More than just about any swimming skill, mastering great breathing is key for successful triathlon swimming. Obviously, oxygen fuels the engine. Without it, you’re not going to be able to perform at your best and display any of the endurance and speed you’ve built.
But there’s more to it than that. Poor breathing is also going to crush your speed. Excessively lifting your head or pulling it to the side is going to pull your body out of alignment, and that’s like putting on the brakes. As much as possible, you want to be able to breathe in a way that keeps you streamlined in the water.
Plus, if you’re worried about your breathing and making sure you get enough air, your focus isn’t going to be where it needs to be, on racing effectively. And no matter how hard you try to do otherwise, if you’re not getting good air, that’s going to be where your focus resides.
Unfortunately, breathing can be tough to improve because there are a lot of components, and mistakes can show up anywhere. Worse still, if you don’t address the right issues in the right order, progress is going to be an uphill battle.
However, when you focus on three simple skills, and you address them in the right order, fixing your breathing becomes a lot more straight forward.
Table of Contents
Best exercises to improve your swim breathing
1. Float Better
A keep skill for better breathing is being able to feel the lungs and how they support you in the water. When you can use your lungs for support, you’ll be more relaxed, and it will be easier to breathe.
The ball float is an excellent starting point. Grab a big breath, grab your knees or shins, and settle in the water. You’ll feel something hold you up at the surface and prevent you from sinking. That’s your lungs. You want to feel those when you swim.
2. Press Better
Once you can feel your lungs, you’ll be able to leverage them. How do you do it? Learn how to manipulate your head position to ‘lean’ into your lungs. The more you lean, the more they push back and support you in the water.
Of course, if you push too much, your head will be underwater. It’s about finding optimal. The elevator swim exercise helps you do just that.
Start out with a really high head position and keep lowering. After a few repetitions, you’ll start to feel what’s best for you.
3. Roll Better
Once you can lean into your lungs, you need to learn to breathe without lifting your head or chest and taking pressure off the lungs. How do you do that? Your learn to roll for the breath. Use the stroke and roll exercise.
Practise continuing to lean into the water, and without lifting the head to breathe, roll to the breath. Once you can do that, you’ll have a breathing pattern that’s efficient, effective, and gets you the air you need without slowing your speed.
Top image credit: @Daniel_James_Pix