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Swim breathing revelation

here's the revelation (its not revolutionary, but is new thinking for me!).

I have always swum either unilaterally (every forth stroke) or bilaterally (every third stroke). And these have worked quite well, i normally start out every forth but revert to every third when i start getting tired (after three lengths!).

Anyway, here's the deal.....i swam today and tried breathing every second stoke, wow, no tiredness attack, just felt like i could go for ever!!! As for speed, i dont think it slowed me down at all, sure it's a slower technique (i think), but because i don't get tired, i think that makes up for it.

I shall continue......and see how it works out....

Anyway care to add thoughts?


  • JessterJesster Posts: 482
    i breathe bilaterally, every three. except when i'm pushing it and i have to resort to every two just to get the oxygen in. every two feels weird for me tho, much prefer bilateral. whatever...erm...floats your boat?!
  • Cheryl6162Cheryl6162 Posts: 356
    I breathe every two and I don't think it slows me down at all and I reckon it gives more oxygen to my muscles meaning (hopefully) that the legs won't be so tired when I clamber out!
  • MGMG Posts: 470
    Nowt wrong with breathing every 2nd stroke. I find that I gilde through the water smoother if I breathe every 4th stroke though.

    It depends what distance I'm swimming really, if its a short 400-750m blast it'l be every 2 strokes as I'm not only breathing out my mouth but also out of my arse when its a swim sprint. If its a longer swim 2000-4000m I'll generaly get into a nice 4 breath rythm.

    Whatever works for you really, I can breath billaterly but never do it in races.

  • MintyMatMintyMat Posts: 98
    This is good info. Been swimming for two months in preparation for 2 triathlons (Henley and West Wight) this summer. Swimming is tough for me but have been aiming for 4 - 6 strokes. However, I feel a lot more natural 2-3. Especially as I get tired. Thanks for the advice.
  • GGBGGB Posts: 482
    I find it almost impossible to breathe every 2 strokes - even Bilateral 3rd stroke is sometimes too soon for me - I forget to breathe out and end up getting no air whatsoever - I have been known to breathe on the 6th stroke but can't do that for too long ... I usually find when doing anything above 200's I have to breathe every 3rd or 4th stroke - usually 3rd unless I forget.

  • GHarvGHarv Posts: 456
    Richard Stannard (Best short course tri swimmer in the business) for open water recommends breathing every second stroke and i must say i agree - practice in the pool what you'll do in open water.

  • Phil TPhil T Posts: 49
    I think every two stroke suits me and its what I use in a race. However, I do try and do bilat breathing every couple of lengths simply because I like to see what my left (weaker) arm is up to. You can check your technique is symetrical and correct better with bilat. I also change which side I breath now and again. I do a few sea swims and if you're going parallel to the shore and then turn back go in the opposite direction you'll get a nice face full of sea water from the waves. Does that make sense?
  • husslerhussler Posts: 237
    Nice one Gary!!! :) I breath every 2 strokes without fail.... dont let anyone tell you its wrong and you should be do this and should be doing that.... Its whatever you are comfortable with... It doesnt affect performance at all in my book as I hit 5:22 for 400m last week and now have a PB over 100m is now down to 72s:)

    Im on leave again in 2 weeks time for Easter so well have to try have another training session!
  • garyrobertsgaryroberts Posts: 869
    Hi Jase

    I'm off week commencing 13th. Is that the week you're off? Would love to meet up again. Let me know what week your off and we'll sort something.

    (will have to work even harder now to make sure i'm looking better than last time!)

  • willtriwilltri Posts: 436
    nice one gary,

    been practising bilateral and run out of steam - forgot that i could drop down to every two!! - got my first sprint tri on may 10th.

    Might help me reach my predicted swim time... having only swam in the pool on holiday predicting it was was much like pinning the tail on the donkey....
  • Itd be interesting if you timed a 2 beat, 3 beat and 4 beat to see if there is a time difference. I think youll find your aquadynamicy would be effected by a two beat.
  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    I also like breathing every 2 strokes. Its a whole lot nicer getting out of the water and feeling good than needing to spend all that time catching your breath. At least make sure you can breath to both sides in case someone's splashing up a storm or decides to swim over you on your preferred breathing side.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    The longer you can go without breathing the more efficient you will be. By lifting your head to breath you are less streamlined, there is more drag etc so you will go slower. So in theory breathing less frequently is better. But if you are out of breath and can't put the effort in to the stroke then you are losing more from that breathing every 4 than you might gain from being more streamlined.

    If it works for you Gary then that's all that matters!

    Of course in time as your fitness improves further you can give breathing every 3 or 4 strokes a try again.
  • EdstgEdstg Posts: 83
    I was swimming in the pool last year and breathing every 4 strokes. In the pool it felt right and all was good until my first tri last year when i tried breathing every 4 strokes - I nearly drowned.. I would recommend doijg some open water swimming and prepare yourself for rasied HR at the beginning of the swim. I now always breath every 2.
  • clarkey30clarkey30 Posts: 270
    I was told by coach kiddle to breath every two during a race, you should be pushing yourself to the limit and therefore need the oxygen! in training or long sessions its easier to bilateral breath and glide....
  • moonshinemoonshine Posts: 335
    ok what do you all mean by a stroke?

    a) right arm = 1

    left arm = 2

    right arm = 3

    left arm = 4

    as in a step in running/walking


    b) right, left, = 1

    right, left = 2

    as in a stride in running/walking?

  • MGMG Posts: 470
    Left then right counts as 2 strokes.
  • moonshinemoonshine Posts: 335
    ok so I'm a 4 girl but completely knackered after just 1.5 lengths - only learnt front crawl in last 6 weeks so will give 2 a go[8D]
  • MrSquishyMrSquishy Posts: 277
    I breathe every 3 strokes when training which, having read various postings on here, can help prevent injury, but I have been advised to breathe every 2 strokes when racing or going flat-out to get as much oxygen in to your body as poss.

    Presumably, any loss due to being less streamlined will be made up on the run and bike legs due to not wasting yourself in the swim?
  • moonshinemoonshine Posts: 335
    tried this last night and yippee only started drowning impression half way through 3rd length - please note last week this was managed at end of first length - now need to practice not using them legs so much cos that's what's knackering me
  • I also breathe every 2 strokes, however it does cause problems after a while. One of the long term problems is ibalances in the back muscles so can cause bad back. Also, as I am experiencing now, it can bring on swimmer's shoulder so you end up having to get out of sessions 10 minutes after starting them! :( looks like i'll be out the pool for a bit.
  • moonshinemoonshine Posts: 335
    stickmanonabike wrote:

    I also breathe every 2 strokes, however it does cause problems after a while. One of the long term problems is ibalances in the back muscles so can cause bad back.

    once I can actually breath to one side the plan is to learn both sides but small steps
  • Phil TPhil T Posts: 49
    Another problem I have with breathing to one side is stubble rash on just the one shoulder. I suppose the simple answer would be to shave but I'm too lazy. Maybe wear my tri suit
  • i have been bi lateral since christmas. some days good some days bad.i have been trying al the tips and ideas on this forum in a bid to get bi lateral down. some days good, some bad.

    i have been doing sets of 250m. 2 min break. but t.b.h. after 200M, i have no power and am gasping for air, but i keep going for the last 50m.

    it aint getting better. with the bi lateral, im out of breath. i just hope the wetsuit hepls a bit.

    im in pool with baggy shorts. surely they must have a drag factor..
  • garyrobertsgaryroberts Posts: 869
    @ halfanironman

    you've gotta lose the baggy shorts buddy. Swallow your pride and get some speedo's!
  • FlavadaveFlavadave Posts: 749
    I go with the baggy shorts... Besides not looking to attractive in a pair of speedo's, I reckon if you're increasing your drag in training, then come the events when I crack open my skimpy leopard skin thong I'll feel like i'm zipping along.

  • JessterJesster Posts: 482
    One of the swim drill guys on a You Tube clip suggests looking right up at the sky/ceiling when you take a breath, if you exhale underwater during the three strokes you should be able to get a right lungful of air in, thus allowing you to carry on for longer.

    If you feel like you're getting out of breath breathing bi-laterally avery three strokes, try easing off the pace a bit and think of getting in to a rhythm rather than going hard-out and learning to breathe bi-laterally. Give yourself a bit of a break! I can keep this up for k's at a time and only need to breathe every two when i pick up the pace.

    I'm no expert, but it works for me [;)]
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    Don't lose the baggy shorts!

    Use them for training(not always of course), and add an old T-shirtfor extra spor-specific resistance training.

    For those not convinced: try the baggy and shirt method for ten minutes. Then lose the draggers (put some speedos under them of course [;)]) and prepare to joy-ride the lane!!!
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