Swimming and Breathing

We’ve talked about the most basic of basic swim tips- how to select and put on your swim cap– but what about getting in the water and starting to move? When I first started swimming I was super uncomfortable with the thought of putting my face in the water, not being able to see in front of me, and having to breathe while swimming forward.

In a nutshell, swimming and breathing means you exhale as you move forward and inhale every two or three strokes. To inhale, you’ll rotate your head to the side, as your arm comes around and out of the water, and grab a gulp of air almost from under your armpit. It’s an awkward thing to do and takes lots of practice to get comfortable. Over time I’ve developed some tricks to help encourage comfort with breathing in the water. Try these out the next time you’re at the pool!

Face in the Water

Put on your swim goggles and start by standing in shallow water (or if your pool isn’t shallow, hold on to the side wall). Practice putting your face in the water with your eyes open and then lifting your face out to breathe. Do this until you feel comfortable. Next practice putting your face in the water and blowing outward through your mouth, then your nose. Lift your face out to breathe. This will help you begin to train your body to instinctively exhale when under water, which helps you quickly take a big breath when you breathe while swimming.


My favorite way to remind myself to exhale while swimming is to hum! Humming causes you to forcefully expel the air from your lungs, which makes it easier to grab a big breath. Pick a song and hum away, or hum your counts (see below).


Swimming is like a waltz of strokes and breaths. When I swim, I count 1, 2, 3 breathe right. 1, 2, 3 breathe left. I hum my counts and it helps me get into a rhythm for breathing.


Practice practice practice! I didn’t become a decent swimmer until I was in the pool 3-4 days a week. Set yourself a challenge to swim shorter sets (30-40 minutes) more frequently to maintain feel of the water and give yourself quality practice.


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