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Q: What is the optimal number of strokes per breath?
A: I always encourage athletes to learn how to breathe bilaterally (to both sides). Once you have mastered that, you should use a breathing pattern that makes you comfortable. Most common is every third stroke. Being able to breathe on both sides is also an advantage in open water when you might want to breathe away from the waves, wind or sun.
Q: I lose form when I tire after 1500. Help?
A: It is very typical to see form break down when swimmers get tired. You can do a couple things to extend your endurance and keep swimming efficiently: Improve your core strength with a simple gym routine 2–3 times per week; build more endurance by adding one extra-long swim workout per week; add more rest between intervals and sets to give your body time to recover and possibly maintain form for a longer time.
Q: My wife is deploying to Afghanistan next month. What are the best ways to keep up her swim skills on dry land for the nine months she’s away?
A: Invest in good stretch cords for dry land ‘swimming.’ They attach to anything (pole, doorknob, tree) and simulate a swim workout. Change the set structure from 100 yards on 2 minutes (1:20 of cords with :40 rest). Also, I recommend gym visits to maintain upper body and core strength.
Pro triathlete and swim coach Sara McLarty has 25-plus years of experience and knowledge about swimming mechanics, efficiency and technique.