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When a triathlete has difficulties with breathing during freestyle, the problem is usually starting the breath too late in the stroke cycle. This degrades the swimmer’s ability to breathe, ultimately limiting performance in the water.
Coordinating your breathing movement to your stroke can be tricky to master, but with practice, it can make you more efficient in the water.
A great way to learn how to better coordinate your breath is with the Early Breath Drill. This drill establishes an easy-to-follow progression of movement for your breath and stroke.
How to do it
Step 1: Begin by swimming the freestyle Catchup Drill holding a kickboard extended in front of you. Insert a pause into your stroke each time your hands “catch up” to each other on the board.
Step 2: Start your breathing movement during the “pause” between strokes, before your hand leaves the kickboard. By initiating your breath early, you give yourself extra time to both inhale and get your head down before your hand begins moving forward into the recovery phase of the stroke.
Step 3: Ditch the kickboard and continue the drill, focusing on keeping the same progression of movement for your stroke and breath as in step 2.
Practice Set: 8x25s
Even: Early Breath Drill (with or without kickboard)
Odd: Regular freestyle
Focus on getting an early breath and then quickly returning your head into the water. Follow this set with an easy 100, focusing on a controlled, coordinated breathing movement.
Jonathan Cain is a coach at Denver-based swim school SwimLabs (Swimlabs.com).