One of the [many] things that I want to work on in preparation for more swimming next year is my bilateral breathing. Previously I have only ever breathed on one side – my left – and therefore taken a breath every two strokes. If possible I’d like to work on it and breath every three strokes and therefore breathe from alternate sides.
This isn’t something that is an absolute must for me – let’s face it, I swam all of Windermere only breathing to the left, but I do think that it could help. If nothing else being able to breathe on both sides (even if I don’t actually do it much) will help in choppy water if I have to miss a breath because of a wave – which happened a couple of times in Coniston.
So I’ve started to practice it a bit.
As I’m just getting back into swimming / exercise after a busy summer I’m not trying too hard in the pool right now, so it’s the perfect time to teach myself. I’ve got a very gentle little routine at the moment:
– 400m – warm-up, alternating lengths between breaststroke and crawl (two-stroke breathing)
– 800m – crawl, bilateral breathing only
– 400m – alternating lengths between breaststroke and crawl (bilateral breathing if I can)
Already I’m noticing a difference and surprising myself that I can do 800m bilateral. My body still needs to get used to it as I find myself a little out of breath – although not too much. What I really need to work on though is my body position when I breath. I can feel myself lifting my head and turning my head only, instead of rotating my body in the water as I should. Of course when I lift my head my legs sink and I slow right down.
What I find when I do get it right is that the swimming bit in between the breathing feels stronger and better. I can spend a whole set of strokes just propelling myself forward and not breaking up my stroke to breathe. It also means that when I get the rotation right I have a nice motion in the water.
I just read an article on it that suggests that it takes about two weeks (or six sessions) for it to feel natural, so I’ll keep working on it then.