Dump your lazy, land-based breathing habit with these ten tips to breathe like a swimmer.

There are four steps to sustainable swimming – 

  1. Breathing, 
  2. Floating, 
  3. Kicking,
  4. Arm strokes. 

Every learner and every parent thinks only about number 4) – developing those big powerful arm strokes.

Plenty of adult learners neglect the most important first step – breathing – and breathing for swimming is unlike breathing for any other physical activity. When you enter the water, you need to start breathing like a swimmer and drop your “land-based breathing” habits. 

Land based breathing is often shallow and slow. Land-based breathing is often inhaling through the nose. When you’re exercising on land, your breathing is often fast and in and out through the mouth and nose. To breathe like a swimmer is to get the maximum benefit from each lungful of air. Swimmers focus on the exhale part of breathing because inhaling comes naturally – it is a hardwired reflex.

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Here are ten tips to get you breathing like a swimmer. If some of them sound repetitive, umm, yes: 

  1. Inhale deeply and quickly through your mouth. The inhale has to be fast and deep – the air must get to the bottom of your lungs straight away. And it has to be through your mouth. You might not realise that land-based breathing does not involve quick, deep inhaling. Usually it’s more relaxed, takes a long time and breathing is often quite shallow. Mostly we breathe in and out through your nose. In swimming It’s in through the mouth and out through the nose.  
  2. Exhale slowly and steadily from your nose – you can even close your mouth and hum to ensure the air is leaving through your nose. 
  3. Swimmers generally don’t hold their breath. When your face is in the water, you should be exhaling, slowly from your nose. Your mouth can be closed (so a little hum is good). Little bubbles are leaving your nose so no water can get in and you are safe. 
  4. Practice breathing like a swimmer – quick and deep inhale through the mouth, and long slow exhale from the nose by putting your head under the water and watching your bubbles. You should be able to produce a steady stream of little bubbles from each nostril that can last up to about 10 seconds. 
  5. When you turn to breathe in, your aim is to only lift your head enough so that one eye is out of the water, and one remains under the water. So, you aren’t lifting your head very much at all, you are turning your torso using your abs.  
  6. Practice taking one breath every three or four strokes. You can take one breath every two strokes when you’re racing or swimming fast but as much as possible train yourself to lengthen your exhale. 
  7. Learn bi-lateral breathing. Everyone has a favourite side for breathing but you really do need to be able turn to the other side if necessary to take an inhale. And always breathing on one side means you will develop an unbalanced stroke and become stronger on one side than the other. You won’t swim straight in the open water. 
  8. Your leading arm needs to hold you up as you inhale. Don’t start your stroke until your head is back down, exhaling. So, if I turn to my left to inhale, my right arm is stretching forward holding me up. My left arm is pulling back hard but my right arm stays in that forward position until my lungs are full of air again. 
  9. Breathing is done quickly in the back half of the stroke. If I am breathing on my left side, my right arm is stretched forward and I turn to inhale when my left arm is passing under my face. The inhale must be all over by the time my left arm is returning back, through the air to the front of the stroke.
  10. Breathing is all important to swimming. When you’re exhaling you are relaxing. When you hold your breath you are tense and that is bad for swimming. Children develop their swimming breathing skills by playing in the water, by going under the water, by blowing bubbles in the water so spend time doing all these things.
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Most importantly – remember this: Swimmers don’t hold their breath, swimmers exhale and stay relaxed. Play around in the water and blow bubbles to get on top of this skill.

Get your hand behind your elbow …

“What are you talking about? Get your hand behind your elbow? What does that even mean?”

A long straight freestyle stroke is much more efficient than lots of short strokes. And long strokes are faster through the water, even though your stroke rate falls.

Freestyle technocrats – swim geeks who focus too much on correct technique (like me)  – have an important, if obscure, rule:

Get your hand behind your elbow as soon as possible and keep it there as long as possible, even in the recovery stage.

Left hand is behind the left elbow, even in the recovery phase

Step by step, that means:

  1. After your hand enters and catches the water, get your forearm vertical as soon as you can, bending from the elbow, using your bicep strength. This brings your hand ‘behind your elbow’ if looking from above.
  2. Keep your elbow high and forward during the pull and push phase of the freestyle stroke and lead with your hand.
  3. Brush your thigh, or hip, with your thumb to ensure that you have long straight freestyle stroke.
  4. At the end of the stroke, as your hand exits the water down near your thigh, lift and pull your elbow (not your hand) to bring it back to the front. Drag your hand forward by pulling with your elbow. Leave your hand behind and let it ‘hang’ off your elbow as you recover your arm to the front to begin the next stroke.
Right hand is ‘behind’ the right elbow

Don’t be a crab. Crabs can’t get their claws behind their little elbows. Their claws are always pointed forward from their elbows and many, many freestylers are a bit like crabs.

As soon as their hands exit the water at the end of their stroke, they lead with their hand and get it back in front of their elbow. This leads to shorter strokes, shoulder injuries and pain in the elbow joint. Also leads to heartache for your coach when watching from the pool deck ☹.

John Travolta Staying Alive (from Saturday Night Fever). This is a great freestyle drill

Try the ‘Stayin Alive’ (John Travolta) drill. Like the Fingerdrag drill, this one is mostly about your elbows – keeping them high and forward and getting your hands behind them.

In the Stayin Alive drill, you get both arms straight at the same time and really push them straight.

One arm is stretched forward to 10 or 11 o’clock and the other arm is stretched back to 4 or 5 o’clock.

It’s an exaggeration of good freestyle (like all drills). It will help you train your brain to tell your body to keep your strokes long and get your hand behind your elbow.

Ten tips to build your aerobic capacity

Do you lose your breath and get ‘puffed out’ after swimming just a short distance?  Do you want to be able to go further than you have gone before – not just while swimming but during all physical activities?

Or maybe, like a lot of athletes, you can run or bike for an hour, non-stop, but you can’t swim for more than a minute or two without needing a rest?  You’re not actually tired, you don’t have muscle burn, you’re just ‘puffed out.’ 

More than other sports and physical activities, you need to develop excellent aerobic / lung capacity for endurance swimming. And using swimming to develop aerobic capacity – the ability of the lungs and body to absorb oxygen and transport it to your muscles quickly – will help in other activities.

You build aerobic capacity by swimming long distances but this is difficult when you have to keep stopping. Swimming only works as a fitness activity when you have developed good aerobic capacity. You can speed up the process by trying these ten aerobic training tips. Some may not apply to you but at least some will definitely be worthwhile thinking about and trying: 

  1. First – go back to basics. Every now and then playa round in the water, diving down, blowing bubbles. Forget about inhaling. Your body knows how to do it without thinking. Just make sure you are breathing in deeply and quickly when you do emerge to get air.
  2. Exhale and relax – You only need to consciously think about getting your exhale correct. But are you actually thinking about it? Or are you focused on: ‘When am I breathing in again?’ Sit on the bottom of the pool or sea and exhale. When you have no air left in your lungs, stay down for a few seconds before coming up – to reprogram your body to not to be impatient about inhaling. 
  3. Once you can breathe out a steady stream of small bubbles for ten seconds, then make sure you can emerge to quickly breathe in and submerge again and repeat the ten second exhale. Just because you can do it once doesn’t really count. You have to be able to come up for air and go back down again, sit on the bottom again and make your exhale last ten seconds again. And again. And again.  
  4. Master bi-lateral breathing. Breathing on both sides means you have more control, more confidence and more choice about when you breathe. There’s no reason why you can’t inhale on both sides of your body while swimming, except in your head. Your head controls your body and all its movements. Take control.
  5. Keep your head down and exhale for three freestyle strokes for four full 25m laps. Then try going for five strokes, then seven strokes. This is difficult. Try swimming a whole 25m lap with no inhaling. The longer you can go without breathing in the better you are getting at using the oxygen you have in your lungs already. Don’t overdo this. Don’t get light-headed. 
  6. Even when you are doing a lot of strokes without inhaling, avoid holding your breath as much as possible. When your head is in the water, you need to be exhaling as much as possible – so a long slow steady stream of bubbles from your nose (mainly) is the key to all this. 
  7. In the open water the general rule is we inhale more often than in the pool but we need to be more confident about our aerobic capacity in the choppy sea than in the flat calm pool. If you want to swim in the open water, these skills are twice as important for you. Don’t breathe everything out, keep a little air in your lungs when swimming in the open water. But be able to keep your head down if needed.
  8. Swimming fast in intervals with an elevated heart rate will build your aerobic capacity a lot faster than long slow swims – but you won’t feel it initially because you’ll be having interval breaks. Keep an eye on the timing clock – improvement is incremental so may not notice without checking your times. But most importantly, occasionally go for a long swim – longer than you think you can manage and you will surprise yourself. You may have developed good aerobic capacity without really testing it out. Then you’ll really be getting fit, feeling the muscle burn because you’re at the edge of your aerobic system’s ability to supply the muscles and your anaerobic system is taking over. 
  9. There’s a wall in swimming similar to The Wall you hit when going for a long run. It can be harder to just push through it in swimming (without stopping) because, you know, you’re in the water and you want to keep moving and not drown. That wall will dissipate (have faith in yourself) and keep going. When you are puffed out, your anaerobic system is ready to take over.  
  10. The better you get at all this, the better you’ll be at all aerobic sports and activities, not just swimming. Developing your lung capacity with these swimming exercises will make you a better runner, cyclist, sportsperson and human person. Swimming is the best way to build your aerobic capacity. Once that’s done your body starts to build strength and anaerobic ability itself when you workout. All sportspeople, footy players, netballers, runners, cyclists, couch potatoes, armchair experts etc, should be going for a regular swim and they will, after the Coach Jason revolution, when it will be mandatory.

Swimming – It’s a brain exercise

Sometimes swimming can make me feel really dumb. We think swimming is a great physical exercise and will make us really fit, right? But yes and no to that idea….

Because only people who can do it fairly well can get fit from swimming. The rest can’t get their breathing and rhythm together long enough to get fit.

Freestyle swimming (and the other strokes) is a brain exercise, a mental puzzle that you FAIL if you don’t stay focused and consciously thinking all the time. 

The puzzle is that your body must be in the high floating buoyant position to start with – that’s takes skill and an experience of your own centre of buoyancy. Then you have to master your breathing. Then all your body’s limbs and levers have to do what you tell them, when they’re told and while you monitor how they are doing it and you must be able to adjust with small movements and modifications as necessary. 

Even experienced swimmers can fall into the trap of ‘going through the motions’ and not concentrating on what they are doing. That’s when they FAIL at swimming.

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You need to mentally solve the puzzle to make it work for you. So here’s some mental tricks – some questions to ask yourself – that will change the way you manage your own body when you’re swimming. Get back in charge by thinking your way through it. 

  1. Freestyle is not arm strokes 

You might have heard the freestyle swim style called ‘overarm’ or ‘crawl.’ 

Stop thinking of freestyle as a cycle of arms – stroke after arm stroke. Just think about the stretch forward. Think about freestyle as just a stretch and pull. Forget about strokes and think stretch forward while you pull back with the other arm. 

Look forward to that reach forward because this is the fun gliding part of swimming freestyle, the rest is work. If you think of freestyle as an endless process of one arm stroke then next arm stroke etc you risk losing focus. Then you will run out breath for sure. 

  1. You don’t need air 

Breathing is important but try forgetting about it and you’ll swim easier. Think of it as unimportant, even though. in distance freestyle, you actually need more air so you probably will inhale every stroke cycle – so every right arm or every left arm and that’s OK.

BUT you can’t let it dominate your thinking. You have be confident both in your ability to breathe and confident in your ability to go for a few seconds without breathing. 

So – focus on exhaling. Forget about inhaling. Get your exhale long, steady and in control, then your inhaling will largely look after itself. The best way to exhale is via a steady stream of small bubbles out of your nose. The best way to inhale while swimming is via a large, deep, quick breath in through your mouth. 

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  1. Breathing and bubbles.  

If you are losing your timing or losing your breath, choose one side to be your favoured side for breathing and stick to it. Then look at your hands and label one hand the hand you move when breathing and the other hand is the hand that is stroking while blow bubbles. One hand/arm for breathing and one for bubbles. Breathing and bubbles. When you’re getting anxious or really pushing yourself in a swim, you fall back to calling your hands Breathing and Bubbles. This reminds your brain that you are soon going to inhale and to stop worrying. 

  1. Kick or don’t kick, make up your mind. 

I’ve written about kicking a lot over the years and I’ve coached a lot of swimmers with a bad kick and plenty with great ability to kick. Good swimmers can either kick very well, probably from a childhood spent in swim squad, or they hardly kick at all. Bad swimmers always think they are kicking but are probably just wriggling their legs around or making a cycling type of motion. That means a lot of splashing and movement without getting much go-forward at all.  

Kicking is a cardio activity so use it sparingly or not at all if you want to conserve energy over a long distance. Don’t fool yourself, if you don’t have a good kick, stop moving your legs around. Can you actually stop kicking? Do you have control over your legs or are they just moving out of habit? 

  1. It’s your body, so take control. 

Can you order your arms to do what you want them to do? And when to do it? What about your legs? Really?

Many swimming drills, like catch-up, 1-arm freestyle and others, are mostly about making you, your brain, take control of your body, your legs, your arms. If you can’t do the full range of swimming drills and skill exercises you are not in full control of your body. Everyone is either left or right brained. Everyone is better at controlling and working on the right or the left side of their body. But in swimming everything has to be balanced. You have to be able do exactly the same movements with the same strength on both left and right side.  

That’s one part of it but there’s more. You have to be able to tell your body when to move and when not to move. Sounds easy right? Most people can’t do it. Swimmers can do it. A good swimmer’s arms and legs never fall into an automatic cycle of actions, they are always in active control. 

Did you know that your arms and legs don’t have their own brains? Yes it’s true, that’s just science so they can’t be trusted with ‘muscle memory’ to get the job done correctly every time without you in control. 

Do exercises like catch-up, fingerdrag and one-arm freestyle regularly as a way of telling your body that you are in charge.

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How to train to swim fast – 13 tips that will make you faster

Speed and time is the traditional metric for measuring swimming ability.

Yes, it seems a bit arbitrary but then again, no, it’s not.

Sure, we all want to swim a long way in a relaxed and sustainable fashion and that is great but all that is easier and more obtainable if you have developed the technique to swim fast.

Speed through the water is mostly technique with fitness thrown in as a bonus, not the other way around like many other activities. 

Swimming as a sport and industry has come to appreciate long-distance swimming only in the last 20-odd years. But speed and times have always been number one. A fast swimmer can transition to distance swimming pretty readily. A slow swimmer can easily get in trouble in open water events. 

Anyway, now is the time of year for plenty of events, triathlons, races etc so how do you train to build your speed?

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13 tips to swim faster 

  1. Go to the pool. Yes, we love swimming in the ocean but it’s not making you quicker. Laps of the pool make you quicker. Interval training makes you quicker.
  2. Train fast to get faster: Don’t train at 50% or even 90% max effort – you can’t get faster doing that. You have to train at 100% effort. You have to swim faster than you have swum before to increase your speed in the water. If you are not pushing yourself to top speed in training, you won’t be able to go fast in a race or event. This might mean you have to swim shorter distances – down to 25m at a go – to really ensure you are pushing yourself to maximum pace. 
  3. Quality of metres, not quantity of metres, is what counts if you want to increase your swim speed. Lots of kilometres, swum relatively slowly is the training you do if you want to swim slowly for a long distance. If you want to increase your speed, do this: swim fast, rest, then swim faster, rest again, repeat. If you want to swim fast for a long distance in the open water, you have to mix things up. Swim fast intervals a couple of times per week at the pool then do one long swim each week. 
  4. Relax to swim fast. All this info is not designed to stress you out. You can’t grit your teeth and pull hard through the water and get faster. Everything has to be fluid. Your technique has to be better than ever before if you want to travel through the water faster than ever before. The water is unforgiving of bad technique. The water loves you if you do things correctly.
  5. Be firm in your core, don’t wiggle and snake through the water. Reach out in front until your elbows are straight. Be long. Develop a feeling of reaching so far with your shoulders and back that you are stretching yourself longer and taller. Maintain a firm spot just under your belly button.
  6. Get narrow and straight. Like a streamlined torpedo. Legs close together. Arms coming straight through under the water and straight back through the air, close to your body. That means high elbows.
  7. Rock, don’t roll. When you reach forward, rock using your abs in your stomach. Your shoulder will move forward and your other shoulder will turn so it’s out of the water, allowing your recovering arm to cleanly get back to the front for the next stroke. Your hips though need to stay fairly stable, not rolling from side to side.
  8. Faster stroke rate? Yes. Shorter stroke length? No. The best way to tire yourself out is to take lots of strokes. Every stroke has to count and be worth the effort you’re making. Don’t give up on your stroke halfway – keep pushing until your thumb flicks past your hip or thigh. 
  9. Your kick has to be pretty good. Keep legs close together, pretty straight and toes pointy. Your legs can undermine all your upper body effort. A good kick can even give you some go-forward speed but the first consideration is to keep them up behind you, at the top of the water. 
  10. Fingers get wider apart – The faster you swim, the wider apart your fingers need to be. You have to be grabbing more water.
  11. Elbows need to be high, forearms vertical really early in your stroke and your hand has to get ‘behind’ your elbow asap.
  12. Breathing – Your head can’t lift up to breathe if you want to go quickly. You need to keep it low and have faith that your speed will make a bow wave and a pocket of air behind it with the top of your head – if your head is low when you breathe in. One goggle in the air and one goggle in the water is the key.
  13. When you start to get it – it all clicks, you rise up just slightly in the water, there’s a bow wave, you can feel the rush of the water and you are superhuman. The water loves you and you will want more of that, it’s addictive. Ian Thorpe said: “Swimming is my art.” This isn’t endorphins flowing from physical activity, recent science has debunked a lot of that anyway. This is a technical masterwork you have created yourself by being relaxed, in control of your physical self and able to spend serious energy without things falling apart. You’re a junky. Be proud.  
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How to swim in rough water

This post is five tips for swimming in rough water

by Coach of Open Water Swimmers Jason Bryce

You can swim in the pool but when you get to the sea, woah! It’s a different story. You look out from the beach and there are waves, it’s choppy, you can see the wind is pushing the water into currents and you wonder how you’re going to be able to deal with that. If you don’t think these things, then you’re in danger of being just way too overconfident and ignoring the reality of swimming in the sea.

It’s harder, challenging,  more of a workout, there’s risk – and it’s heaps more fun when you get confident.

First of all everything you learn about good freestyle and practice at the pool is tested in the open water but everything you learn about freestyle has to be put into practice in the sea.

When the water is moving around and the waves are crashing into your face, yes things are going to be messy but the more you can keep your technique tight, the better, faster and easier things will be.

Here are five things to work on to make open water swimming in the rough water a bit more manageable:

9am OWS Skills group
  1. Some stretching before you dive in is advisable because you may have to deal with forces that push and pull you around in ways that you don’t normally deal with. You’re going to be arching your back more than usual to see where you’re going and you may have to lift your head higher to breathe in, so stretch your back and move your neck around a bit. Your elbows need to higher in the rough water to clear the waves, so stretch those arms behind your back or hold your elbow behind your head.
  2. You need a higher stroke rate than normal. And you need to kick more than you might otherwise in smooth calm conditions. An you have to make sure that you never, ever stop kicking. You have to keep moving forward and in charge of your own direction. Keep your speed up and don’t settle for bobbing around in the water like a cork because that means a loss of control and could make you a bit seasick as well. So yes, when you start an open water swim in rough conditions you know you are going to be getting more of a workout and you’ll be using more energy.
  3. Focus on your technique and trying to do everything (as much as possible) correctly. Sometimes swimmers say things like: “You just have to crash and bash your way through.” But that is understating what they themselves are doing. They are staying strong in their core and maintaining a stable platform for their levers to operate effectively. Yes sometimes you will crash through a wave and sometimes the wave will roll over you completely but whatever happens you have to remain long, straight and ready to start your next stroke and keep kicking. Keep your legs close together while kicking, don’t do big kicks, keep them relatively small and fast. Hold your body as still as possible. The idea is to cut through the water, the chop and the waves, not get thrown around by them. So that means a you need a nice tight straight body position, not a loose core that’s not supporting your arm movements and kick.
  4. Each arm stroke needs to enter the water with intent. Your arm recovery (when it is in the air moving back to the front) has to be quick, real quick. Spear your fingers in first, followed by your arm and grab the water nice and high, way out in front of you. A faster stroke rate doesn’t mean missing out on a powerful catch at the start of every stroke. This is the most important part of the freestyle. You need to be powerful at the front of every freestyle arm stroke, Push forward with hand after entering the water then use plenty of effort to grab the water with your wrist, hold your elbow high and pull through with real muscle strength from biceps, back, shoulders and triceps.
  5. Breathe in more often, even every arm stroke. You don’t want to be worried about your breathing and you don’t want to left with no air so breathe more often. You can make this part of a really strong freestyle if you focus on pulling hard and straight with the arm that strokes while your head is down. As long as you keep things even, balanced and straight,  this galloping style of freestyle can work for you in the sea.

How to train for open water swimming events

How do you train for an open water swimming event or the swim leg of a triathlon?

There is a lot of similarities in training for open water swimming and training for distance freestyle like 800m or 1500m events but, of course, we are adding on the challenges of the ocean or a lake. 

So first, you need to take it seriously (and still have fun taking it seriously).

That means you go for a swim, in the pool or open water, no less than three times per week. And you should be working up to swimming at least 2km each time you swim. And that’s 2km of quality swimming, pushing yourself and raising your heartbeat. If your heart rate is not elevated, you are not training, you’re just moving your body (which is good) but you’re not getting much stronger, fitter and ready for a big event.

Second: Training for distance doesn’t mean just going for a long swim. Do intervals of fast swimming as well as a long weekly swim. A good schedule might be two hard training sessions plus one long swim per week (minimum). And of course this is a minimum, the more swimming you do the better.

Here is a sample pool training program for distance freestyle and open water swimming:


Warm Up – 20 secs rest between reps

400m slow mixed
3 x 100m fly / back / 50 free
50m breast
3 x 100m fly / breast / 50 free
50m back

Skills

Pool buoy: 2 x 200m pull FAST (thighs) 20 sec rest
100m kick – free kick / back kick  
200m 1-arm backstroke / 1-arm freestyle  

Main Set

6 x 100m free @ 1.55
             

Cool Down

8 x 25m @ 45 sec
200m SLOW
 

What are the differences between open water freestyle and pool freestyle?

Now you’re doing all that, you can start thinking about what open water freestyle is about. It’s different to sprint freestyle for the pool. You could be doing thousands of strokes in a distance event so your technique is much more important.

A small inefficiency will be repeated thousands of times, so great distance swimmers are often the swimmers that get everything right. Here are the main elements to a good distance freestyle technique for the open water:

  1. Use a slightly higher arm recovery when swimming long distance and in the open water. Stretch out at the front and catch the water. Get your forearm vertical as soon as possible.
  2. Maintain a long, straight body position and use long strokes. In distance freestyle, minimise the number of strokes, longer the better. Measure your SWOLF (Swimming Golf) score which is your time in seconds plus your strokes over a set distance – lower the SWOLF score the better.
  3. Keep a high elbow position when swimming. That includes during the pull (under the water) and the recovery (out of the water).
  4. Use a two-beat kick for long-distance swimming. Fast kicking is not needed and tires you out. Two beat kick means two kicks per stroke cycle. Don’t worry too much about counting kicks, just slow it down and don’t too many.
  5. Learn correct breathing technique. Keep head low, don’t turn from neck, turn from abs. Hold yourself up with your front hand. You need to breathe more in the open water and distance freestyle events so get it right. Keep your head low even when inhaling.
  6. Maintain a neutral (straight and low) head position. This is important. Your head is heavy. Keep it low and your neck and spine straight.
  7. Keep fingers slightly open and hands relaxed. Tension will wear you out and you won’t last to the finish.
  8. Practice sighting – Lift your head slightly and look forward while you are still exhaling and before you turn to breathe in. This is very important – Look BEFORE you breathe in, while you are still exhaling bubbles from your nose (mainly). Don’t lift your head to look around and breathe in at the same time.
  9. Practice swimming straight – When your arm enters the water it needs to stretch and point to where you are going, then come back in a straight line until your thumb flicks your thigh or hip upon exiting the water. Do not do an S-shaped stroke under the water – this will send you off in the wrong direction.
  10. Get acclimatised to the water you will be swimming in. Ocean water is often colder than the pool so get used to the colder water temperatures, even if that means just taking a cold shower in the morning.
  11. Swim with a buddy or in a group and practice drafting behind or next to another swimmer. If you can position yourself behind the feet of a swimmer or next to their hips, you are inside their bow wave and will benefit from their wake of moving water that trails behind them.

When swimming long distances, every stroke needs to keep your momentum up and not be a wasted effort. Here is a great video of Mack Horton recording one of the fastest 1500m ever swum. Every stroke is long, powerful and deliberate. He is thinking his way through the race. From the surface, he looks slow, but under the water you can see how his technique is catching a lot of water and pulling it a long way. He doesn’t need to raise his head when breathing, he knows there is a pocket of air behind his bow wave.

Breathing for open water swimming:

Many distance swimmers breathe every stroke. They get into a rhythm and use their front arm to hold them up as they inhale. In the open water you need to inhale more often than you might in the pool. 

HOWEVER: When training you still need to use bilateral breathing and spread out your breathing-in to one every three or four strokes, at least some of the time. This helps you develop a balanced stroke and manage your breathing so you have an easy, long exhale. 

Come for a Pier to Pub training sesh or record a Virtual Pier to Pub time with us at Williamstown on 3rd January. Book here by selecting the 10am 3rd Jan Swim Around the Poles group.

Check out the Open Water Swim Calendar for Victoria.

Learn to swim easy, relaxed freestyle with coaching and stroke correction

Anyone can learn to swim, at any age and starting from any level of ability. You can’t do it by yourself however. plenty have tried and this is a sure-fire way to to fail and feel like you can’t do it. You need an experienced teacher or coach to guide you through the steps to easy, relaxed swimming.

Swimmers who can swim freestyle easily and in a relaxed way for many laps, even many kilometres in the ocean or pool, have not achieved this by themselves. They have been taught, probably from a young age, by coaches and teachers. They have trained to achieve a good feel for the water, an high body position and an efficient stroke.

Good swimmers are not necessarily the fittest people in the world, but swimming can make you very fit indeed. A person who has learnt how to swim properly can keep that knowledge and skill for life and swim easy, relaxed freestyle whenever they jump in the water.

Step One is learning to breathe like a swimmer. This is very different to how runners, cyclists or other athletes manage their intake of oxygen. A quick deep breath in, followed by a long slow exhale. You need to practice this skill and be shown how it is done and learnt. Many children learn this skill at children’s swim lessons without even knowing they are learning to breathe like a swimmer.

Step Two is learning how to manage your body position and keep afloat in the water. Not everyone can simply lie on top of the water without effort. It depends on your body, for example, most women find floating easier than most men. You need guidance how to do it and maintain your floating body near or at the top of the water.

Step Three is kicking. Your legs can be like anchors, weighing you down and slowing you down. Good kicking is not exhausting, but some kicking keeps your legs high and behind you as you travel through the water. If you are not doing it properly, you can sink and get tired very quickly.

Step Four is efficient strokes that catch the water and pull through in long straight lines that push you forward easily and allow you to breathe regularly and effectively.

If you are interested in learning to swim, improving your freestyle (and/or other strokes) and achieving an easy, relaxed technique, get in touch with Coach Jason or book in to swim lessons, squads or stroke improvement groups here.

Challenge Yourself to learn open water freestyle

Our entry-level swim class is the 8am Challenge Yourself group.

We learn the basics of breathing, good freestyle stroke and kick, sighting, swimming straight, sustainable relaxed swimming for long distances, group swimming and drafting.

All in shallow water you can stand up in.

Coach Jason teaches Australian AUSTSWIM freestyle with open water skills direct from the coaching manual to you.

Challenge Yourself to swim in the sea

“I have no big new ideas,” says Jason.

“You will learn sustainable, relaxed freestyle in the bay, straight from the textbook.”

“I have been teaching kids and adults for decades and here at Williamstown since 2014. I can teach you to love going for a swim in the sea and make freestyle easier for you.”

“If you want to keep improving, many swimmers move up to the 9am Open Water Swim Skills Group.”

Challenge Yourself Group is very popular, has limited spaces and produces unbelievable results.

Go on, Challenge Yourself, come for a swim in the sea with Coach Jason and the team.