Are You Swimming Front Crawl But Struggling For Breath?

Improve your swimming by breathing well.

Let’s face it, we have all seen the annual holiday swim take place where someone stands up from their sunbed, jumps in and does a splashy swim to the other side before having to stop, panting and out of breath!

Likewise you may have rationally asked yourself why you can run or cycle for long distances but quickly find you feel out of breath or tired from swimming.

According to Ireland’s National Nutrition Surveillance Centre, “The benefits of being physically active include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, certain cancers, as well as helping to control weight and contributing to mental well-being.” Therefore if you can swim and exercise for longer without having to stop then you are improving your health and wellbeing more effectively. The recommendation in Ireland is that we exercise 5 times a week for about 30 minutes at a time.

Here are Turner Swim Dublin’s top 5 tips to help you swim for longer without having to stop:

1. Slow down!
Typically, if we compare world record times for runners against swimmers, then it takes about 4 times as long to swim a distance as it does to run it. This is partly because swimmers face water resistance in the pool and secondly they predominantly gain their momentum from their arms which in humans are weaker than the legs that runners use (otherwise we would all walk on our hands!). So if you run 400 metres in around 2 minutes then you’re doing just as well if you can reproduce this time over 100 metres in the pool. We recommend that you time yourself and your speed accordingly

We wouldn’t ask Usain Bolt to keep his sprinting pace up for a long distance race and we recommend that you pace yourself too, looking to swim as consistently as you can each part of a length. By slowing down, your muscles will require less oxygen and we can swim for longer.

2. Really breathe
When swimming front crawl or a true Olympic style breaststroke, we should exhale with our face in the water and then when our face comes out of the water we should inhale. If we only exhale half of the air in our lungs then we only have space for half a lung full of fresh air, leaving the waste gases to build up and we quickly feel out of breathe. 

We recommend that you really exhale all of the air in your lungs in a timely, consistent manner before breathing in again. If you breathe every 4 front crawl arms then this should take about 4 seconds and be enough time to get all of your air out. If you currently breathe every 2 front crawl arms, as soon as you start a swim then you might not have enough time to fully exhale. Often new clients tell us they breathe every 2 arms because otherwise they feel out of breath, in fact this feeling is usually caused by not exhaling completely.

3. Transfer your leg kick energy into your arms
For front crawl and backstroke, most swimmers only get about 10-20% of the propulsion forwards from their leg kick as lots of force goes downwards instead. At the same time, our gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in our body and uses up lots of oxygen and energy if we kick too hard when we swim. Perhaps try a light shallow kick and invest your energy into a good quality arm technique instead.

4. Warm up first
It can take at least 5 minutes for our body to be warmed up; for the blood flow and oxygen to have been increased to our muscles and in turn for our muscles to become more supple. It is really important that we warm up gently first, whether that’s doing a slow swim or a brisk walk in the pool, it prepares our body to perform.

After warming up we recommend taking a rest for a minute or so, while the heart rate drops back down and the body does an initial recovery. Once the body is ready, we can then expect to achieve our longer distance swims without feeling as out of breath.

5. Relax and enjoy your swim
When we are more relaxed in the water then our muscles tend to be less tense and more buoyant, helping us to enjoy our swimming that little bit more.

Swimming used to take place primarily in noisy chlorinated pools. Thankfully, swimming pools have evolved hugely and are more relaxing places to be – this is particularly true of the five star hotel swimming pool that we use for our adult lessons at Dublin Docklands.

National Nutrition Surveillance Centre: Review of International and National Exercise Referral Programmes. Available at: [Accessed: 21 May 2016]

Swimming should be fun and here at Turner Swim Dublin, we’ll do our very best to make your one-to-one swimming lesson experience a great one. So why not book a one hour lesson and see what we can do to help you swim more effectively and without feeling as out of breath.

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