more conventional, but I'm unsure if there's any setback or sciency stuff which makes Idea #1 a non-starter.

Any thoughts on this would be gratefully received, as will any other advice on getting over the breathlessness.


  • Well, my two penneth worth.....forget smashing out long swims....work on the reason your getting breathless....slow everything down and work on your core skills. start of with sink downs...go to the deep end and learn to fully exhale all of the air out of your lungs until you sink...keep doing this until its second nature...then work on your efficiency of stroke...obviously there are alot of different drills you can do for this but start with skull 1,2 and 3....but seriously...slow it all down, get your tummy sucked in...get your chin to your chest, kick just hard enough to keep your legs on the surface (flutter kick) and once you have a streamlined position and an energy saving stroke then, and only then, think about distance! theres alot more to it but only a short window for typing in here...good luck!

  • MartinH2MartinH2 Posts: 19

    Hi Pete

    As Simon said, don´t worry about trying to do long reps - you´ll make yourself worse.

    Focus on being relaxed and use a pull buoy (we sometimes suggest 2 when coaching) for ALL you swimming - this lifts your body and gets you into a position that you should feel more comfortable and will definitely help breathing.

    This should help: https://mastersoftri.com/do-you-really-want-to-swim-better/

    There are also other articles (linked in the above) relating to the use of pull buoys.

    Swimming multiple repeats of 25m well (as well as you can, and you will get better doing this) is a perfectly good way to improve your swimming - make each 25m as good a you can, rest for 15-20sec to recover your composure (physical and mental) and repeat. This will improve your stroke and confidence and will make you faster.

    Hope that helps


  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425
    Hi Pete

    I think you need to work on how you breathe and when you've sorted that the distances will come

    The secret to consciously blow out but simply allow the air in. How hard you blow out takes a little bit of practice. Do not deliberately suck in air or you risk overfilling your lungs and this has the same feeling as not breathing

    Try this. Sit still and blow out hard until your lungs are empty. Now simply relax your breathing and allow the air in, takes around a second, and immediately start blowing out hard. See how long it takes to clear you lungs again. Allowing the body to relax lets the diaphragm suck in just the right amount of air

    When swimming FC as soon as you face is in the water start blowing out. Don't hold on until you need to breathe. Sinkdowns are a great way to develop relaxed in-water breathing. Have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNMNRwM_CrU but best tell the lifeguard what you are going to do

    As you build your distance you may still experience breathing problems when swimming. When this happens do a couple of pulls of breast stroke while you sort yourself out and get back into front crawl. Don't stop. If you keep going these episode should quickly disappear
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