After 18 months of fiddling with uncomfortable right-sided breathing, I went back to basics for a couple of months and today I was definitely very nearly just as comfortable breathing to the right as breathing to the left.
What's been good about rebuilding right sided breathing from scratch is that it's really helped me tune in to my clients who have various issues breathing. This was harder to do when I breathed mainly to my natural side as I did not have to think about it.
So ... my notes to myself for good breathing on the less natural side:
Head relaxed before, during an after the breath.
Focus on letting the water support the head when breathing and the head is on its side.
Arm depth: not too deep, not too shallow. Too deep pulls head down. Too shallow makes hips drop.
Arms parallel, don't let left arm be pulled across.
Don't think too hard or you end up breath holding.
The next session will be 23 July 2017. Numbers limited to three swimmers per lane to ensure the optimum possible swimming experience and give you the space to think about your stroke and not be worrying about keeping up with the swimmer in front, or ahead of the swimmer behind. You work at your own pace with liked-minded swimmers. These sessions are all about helpng you become a better swimmer.
Plese feel free to bring choclate cake if you wish!
It's always interesting to watch people train and go through their drills; lots of which are familiar to me from my days as masters club swimmer, however some of the drills do puzzle me a bit - it seems like they are just something else to do.
Watching one particular swimmer was interesting as she alternated between 'catchup' and her normal stroke. I quite like the catchup drill when it is purely used as a patient leading arm reminder, (just so long as we don't touch hands in the front of the head, which can lead to encouraging the arms to cross over). Anyhow when she was swimming catchup she was dropping 4 strokes in the 33m pool and was faster than her normal swim stroke (I timed her). But after each catchup lap, she reverted to her leading arm pulling back almost as soon as it reached full extension. So why did she not take on board anything from her catchup sets and lengthen her stroke for more speed? It's mystifying.
If we are not integrating elements from drills and focal points into our stroke to improve technically, then there's no point in doing them.
... unless you are swimming flat with no weight shift that is. But if you catch and weight shift with good timing, there is plenty of propulsion to drive you forwards whilst the other arm recovers, with no deceleration or "dead spot". Swim with no glide and you are efectively swimming enhanced doggy paddle, which even dogs don't do ...
Just saying ....
Last minute preparation is an inadvisable way to go about preparing for a 5K swim.
However as I have not really been doing any continuous swims, I thought I’d have to do something. So with the 5k swim on Sunday, my preparation this week has been:
Monday lunchtime: 2k focus on relaxed natural breathing.
Tuesday morning: 2.5k focus relaxed breathing and holding the core.
Tuesday lunchtime: 1k (to top it up).
Wednesday morning: 1.5k holding hips and core.
Friday morning 2.5k super easy slow swim; easy breathing, holding my hips and straight arms. (I could easily have carried on as was sharing Petersfield Open Air Pool with just one other swimmer).
Saturday: will be a rest day
Sunday Evening: will be 5k. It will be interesting to see if the preparation has worked.
Total Immersion talks a lot about keeping a still, neutral head and keeping the core engaged; two very simple sounding things to do that are, in practice, surprisingly difficult.
For our "ship" to be stable, the bow needs to be travelling straight and not wobbling about and the hull needs to be rigid.
I have found both concepts difficult over the years and although I think my head position is generally not too bad, I definitely have struggled with holding my hips and specially the "hip nudge forward" focal point.
But just recently, on observing my SPL up to 48/49 in 50m pool I have managed to start "holding" my hips better and immediately have felt much easier through the water although it has required some concentration.
Visualising a rail coming through the torso (middle of nipple width) all the way through my hips and down my legs on either side has been very helpful. I think in the past I did not spend much time thinking about what was going on beneath the chest even through I have a competent two beat kick.
I definitely think this has helped me improve a step further and entering the Coniston swim in September has really helped focus my mind back on good efficient technique throughout the whole body.
Goals are good.
I have bored quite a few people with the fact that I've been struggling with my right sided breathing for some time.
Whether breathing every two, or as part of a bilateral pattern, breathing to the right never feels comfortable - I lose balance and momentum, it disrupts my two beat kick timing and it feels awkward even though my head actually remains lower than when I breathe to the left.
I have also noticed that my actual breath management is not as good and I am a bit lazy in not clearing the airwaves properly when breathing right ... the brain is a funny thing
Yesterday I took myself back to basics and went through the Total Immersion breathing pattern: 'Nod' ... 'Split Goggles' ... then combining these with a breath every six strokes
My right-sided breathing improved instantaneously with one goggle remaining under the water and the head movement being better. Not perfect but much much better.
I am somewhat embarrassed after all this time that I did not apply these great drills to my own swimming earlier.
A great email arrived this morning from a client who was exteremely tense and uncomfortable in the water when he first came to see me - swimming is a wonderful thing.
"Hi James Since our last session 3/4 weeks ago I have been in the sea most days and am now up to swimming 500+ metres. All I ever wanted was to be able to enter a triathlon, so I feel in a few weeks or so I'll be up to the relevant distances needed. I'd just like to say thank you in persevering with me and getting me this far. When the other day I'd done 500 metres I got out of the sea and felt like I could do it again, I wasn’t out of breath at all. When I enter the sea now I’m not apprehensive at all. Even when its a little choppy because, I’m rotating quite a bit consequently I find it so easy to breathe and I think this takes away me panicking, hence I’m more relaxed. The sea has been fairly rough the last few days I’m just waiting for a calm day just to see how far I can go. It's been nothing short of unbelievable for me - just a few weeks ago thinking I’m never going to get this to now being at one in the sea. Take care & best wishes" .
Pacing is tricky. I tend to err on the side of caution with pacing and often feel like I finish with a bit too much left in the tank.
For building endurance I like pyramid sets (say 50,100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350 and down again) with short rest intervals (15 to 20 seconds max).
But for confidence it's nice to do a continuous swim every now and then, go through a slightly bad patch, recover from it and have the confidence in yourself that you can recover actively while swimming after a perod of over exertion.
To do so, back off, change gear, use less pressure in the catch, relax and focus on swimming as easily as you can, maybe at a slightly higher cadence to get a bit more breath.
Then get back into the groove after a few minutes, start focussing on weight shiftng and swim within yourself.
Tracey Baumann highlighted my head movement when breathing left (preferred side by a mile) during our last session.
I confess sometimes I need a bit of time to figure things out after a session.
Today swimming a bunch of sets at 1.0 and below, I was two strokes less breathing right. I don't breathe nearly as comfortably this side but my head snaps back into place better possibly through rotating a little less to breathe that side.
When I focussed purely on keeping a still head when breathing left I dropped a stroke and noticed it was still not as stable as when breathing the other side.
It's amazing the difference a still head makes.
Breaking bad habits is never easy.
I am a certified level 3.0 Total Immersion Swim Coach.