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Get Your Breathing Under Control

If you’re constantly out of gas and desperate for air, the problem isn’t your breathing, it’s that you’re using too much oxygen.

If you want to get your breathing under control when you swim, you need to move through the water in a way that uses less oxygen.

Without fixing this problem, you’re always going to be gasping for air.

Ever ride a bike when the tires were low?

Ever ride a bike in sand or really loose dirt?

What happens?

It’s harder. A LOT harder.

And no matter how much you improve your fitness, and no matter how much you improve the fit of the bike, and no matter how much you improve your mechanics, it’s always going to be hard.

There is no way around it.

The solution is to get the tires fixed or get on solid ground.

When most triathletes struggle to get enough air, they assume it’s a problem with their breathing technique, or they assume they’re just out of shape.

While they may be right, those issues are just making the problem worse.

They’re not the real problem.

The real problem is moving through the water like a barge.

The real problem is the legs sinking in the water.

The real problem is feeling like you have to kick the legs hard to prevent them from sinking.

The legs use a TON of oxygen.

And if you’re using a ton of oxygen, it’s going to be nearly impossible to improve your endurance.

You’re simply using too much energy.

Fortunately, it’s completely unnecessary.

Your legs don’t have to sink.

Keeping them up is a skill.

It’s all about body position.

If you can improve your body position, you can get your legs back up on the surface of the water.

That means you’ll use a lot less energy, and you’ll be able to swim a lot longer.

It’s just like getting your bike tires pumped back up.

Everything is WAY easier.

I’m going to show you how to improve your body position and get your legs up so you can get your breathing under control.

Once you do, anything becomes possible.

I’ve talked about these skills in other contexts and I’m talking about them here.


Because they are THAT important to EVERYthing you do in the water.

Without them, progress is going be MUCH more difficult.

Take the time and develop a foundation for the future.

Step #1 Learn to Float

The first step it to learn to float.

If you can learn to float without any effort, eventually you can learn to move through the water with hardly any effort.

This is simple.

Get a BIG breath, grab your knees, pull them to your chest, then relax.

It may take a little time to settle, but you should settle in the water, near or at the surface.

Without ANY effort, you’re floating.

The key awareness you’re trying to build is how to feel the lungs holding you in the water.

Once you can feel them, you can learn to leverage them, which we’ll learn how to do soon enough.

The other key skill is learning total relaxation.

If you can relax in the water, you can REALLY reduce how much oxygen you use, which means much more effective breathing.

To get this sense of relaxation, you’re going to let go of the ball and see what happens.

Just TOTALLY relax.

Your legs are going to sink, and that’s okay.

However, you’ll still be at the surface.

The key is COMPLETE relaxation.

For the first time, you may find yourself totally at ease in the water.


It’s from this position that you’ll be able to create better body position.

Step #2 Learn to Press

Once you know how to float and you can feel the floatation, it’s time to take advantage of it.

Your lungs are holding you up at the surface.

If you learn to press into the lungs, you can get the hips to pop up.

It’s just like a seesaw.

The lungs are the fulcrum, and your head and hips are at opposite ends of the fulcrum.

Press down on one side and the other side comes up.

Here, you want to press the head and the chest down to get the hips up to the surface.

You may have to press a little or you may have to press a lot.

It doesn’t matter.

Do what you have to do to get the hips to pop up.

Learn how to change your position by creating pressure with the head and chest.

This is the next big step for helping get your legs up at the surface.

For some, this might be all it takes.

Once you get the hang of it while floating, you can start to do the same thing while swimming.

Start with a high head position and slowly lower it and press into the water.

The key is to start too high and end too low.

That way, you’re guaranteed to find a position that works for you at some point along the way.

The best position you’ll find is one that lets the hips come up to the surface AND avoids burying your head.

Everyone is going to be a little different, so figure out what’s best for you and then be consistent with executing it.

Step #3 Learn to Lever

Now for the final step.

You’ve learned how to float, and you’ve learned how to press to create leverage on your lungs, getting the hips closer to the surface.

However, for some, that’s not enough.

You need another level of skill.

You have to learn to PULL the legs up to the surface.

By squeezing the muscles of the back and the hips, you can learn to get the legs up.

This is the OPPOSITE of kicking down to get the hips up, which is really tiring and doesn’t work.

Here’s how to do it.

Start in the ball float and get settled.

Then, open the ball up while trying to maintain your position in the water.

Slowly move your limbs into the position of an X.

If you find that you’re losing your position, just go back to the ball and start again.

The goal is to get to the X position and be relatively stable in the water.

However, what you’re REALLY learning to do it create and control tension in your back so you can maintain position in the water.

Everyone is going to float a little differently, so the final position isn’t as important as the INTENT.

It’s the intent that matters.

It’s actually easier to maintain good body position when you’re swimming than during these exercises, so if you’re doing okay with the drills, you can do really well while swimming.

However, the drills show you WHAT to do.

Rather than aiming for perfection, strive for progress.

If you can achieve it, you’re almost certain to improve your position in the water.

Putting Into Practice

Perform these exercises in between repetitions of your normal workouts.

About 10 seconds or so between reps can make a big difference.

Whatever you feel during the drills is what you want to feel when you swim.

Sooner than later, you’ll start integrating what you learn into the drills into your swimming.

That means you’ll use less oxygen, and that means better breathing.

That means more endurance and faster swimming.

Keep It Simple...



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