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Bi-lateral Breathing. Essential?

I'm entering my second season of triathlon. Had a great year last year, completing 2 sprints - Henley and Isle of Wight. Both in the top half.

I've entered my first Olympic Distance this year in Bournemouth. I don't just want to finish, I want to get in the top half at least. As a consequence I'm working on my swimming, getting a wetsuit soon but trying to rewire the brain in order to breath bilaterally in the pool. It's gone really well and after 4 sessions I'm as quick as I was when breathing only to the right, and I'm using less energy.

I'd love to know people's experiences of learning this and how essential they've found it in open water. I'm keen to press on as it feels much more rhythmic and natural but curious about how much it actually helps.



  • wyno70wyno70 Posts: 189
    As well as helping rhythm and using less energy, it's essential in open water swims to be able to breathe as and when you want to, i.e. swap sides, go bilateral etc, simply in case you have a swell coming from one direction only, or a swimmer to either side who is splashing water in your face.

    It's essential in my opinion and can only lead to you becoming a better swimmer. I'd suggest mixing it up and bit during swims so that you can chop and change during a race if you need to!

    Well done.
  • I totally agree with Wyno70 - bilateral breathing also seems to have made my stroke a bit more balanced ie I feel that I get better rotation and stretch when I breathe on both or either side. I have also found the ability to breath on both sides to be a huge advantage when I want to sight off something during a race or training.
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    Agree that it's a good idea to try to learn to breathe on both sides.
    Breathing both sides in training will prepare you for events where, as has already been mentioned, there's a reason not to breathe on one or the other. But it will also contribute to injury prevention as you will lower your risk of injuring one shoulder, or your neck on one side, improve mobility and generally keep you balanced.
    However, when you're swimming hard, if you're like me, it will probably feel better to revert to 2-stroke breathing.
  • MintyMatMintyMat Posts: 98
    Great comments. Thanks guys. I find the hip rotation is loads better, I just sort of rock side to side and it all feels natural. You're spot on about the speed thing though. When I push I have to breathe on every 2 strokes. I'm hoping my lung capacity will improve though with breathing either side.
  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    Being able to breathe on both sides is a great thing. However, you might be better breathing every two, rather then every third stroke, to get enough oxygen in, CO2 out. Just alternate it from time to time - e.g. in a pool, do one length on one side, on one the other. In OW you can pick to suit the conditions, e.g. wave side or lee side.
  • revershedrevershed Posts: 49
    Bi-lateral is also important to minimize the risk of rotator cuff injuries by being more evenly balanced.
  • GGBGGB Posts: 482
    Bilateral is the best way to go IMO - I used to be right side only until I joined the local Tri Club and was soon swayed into Bilateral - and It helped me greatly, to the point I struggle to breathe Right side only now when I try. I find it has a much better rythm than one side only and great benefits in open water, especially when in a pack or drafting to make sure you can breathe both sides.
  • LexLex Posts: 65
    Ill be controversial here and say that I dont think its essential - preferable yes, but not essential. Ive got through a number of open water swim starts breathing on one side and even an extremely choppy sea swim again breathing one sided.

    If you go as fast bi-lateral then fair play to you - I cant!
  • MGMG Posts: 470
    I'm inclined to agree with Lex, I dont think its essential. If you have the time and the inclination then go for it.

    I can swim bi-laterally but swim 99% of all my swims breathing one-sided. I'm more balanced and alot faster breathing one-sided than I am bi-lateral.

    If your leading up to your first triathlon this summer and have still not mastered it I would suggest concentrating on other (more important IMO) aspects of your stroke and leaving bi-lateral training as a winter project.

    It is more preferable to be as strong breathing one side as the other but not essential.
  • jrhunt78jrhunt78 Posts: 43
    Historically (before starting Tri) I always used to breath to one side and it felt reall un-natural to to breathe bilaterally.

    It only took me 3 sessions of making an effort before it felt perfectly natural so as it's potentially one of the swimming basics may be worth while getting used to it now before you 'master' swimming when it may be harder once you get into a decent rhythm.
  • ARobinettARobinett Posts: 35
    I've been trying to get bilateral breathing sorted for an age- trying it just sends my stroke completely out and I end up flailing like a dying walrus. I'll be sticking to single sided this season- hasn't hurt much in the past.
  • AtomicAtomic Posts: 126
    I am a fairly decent swimmer but have always struggled to breath to my left side whilst swimming.

    No matter how much I try I always seem to take on more water than air

    I have been trying really hard to get it right lately but just cant seem to pull it together. :roll:

    Any ideas?
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