Exhale under the water.
This weekend I gave a swim lesson to a woman who had been to several other swim instructors but, felt she wasn’t making any progress in her attempt to learn to swim. By the time she came to me she had a different focus: to feel relaxed in the water.
After 90 minutes together, her highlight of the session was she was able to relax and finally feel calm with her face in the water. The secret was to exhale under the water. All the lessons she had taken and no one told her to exhale under the water. It was a revelation that shifted everything for her. She was not alone, though. I have had many a session with swimmers who didn’t know about exhaling under the water. The lightbulb goes off!
That’s the first part. Knowing that we need to breathe out when the face is in the water. There isn’t enough time to exhale and inhale when the face comes out of the water while swimming, the window of opportunity is to short.
The second part is to breathe out slow, gentle. Out your nose or mouth. I tend to breathe out my nose. The key is not to do it forcefully. More of a “huuummmmmm” kind exhale.
Third is to let the “in” breath happen. Once you empty the lungs, or near empty, then open the mouth to inhale, the air rushes in. The empty space in the lungs fills with air. The common mistake among new swimmers is to force the breath out then a deep breath in as though it was their very last. It is not necessary- let the breath happen, don’t force the out or the in.
I feel part of the breathing challenge for many swimmers is we don’t pay attention to breathing when on land, so it’s another new aspect when the face is in the water and now we have to pay attention. And we have to do it within the rhythm of the stroke!
Just Notice your breath when on land, breathing is happening. Notice that exhale and inhale happens gently. Then notice what you are doing in the water. Do you need to make adjustments? Are you exhaling under the water? How? With force or gently-huuummmmm….?