Why Breathing is Important in Swimming



The Hidden Secret to Swimming Farther and Faster

Why breathing out is just as important as breathing in
Terry Heggy | February 3, 2015
Even before the development of scientific studies and advanced laboratories for metabolic analysis, swimmers became aware of the following basic facts:

Breathing in while your face is underwater is NOT the best respiratory strategy, and
Air is absolutely necessary if you’re planning to swim more than about 50 yards.
These two obvious truths made it necessary to create swimming strokes that allow the mouth and nose to exit the water to access the air. Nearly everyone understands that part, and no one has trouble inhaling while their heads are turned.

But it’s underwater where the magic really happens.

The CO2 Reflex
Most people think that they feel out-of-breath when they aren’t getting enough oxygen. The reality is a bit more complicated.

As your body uses oxygen, it creates carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product. As CO2 builds up within you, your body senses it and tells your brain that you need to breathe. Your breathing urges are driven by excessive CO2, not by a lack of oxygen. Getting rid of the CO2 helps relieve the out-of-breath distress.

Swimmers who don’t exhale properly will quickly feel winded because of this reflex, even though they probably aren’t really suffering oxygen debt. This is why many extremely fit triathletes may feel that they can only swim a few lengths of the pool before needing a long rest break—they’re holding their breath.

A word of caution: Hyperventilating (taking a series of deep, fast breaths before you swim) purges your CO2 reserves, which eliminates the safety mechanism of the breathing reflex. This can cause shallow water blackout, a condition in which your body runs out of oxygen and you pass out and drown without ever recognizing that you’re in danger. You should never hyperventilate before swimming and you should not attempt to swim long distances underwater.

Tips for Land Animals
Distance runners and cyclists would never dream of holding their breath during a competition, yet our instincts are to clamp up and stop breathing when our faces are in the water. To become an effective swimmer, we must fight this instinct.

Go for a hard run or bike ride, and pay attention to your breathing. You’ll most likely find that air is always moving either in or out, and that you inhale and exhale for very close to the same duration.
Apply that same breathing pattern in the pool. This means that you’ll start blowing out as soon as you finish inhaling, and that you’ll more effectively get the CO2 out of your lungs before turning for the next breath.
Some people find it helpful to count “1, 2,” or to silently think the words in and out to create the habit of rhythm. Experiment to find what works for you.

It’s also important to blow at least some of the air out your nose to maximize the airflow and avoid getting water in your sinuses. This is especially critical when exhaling while you’re upside down during a flip turn or on a backstroke start. Getting water up your nose is a memorably unpleasant experience.

Many experienced and elite swimmers are able to achieve full exhalation primarily through their noses. For less experienced swimmers, this takes practice—the important thing is to exhale completely so that you’re ready to inhale during the breathing phase of the stroke.

Alternate Breathing
Many coaches urge swimmers to breathe on every third arm instead of constantly breathing on the same side. This has two primary benefits:

It makes your stroke more symmetrical and helps you recognize stroke anomalies.
It makes it easier to switch breathing sides in a race, so you can see your competitors or avoid chaos in open water.
For an alternate-side breathing pattern, you’ll have to slightly change your inhale/exhale timing ratio to an “out-out-in” count—but you should still keep air moving at all times.

Breathing with Economy
It seems logical to assume that it’s better to take as many strokes as possible between breaths to avoid any drag created by the breathing motion. Well, this might work for some sprinters, but after about 30 seconds of effort, your body switches to metabolic processes that require oxygen. If you want to maintain power past that point, you must breathe.

Although it’s a wonderful stroke aid to swim with a snorkel to perfect your alignment and posture, you really do need all the air you can get when it’s race time. If you’re swimming any sort of distance at all, you should not ever hold your breath. Instead, work with your coach to develop a smooth and drag-free breathing motion and good inhale/exhale rhythm.

Blow Away Panic and Keep Your Speed
There are times when you’ll feel especially out of breath, such as during the madness of a triathlon start, or coming off the wall from a flip turn. In those cases, rather than slowing down to rest, try blowing out a little harder to curtail the CO2 reflex. You’ll often find that you have more energy than you thought after you get rid of the “bad air.”

Winter Alcatraz Swim

Alcatraz Swim Sponsored by the YMCA Embarcadero

Saturday 28 February 1PM


Three training swims

Aquatic Park: Sundays 2/8, 2/15, and 2/22 1-3PM


Mohammad Assad

Evan DuCharme

Embarcadero YMCA
Member Services

Discount Codes for Swimming Products

If you are looking for new swim items, checkout these sites and discount codes.

Aqua Sphere (20% off of entire order) aquasphereswim.com CODE: USMS2015
blueseventy (30% off of orders in the swim collection*) blueseventy.com CODE: 8NEIUR5742WS
Colorado Time Systems ($125 off the Backstroke Start Device) coloradotime.com CODE: USMS_14ER
FINIS (25% off of entire order) finisinc.com CODE: USMS2514
Malibu C (20% off of entire order**) allamericanswim.com/ CODE: MALIBU
P2Life (25% off of entire order) P2Life.net USMS CODE: CAFEH8E8LN9F
Speedo (30% off of entire order***) SpeedoUSA.com CODE: USMSSPD3
TRISWIM (40% off of all TRISWIM, FOGGIES, TRISLIDE and DERMASPORT products) sbrsportsinc.com CODE: TSUSM14
Swimoutlet.com (15% off USMS merchandise & Sporti branded products****) swimoutlet.com/usms/ for USMS merchandise or swimoutlet.com/sporti/ for Sporti products CODE: USMS874
Thanks for being a member and enjoy your savings!

Sponsor Discount Restrictions
* Discount only applies to blueseventy swim collection
** Excludes SwimCare Wellness Shampoo and Conditioner in 8 oz. tube
*** Offer valid through 1/15/2015 11:59pm PST at SpeedoUSA.com or by calling 1-888-477-3336. Customers will receive 30% off your order on Speedo merchandise, except as noted below, by adding code USMSSPD3 at checkout. Offer excludes select Performance Suits, all LZR Racer suits, FS3 Goggles, Vanquisher Goggles, Speed Socket Goggles, Aqua V Silicone Swim Caps, Hydralign and Hydralign Jr. Center Snorkels, Bullet Head Snorkel, Teamster Backpacks and online gift certificates. This offer not valid on previous purchases and cannot be combined with any other offer. No Cash Value. Void where prohibited by law.
**** Discount only applies to USMS and Sporti products. Free shipping on $49 and above.

Upcoming Swim Events

If anybody is interested in taking their swimming to the next level in 2015. Let me know. There are some great events coming soon. I would love to help you get closer to your swimming goals.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a great place for swimming in and out of the pool. Follow some of the events below.


Many swimmers have asked about swimming Alcatraz this year. There is no Pacific Masters Alcatraz swim, but there are many Alcatraz swims sponsored by many organizations. One I will promote is through Tr-California Events Inc. Follow link below for more information.



Other open water events for 2015 that are sponsored by Pacific Masters are just as wide and varied. The first two of the season are Spring Lake Santa Rosa on May 16 and Lake Berryessa on June 6. If interested please keep them on your radar. See link for schedule.


Pool Swim Meets

There as just as many swim meets sponsored by Pacific Masters if you want to get some races in. This Saturday is Flower Power in Santa Rosa. There are a few events in San Francisco through Jan and Feb. Please let me know if you are interested. Follow link for more events.


No Coached Practice 12PM 17 November Y Masters: See Workout

Breaststroke of Freestyle Day

Warmup: 300s 200p 100k or 10 min

Drill: All Breaststroke Drills or Replace with your favorite freestyle drill

2×50 – 30/60/100 Breast pull
2×50 – Frog kick w/ buoy
2×50 – 5 second glide

Swim: 2 Reps of this set

2×100 Odds Free/ Evens Breast
2×100 Breast @ 2:30
1×200 Free Build 65%—>85%
1 x 200 Breast Build 65%—>85%

Sprints and Turns:

8 x 25 Sprint + Fast Dynamic Turn then Stop

300 Cool Down