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How To Breath While Swimming on Endurance Hour

speedo-gearDo you have a breathing pattern? Sometimes when I am teaching adults “how to swim”or stroke technique they tell me they thought a certain breathing pattern, typically every 2 stokes (left/right arm), or bilateral, every 3rd stroke, was the default breathing pattern. Efficient breathing patterns vary. There is no right way, only the best way for you. You have to be able to breath before you can work on mechanics of your stroke. If you are struggling with breathing to the dominate side, it does not make sense to incorporate breathing to the non dominate side (bi lateral breathing) until you are comfortable breathing to the dominate side.

Why bilateral is often the “best” answer. One issue the that breathing to one side only is that it can create imbalance. Your non dominate breathing arm is weaker and you tend to rotate to one hip only. When you are a dominate right side breather, you tend to swim on your left hip cause you are convened with breathing right. Your non dominate side/arm tends to pull wide, or “fall”, pull too soon, while your face is out of the water to catch a breath. When only breathing to one side, frequently to one side as on every left/right stroke like so many do, you do not exhale and inhale efficiently and that can lead to breathlessness, like a hyperventilating feeling cause you are not completely exhaling before your inhale.

If you have been practicing and training in the water and still struggling with breathing follow these steps a few times to see what works best for you

  • assess, be mindful, of how you innate and exhale to get a baseline starting point, to understand what you are doing
  • inhale though your lungs, not your month
  • do not exhale immediately after you inhale. blow a little bit out your month and nose until you need a breath, then quick forceful exhale before you inhale
  • hold your breath after you inhale and only exhale as your turn your head to inhale. Holding your breath often creates a desire, need to exhale before you inhaleTake 2,4,6….as many strokes and you can to see what your optimal stroke count is before you need a breath.

Once you get comfortable breathing to the dominate side, practice the same techniques breathing to the non dominate side only. Once you get some comfortable breathing to the non dominate side start to incorporate bilateral breathing every 3rd or 5th stroke. If you are not comfortable breathing to the non dominate side then aim for a pattern for 4-6 strokes and be mindful of hip rotation and underwater pull.

Remember, the best breathing rhythm will vary from swimmer to swimmer. Practice the above techniques and patterns to see how you can get a good breath.


Author: Wendy Mader is the co-founder and owner of T2Coaching and has made a lifelong commitment to fitness, sports, coaching, and triathlon. From her youth as a competitive swimmer to her current career in the fitness industry, her dedication shines. Wendy is a former collegiate swimmer and has 25 years experience in triathlon including 15 Ironman’s. Wendy is also an Ironman University Certified Coach, an 8x Kona finisher and author of “How To Swim Faster in 30 Days.  Wendy recently moved to Georgia with her husband and dogs after nearly two decades living in Colorado.

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