It is no secret that correct breathing techniques assist an athlete with better performance. (Pilates, breathing helps the practitioner to execute the movements. Find out more here.) Our body needs a steady supply of oxygen for even its most basic processes, but when the body is put under the kind of pressure that exercise offers, the need for oxygen becomes all the greater.
For swimmers, the need to use appropriate breathing patterns is all the more important as being in water limits the amount of air you can take in. However, when swimming your body is pushed to the point where breathing techniques become as important as your next stroke. But why is correct breathing so important for swimmers? Which techniques can you adopt to improve your performance in the water?
Why Correct Breathing While Swimming is Important
Being in the water provides unique challenges to athletes as far as regular breathing is concerned. As with any physical activity, as your heart rate climbs your lungs adapt to be able to take in more oxygen in order to feed your muscles while they are in motion.
A correct supply of oxygen, the type that comes through practised breathing patterns, goes a long way towards enhancing an athlete’s performance. More importantly, a lack of oxygen may result in what is called hypoxia which is when your body is unable to meet the oxygen requirements for body tissues. This leads to cramps, fatigue and inflammatory lesions which could put you out of action.
Proper Breathing Techniques for Competitive Swimming
It is easy to see why correct breathing techniques are important for swimmers and even more important for those who swim competitively. Being in a pool also makes breathing less of a natural action and something we need to think about while doing. So let’s go over a few simple concepts:
Face in the Water
It may seem natural to swim with your head above water to allow yourself the freedom to breathe, however this is incorrect. Keeping your head above water to breathe creates more drag which means you will need to put in more effort than necessary. Keep your head in the water and lift it rhythmically to breathe alongside your strokes.
As you lift your arm for a stroke, tilt your head towards your arm and lift your mouth and nose out of the water to breathe. As you dip your face back into the water at the end of the stroke, start exhaling immediately so that you are ready for the next breath when you start the next stroke. There is no pausing in this rhythm to hold your breath. It should happen in a continuous movement.
Breathing Exercises for Swimmers
The types of breathing techniques described above may not come naturally to you, especially if you are not already an avid swimmer. Since practice makes perfect, and better lung capacity will only improve performance and results, here are a few breathing drills that you can do in the pool to help during your practice sessions:
Use Breathing Patterns During Workouts
Using breathing patterns during training sessions will feel a little uncomfortable. This is because you will be starving yourself of oxygen to condition yourself to go longer periods of time without taking a breath.
So start slowly if you find it too challenging to use breathing patterns during training sessions. Begin by breathing once every three strokes. As your lung capacity builds, raise the interval between breaths.
Extend The Time Underwater
During training, spend a bit more time kicking under water when pushing off of the wall. These can be done as part of the breathing patterns mentioned above since they raise the intervals between breaths.
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