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Coach@triathlon

swimming - breathing on one side only

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Had a conversation with a girl I coach today who asked whether she could swim one sided breathing rather than bi-lateral, because the swimmers in the lane above her were.

I replied that she wasn't ready (only swimming for 6 months). The faster lane had some years under their belts and had a balanced stroke underneath the water. Very minimal elbow drop and no drop in stroke rate breathing one-sided contrasted with bi-lateral.

I haven't swum bi-laterally for 30 or so years but always mindful of elbow drop on the opposing side in which I breathe. Big paddle work corrects and strengthens that for me.

Bottom line - the more oxygen you can take in the easier the swimming will be.

Interested to read people's experiences and opinions with regard to swimming and breathing frequency. 

Edited by Coach@triathlon

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8 minutes ago, Coach@triathlon said:

Had a conversation with a girl I coach today who asked whether she could swim one sided breathing rather than bi-lateral, because the swimmers in the lane above her were.

I replied that she wasn't ready (only swimming for 6 months). The faster lane had some years under their belts and had a balanced stroke underneath the water. Very minimal elbow drop and no drop in stroke rate breathing one-sided contrasted with bi-lateral.

I haven't swum bi-laterally for 30 or so years but always mindful of elbow drop on the opposing side in which I breathe. Big paddle work corrects and strengthens that for me.

Bottom line - the more oxygen you can take in the easier the swimming will be.

Interested to read people's experiences and opinions with regard to swimming and breathing frequency. 

Did a training session with an ex-Olympian (silver medal) years ago and he said exactly the same. Breath when you need to breath not when someone says you should be breathing.

Since then I just breath when I need oxygen.

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Nice post Coach - boy (9) has just started his last "pre squad" level lessons and what you say makes sense.  Being old and crap I tend to one side as never really had much in the way of lessons early on, but can be bi-lateral if I feel the urge.  He is bi-lateral due to the lessons but has asked about this.  

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In training, I generally breathe both sides. When I race, always to the left every 2 strokes. 

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2 minutes ago, AA7 said:

In training, I generally breathe both sides. When I race, always to the left every 2 strokes. 

This. Though in OW racing I generally breathed every 2nd stroke to the side that was optimal (away from chop, where sighting buoys are, etc)

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I'm a lefty too!  All my years at squad no one ever tried to get me to change.  Maybe they couldn't be bother because I was crap?

Strangely though, when I use paddles I almost always breath bilaterally.  Don't know why, but it feels comfortable.

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44 minutes ago, Ex-Hasbeen said:

This. Though in OW racing I generally breathed every 2nd stroke to the side that was optimal (away from chop, where sighting buoys are, etc)

Yep, sometimes I need to adapt due to the things you mentioned, but strong preference is to the left. 

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1 hour ago, oldschool69#2 said:

I just breath to the side that’s got the best sort in the next lane ....

so its you that I seem to crash into in open water swims.  I just thought you didn't swim straight, now I know the real motive behind it.  😉

 

I swim just to one side, have since forever and only a couple of coaches tried to get me to change, but plenty of others said it makes no difference, breathe when you need to.  So every 2nd stroke for me.  I can do both sides, but it takes to much effort.

 

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Bi-lateral in the pool., sometimes single sided laps on opposing sides but only a few of those per session (if at all). 

In a race, singe side generally but I swap as needed depending on chop, sun/glare, where people are coming from.

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One thing I've found, I can lift my head forward briefly without disturbing my stroke if I am about to breath to the right. If I have no other reason to breath to a particular side, then when pushing in in the lake I tend to breath to the right so I can easily sight where I'm going every 10 or so breaths.

 

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Breathing left feels so natural and my go to. I feel so uncoordinated breathing right. However, after 10 years and 2-3 months of continuing to test pace, I am 2-3 seconds per hundred quicker bilateral breather, but 4 seconds quicker on right side only. I have determined it’s to do with elbow drop as above. Lots of strength work on arm extension to come 

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Breathe only on the left, never did squads as a kid and was dumped into the "veggie" swim class as I was not willing to stick my head under water without goggles on during their shitty test (lessons through the school) - how can I see where I am going?

Was never taught how, and trying to develop that now means something else has to give to make the time...like ride hills better or run at a decent pace off the bike.

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I've always bilateral breathed, but now I am learning to swim proper I am finding I don't need to breathe as often so end up breathing on every 4th stroke on the one side. Doesn't really matter which. Occasionally I try pushing it out to the 5th breath but I find I need to breath about half a stroke sooner than that.

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Just now, Katz said:

I've always bilateral breathed, but now I am learning to swim proper I am finding I don't need to breathe as often so end up breathing on every 4th stroke on the one side. Doesn't really matter which. Occasionally I try pushing it out to the 5th breath but I find I need to breath about half a stroke sooner than that.

Just wait till you get older Katz. I used to breathe every 4th stroke, now I breathe every 3rd and when I am putting in efforts, I have to every 2nd. :)

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1 minute ago, Ex-Hasbeen said:

Just wait till you get older Katz. I used to breathe every 4th stroke, now I breathe every 3rd and when I am putting in efforts, I have to every 2nd. :)

I'm pretty old already you know....... :D 

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If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.

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Bi-lateral just feels nice and balanced for me. If I'm pushing it I'll go to my preferred side (left) but typically only until I'm settled again.

Open water, I'll happily breathe away from the chop or in surf towards the waves so I know when to duck :) I used to like swimming Wanda/Cronulla/Wanda and I'd breathe left side going south and right side going north.

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Just to one side. Tried bilateral but couldn't get comfortable with it. So one side and no  stress! 

Works for Dave Scott and look where it got him.

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Luckily I learnt both when I had a coach, I swim ever so slightly better breathing to the right. 

I just swim whichever way is away from the wind/chop/swell. I'd be lucky to break 30mins for 1500 these days though so doesn't matter (lucky to swim 1500 actually). 

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1 hour ago, BC_J400 said:

If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.

Can you repeat that? Didn't catch it the first time....oh, you already did 😜

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2 hours ago, BC_J400 said:

If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.If you practice regularly on one side only, you'll struggle when you hit open water and are forced to breathe on the other side.  Could combat this by practicing both sides.

I call bullshit. I've been swimming open water for 30 + years and never had that problem. Practising swimming in open water gives you the confidence, skills and ability to handle waves and chop from any direction, regardless of how you breathe when swimming. 

If you want to get all technical about it, bilateral breathing is primarily a pool based technique, which doesn't always transfer well to open water swimming. It depends very much on the individual swimmer and their individual fitness, ability,  skills and confidence when swimming , as to how well they can swim using bilateral breathing in open water and handle open water conditions. 

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Shiiiiit. I agree with Greyman - call an ambulance!

 

In times of high stress, such as open water racing, you'll always go to your comfort-zone and breathe to your preferred side. The whole 'chop direction' argument is a furphy. If chop is coming towards my preferred breathing side, it's handy to see it so you can either raise your mouth a little higher to catch some air or decide to keep your mouth shut and skip a breath.

My breathing pattern is 2,2,4 to the left whether I'm racing or just training. Every 2nd is too much, every 4th if not enough. Pick and stick. The rhythm must become habitual.

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No one wants to die or feel like they are dying.

What a pointless discussion for triathlon.

The swimming component is decreasing and come race day people will breath when the nee need to. Every stroke (head above water), every second, every second then 3rd, whatever.

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8 hours ago, AA7 said:

In training, I generally breathe both sides. When I race, always to the left every 2 strokes. 

Thanks for the tip - I'll try and sneak past on your right 😜

Doing longer pool sets I breath 2,2,3,3 which generally means I'm breathing mostly to the right. During efforts I breath every two, to the right. I practice breathing left only very occasionally just in case, em ...dunno. To ensure stroke is even I guess...

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By Bilateral do we mean every stroke. I most often breath 2 or three then switch over to the other, unless really gassed where I'll stick to the RHS, which would be after or during a really hard effort.

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18 minutes ago, nealo said:

No one wants to die or feel like they are dying.

What a pointless discussion for triathlon.

The swimming component is decreasing and come race day people will breath when the nee need to. Every stroke (head above water), every second, every second then 3rd, whatever.

The way things are going eventually all swims will be cancelled so it will be a null argument.

anyway for me it’s bilaterally in the pool, left side in the open water.... unless I’m just really cruising in which case I can swim bilaterally in the open water too 

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4 hours ago, FatPom said:

Bi-lateral in the pool., sometimes single sided laps on opposing sides but only a few of those per session (if at all). 

In a race, singe side generally but I swap as needed depending on chop, sun/glare, where people are coming from.

Ditto. 

Despite squad swimming as a kid, I get kinda frozen and stiff if I go one side for too long. Bilateral seems to keep me looser  

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Advantage of breathing every stroke is navigation. You can tilt your head slightly forward, without compromising the stroke and site the buoy or land mark. I normally count 8 strokes before I look forward. 10 if it is flat and clear. Less if there is a swell.

I tend to veer left when I swim (years of staying left in a lane) so I head to the right of turning buoys to counteract my natural shank

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3,3 in the pool.  3,2,3,2 for harder efforts and racing 

Just feels good

Edited by IronJimbo

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I always breath to the left, every 2nd stroke.

I just don't know how anyone can do any sort of hard work in the pool & breathe every 3...!!

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On 31 July 2019 at 8:13 PM, The Customer said:

Shiiiiit. I agree with Greyman - call an ambulance!

 

In times of high stress, such as open water racing, you'll always go to your comfort-zone and breathe to your preferred side. The whole 'chop direction' argument is a furphy. If chop is coming towards my preferred breathing side, it's handy to see it so you can either raise your mouth a little higher to catch some air or decide to keep your mouth shut and skip a breath.

My breathing pattern is 2,2,4 to the left whether I'm racing or just training. Every 2nd is too much, every 4th if not enough. Pick and stick. The rhythm must become habitual.

The worlds ending! 

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I spent several years getting comfortable bilateral breathing (and  tumbling) in the pool. Found it better and more even in terms of muscle development and shoulder strain. Also just felt better in terms of balance. Learnt to swim as a kid and was ok, but only ever breathed one side. I'm still a smidge better  on my dominant side, at least for shorter distances, e.g. couple of hundred meters. In the ocean, not that I swim there much, on smooth days just like a big pool and breathe bilaterally. On choppy days did find the ability to swim bilaterally an advantage, although tended not to breathe just to my weak side even if that was away from the waves.

The one and only swim coach I had for a while as part of squad, something of a legend in Melbourne, said he only ever breathed one side, and he grew up swimming as a surf life saver.

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A balanced stroke is what matters and in my limited experience single-sided breathing tends to work against developing a balanced stroke.  Or perhaps it's more correct to say that bilateral breathing is a very useful tool to improve balance that can be used as part of virtually every training stroke you take.  I'm not sure that there are many, if any, events a triathlete would swim in where lack of oxygen is a limiting factor.  I'm far from a good swimmer but in a race I will breathe every 2, 3, 4, 5 and occasionally 6 strokes at various stages with the main determinants being comfort and what's happening around me.  In a pool 3 is just automatic now.

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I'm going to go completely against the grain here and say that in the ocean, I was taught from a young kid to breathe on the side that the surf is coming from so that you can see what's coming and time your stroke/breath with clear air. At Sunshine Coast 70.3 last year when it was a bit rougher, I saw so many people coughing and spluttering because the wave came from their left hand side, they had their face to the right and the water came over the top of them and they got a gob full. 

I know that's against the norm, but it's what I was taught as a young kid who grew up in the surf and it seems to work for me.

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I play with breathing patterns eg 4,4,4 or 4,3,4,3 or 4,3,2,3,4,3,2 or 5,4,5,4 in training to keep it interesting on longer reps,

but in racing often jus right: 4,2,4,2 to get a mix of enough oxygen (the 2)and reduced drag (the 4).

Had an ocean water coach once tell an adult squad once to just get as much air as you need coz that's what fuels the engine (just do it smooth)

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4 hours ago, BNothling said:

I'm going to go completely against the grain here and say that in the ocean, I was taught from a young kid to breathe on the side that the surf is coming from so that you can see what's coming and time your stroke/breath with clear air. At Sunshine Coast 70.3 last year when it was a bit rougher, I saw so many people coughing and spluttering because the wave came from their left hand side, they had their face to the right and the water came over the top of them and they got a gob full. 

I know that's against the norm, but it's what I was taught as a young kid who grew up in the surf and it seems to work for me.

That's exactly what I do, I think most surfers would, it's very natural.  That's not what I mean by chop though, which to me, is that horrible 'splattering' stuff, driven by the wind. I tend to breathe away from that as it's usually not producing any remotely wave like.

I made up a ton of places at one IM simply by doing as said, working with the swell. It was easy for me but carnage for a lot of folks as they jus slowed down so much.

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1 hour ago, FatPom said:

That's exactly what I do, I think most surfers would, it's very natural.  That's not what I mean by chop though, which to me, is that horrible 'splattering' stuff, driven by the wind. I tend to breathe away from that as it's usually not producing any remotely wave like.

That's how I see it as well. Look at the waves, but chop being blown across the water and I'll breathe the other way.

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Never felt comfortable with bilateral. In the pool, I breathe left heading up and right coming back. Open water normally similar, i.e. ~50 strokes breathing left then 50 to the right. Handy sometimes, as others have mentioned, depending on wind, chop, sun, etc. BUT my main reason was when I started swimming (at age 46) I would get a sore neck breathing to just my preferred side. Never had an issue since mixing it up. I am also very slightly faster on what was my non-preferred left side, I'm guessing not as many bad ingrained habits?

gw

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8 hours ago, BNothling said:

I'm going to go completely against the grain here and say that in the ocean, I was taught from a young kid to breathe on the side that the surf is coming from so that you can see what's coming and time your stroke/breath with clear air. At Sunshine Coast 70.3 last year when it was a bit rougher, I saw so many people coughing and spluttering because the wave came from their left hand side, they had their face to the right and the water came over the top of them and they got a gob full. 

I know that's against the norm, but it's what I was taught as a young kid who grew up in the surf and it seems to work for me.

Not at all, that's exactly what I mentioned a few posts back - makes perfect sense to me.

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On ‎31‎/‎07‎/‎2019 at 7:19 PM, Greyman said:

I call bullshit. I've been swimming open water for 30 + years and never had that problem. Practising swimming in open water gives you the confidence, skills and ability to handle waves and chop from any direction, regardless of how you breathe when swimming. 

If you want to get all technical about it, bilateral breathing is primarily a pool based technique, which doesn't always transfer well to open water swimming. It depends very much on the individual swimmer and their individual fitness, ability,  skills and confidence when swimming , as to how well they can swim using bilateral breathing in open water and handle open water conditions. 

Agree with the Greyman. I have swum breathing to the left for nearly 50 years. I feel awkward and my ear fills up with water when I turn my head to the right.

At Cairns this year everyone said it was the worst swim they ever did.....rough as hell etc etc etc. I swam 4 mins slower than at Port..........Some people swam 20-25 minutes slower than they did at Port.

 

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I always swim bilateral in training but favour a natural right hand breather. In races, I swim more with breaths on the natural side but do use either side, depending on the conditions (waves, wind, turning bout, other swimmers). I do know that I do not always swim straight on my unnatural so use that side more when the tide dictates it. Horses for courses. 

FM

PS: And when I say bilateral breathing, I don't mean breath every three breaths. I may breath six on one side, then six on the other. I breath more in races and breath a number of times on the same side then switch.

Edited by Flanman

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Got told I rolled too much in the water when I was 7 years old and that I needed to breath in both sides. Bilateral breather every third stroke for 40+ years now and comfy breathing either side.

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On 02/08/2019 at 5:01 PM, IronmanFoz said:

Agree with the Greyman. I have swum breathing to the left for nearly 50 years. I feel awkward and my ear fills up with water when I turn my head to the right.

At Cairns this year everyone said it was the worst swim they ever did.....rough as hell etc etc etc. I swam 4 mins slower than at Port..........Some people swam 20-25 minutes slower than they did at Port.

 

F&**! You're old!

 

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On 03/08/2019 at 1:01 AM, IronmanFoz said:

At Cairns this year everyone said it was the worst swim they ever did.....rough as hell etc etc etc. I swam 4 mins slower than at Port..........Some people swam 20-25 minutes slower than they did at Port.

 

The Cairns swim this year was hard? I mean the current changes were interesting, but there was no real swell to deal with after the first bouy.

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On 31/07/2019 at 7:19 PM, Greyman said:

I call bullshit. I've been swimming open water for 30 + years and never had that problem. Practising swimming in open water gives you the confidence, skills and ability to handle waves and chop from any direction, regardless of how you breathe when swimming. 

If you want to get all technical about it, bilateral breathing is primarily a pool based technique, which doesn't always transfer well to open water swimming. It depends very much on the individual swimmer and their individual fitness, ability,  skills and confidence when swimming , as to how well they can swim using bilateral breathing in open water and handle open water conditions. 

Well next time a family member of yours or a friend is drowning and I swim out to rescue them and I've followed your advice because I read it here, you'd better hope that the 20 knot afternoon seabreeze that's whipping up spray off the water like nobody's business doesn't choke me, as I won't be saving anyone.

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I'm no expert by any means compared to coach@ but as a later life swimmer who sucked, bilateral breathing cut enormous times off for me. Dropping shoulders and scissor kicks were solved instantly with balanced breathing. I went from a 1:20 IM to a 59. 

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On 5 August 2019 at 5:01 PM, BC_J400 said:

Well next time a family member of yours or a friend is drowning and I swim out to rescue them and I've followed your advice because I read it here, you'd better hope that the 20 knot afternoon seabreeze that's whipping up spray off the water like nobody's business doesn't choke me, as I won't be saving anyone.

Chill Bill! I called bullshit on your open water breathing theory because it's alarmist and fear mongering. There's some real good reasons why a lot of swimmers can't bilateral breathe. The main one is they're just plain uncoordinated. There's a zillion reasons why people don't swim well in open water. Confidence, or lack of, in the water is the common denominator for most of them. 

By the way, I doubt you will ever swim out to save any of my family in the water. They are all better swimmers than me, we all surf and know how to be safe in the water. Our life has revolved around the swim club and SLSC for the last 25 years. 

As for saving any of my friends in the water. I don't have any, just ask Pete and the Customer. 

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