I have now lost count of the number of swimmers who have come to me with issues related to breathing, having been told they should empty their lungs when swimming.
They have generally been told that if they swim with much less air in their lungs this will improve their balance in the water and help bring their hips and legs up.
Let's think about this for a moment: when we are breathing we should be breathing into our diaphragms which is pretty close to the centre of our body. We do not (and definitely should not) breathe into our thoracic cavities (shallow breathing). So air in our lungs (diaphragms) makes us nice and floaty and buoyant. No air in our lungs makes us sinky (not nice). It really is as simple as that.
When cycling or running or playing any other sport we do not empty our lungs. Swimming is no different.
Try this test: Lie in the water face down with your arms in front of you. If you are a bloke the chances are you legs will not be floating at the surface and you may even have your feet pointing down towards the bottom of the pool. Now slowly let the air out of your lungs. Do your hips and legs come up to the surface? Nor do mine.
Of course don't hold your breath when swimming but nice natural easy breathing is the way to go for buoyancy, balance and relaxation.
No air in lungs is uncomfortable and will trigger the amygdala which are the parts of the brain that kick in when we are under threats (like imminent drowning for example). This is not an area of the brain you should be trying to override or a feeling you should try and get used to when swimming.
If your swim coach (yes me included) tells you something that does not seem to make sense, then please ask her or him to explain or demonstrate how it works. Especially if they tell you to empty your lungs.
A lot of swimmers get themselves quite confused about breath management when swimming. This article for the excellent Outdoor Swimmer magazine hopefully helps offer some clarity on the matter.
I teamed up with orthopaedic surgeon Jeremy Granville-Chapman to write this article on preventing shoulder injuries in swimmers.
Next workshop will be 18 Feb 2018 in Petersfield, Hampshire.
What a lovely Christmas present to give or receive.
From time to time clients come to me having looked at videos online and tried to teach themselves to swim "TI Style". I have to remind them that good swimming is good swimming and TI coaches are not trying to teach people to swim "differently". Nor we should not obsess with emulating videos of others we have seen swimming. We are all dfferent shapes and sizes.
Too steep an angle of entry or too early an entry for example can lead to either to deep and arm or a "ski jump" trajectory that can lead to dropping the elbow under the water. A nice natural relaxed arm recovery with mail slot entry facilitating the whole arm sliding into the water through the same whole is fine. That exact point of entry will be determined by your own biomechanics, but should be a straight line to the final hand position under the water at full extension. Nothing forced, everything relaxed and natural.
The two things that made the most immediate difference to how I felt in the water when I started with TI, were the relaxed neutral head and spearing the arms deeper to help get my hips up and achieve better body balance in the water - it was a epiphany to me..
Sometimes with TI, we encourage swimmers 'swing the pendulum' a bit too far to start with when making changeswhich is one of the causes of some people misunderstanding TI methodology - context is everything.
People who struggle with patient streamlined leading arms between the strokes I might encourage to be a little too patient to start with while learning to not think about simply "pulling" through the water and focus more on being streamlined.
The arm depth too is something some TI swimmers can 'overcook' a bit. Hand depth level with or just below the depth of the chest should be enough to give good neutral balance in the water and get the hips up if everything is nice and relaxed. Spearing too deep can make breathing a bit tricky sometimes and create a little too much drag.
I am a certified level 3.0 Total Immersion Swim Coach.