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How to Breathe in Open Water Swimming?

Views: 6     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-02-06      Origin: Site

How to Breathe in Open Water Swimming?

When swimmers choose to swim open waters, they encounter many obstacles such as cloudy water, zero bottom visibility, and staying on the track. And with all types of "navigation issues" there is the unavoidable trouble of "getting on track". All this is surely a noticeable waste of energy and time!


So the common issue for beginner and intermediate swimmers alike is how to breathe in open water swimming? Luckily there are various tricks for properly taming the natural element and the environment without losing the bearings. These have to be followed from the beginning to the end.


Here are a few techniques used by the pros and you can master them before and during swimming for orientation; remaining on the course and quickly reaching the destination.



Regardless of everything that you've heard about bilateral breathing, where you're alternating between both sides, it isn't your only swimming option for open waters. Until the breathing aspect of freestyle (front crawl) stroke has been mastered, you won't be able to relax and remain calm while swimming, irrespective of what is recommended by others.


Breathing Technique of Open Water Swimming


Although, principles of breathing in open water require exhaling and inhaling through mouth when head gets submerged (without you wasting time for side exhaling), when, how often you're breathing, breathing timing, and when is among the grey areas individual for every swimmer. The best solution would be anything comfortable for your requirements and it would depend on whether you're training or racing and the level of intensity at which it happens.


While you're racing it would usually mean breathing stroke of each second for keeping a healthy airflow that comes in the body. However, back in the triathlon training sessions of swimming, it would be great to mix patterns for prevention of bad habits getting ingrained. It also includes swapping of sides at alternate lengths. If you're struggling to breathe at one side, you can check the technique required for symmetrical and balanced rotation. Here a rotation lack to certain side impact's the ability of head for turning. When the head can repeatedly turn to a single side, it negatively affects the position of the body along with movements of arm. As an outcome, it is always best to balance certain training movements so many times they don't get recurring on their own.


The head is a clumsy, large object that lets you swim faster when it doesn't show any movement. Therefore, you have to keep the movements of your head quick, fluid, and fast when you're turning for breathing.


Many coaches suggest a total exhalation at last moment before head-turning for keeping your body high in water. While others think that the additional buoyancy to chest cavity keeps legs lower, and therefore they prefer continuous exhalation.


Many arguments have been made in favor of or against both these styles. It is necessary to minimize anything that results in tension.


Consider exhaling a little amount continuously at the stage of face-in-the-water, and when the legs are low, you can find why - probably you're getting contributing factors.


Pro swimmers are always willing to know how to breathe in open water swimming in the right ways. The key for breathing in open water and pool is timing while taking natural breath and gradually exhaling as the arm is back in meant for another stroke. Exhale that gets done through mouth or nose relaxes your body. The relaxed body can be equally similar to relaxed mind, which is vital for having open water long swims.


For building confidence and comfortably exhaling underwater you can try this basic drill.


  • Stand with shallow end while hip facing forward and bent front knee with three-quarters head immersed.

  • Now rotate the head towards 90 degrees while building contact with temple and ear with water.

  • Have normal breath for 2 seconds as low to water as possible while only showing one goggle.

  • Now put back the head inside water while seeing downwards and exhaling through mouth and nose for around 3 seconds while blowing bubbles.

  • You can repeat the process 100 times.


Concerning the breathing frequency, temperature is an important aspect. However, swell and waves also effect while taking breath. Still, it is vital in rough conditions to be calm and not gasp for breath. With more experience in such conditions, you'll be able to find out when the waves will arrive and find air pockets for breathing.



A commonly used and much liked breathing pattern for swimming is the famous 3.2 style breathing. This style requires you to put 3 strokes in between breaths, and then 2. This mixes 2 breaths to left and two to right. This can be considered as 2 breaths taken per five strokes, instead of 6, which seems little bit less exhaustive. Here bilateral breathing is encouraged (for both sides) at low training intensities like subsets, warm-ups, and cool downs.


For getting help in technique improvement, it is best to invest in a center snorkel. The handy swimming equipment is used in triathlon swimming training for their breathing drills. With it you altogether remove the requirement of moving head for breathing, letting you have a chance for focusing on arm movements and body position.


Remaining comfortable with freestyle breathing aspect isn't simple, but once you've mastered it you can relax in water and begin making significant swim improvements. When you're early in swimming experience, the stroke dictates when you're breathing (compared to run and bike where you always remain in charge), while preventing you from relaxing at the time of swim. When the mechanics of the stroke improve, you'll take charge of breathing, letting you have a relaxed stroke. Now, using a relaxed swim stroke is economical, less aggressive, and requires less air along with delicate balance.



Whether for training sessions in open waters or a swimming competition, swimmers require a little time before setting off for analyzing future playing field.


It is vital to memorize and visualize the route planned for taking along with exact location, color, and shape of floats. It is a vital step, whether you've planned on swimming inside designated swimming area or out of it.


Additionally to locating buoys, you also have to find high landmarks visible through a distance (tree, pylon, building, etc.). This is handy when you're swimming inside the sea due to the height of waves. Once, indeed when you get several meters ahead of the shore, they block the coastline vision along with the landmarks.


And now for the large waves, you can just treat them as your friends! You can use them for gaining height and know where you're comfortable.


Memorizing such key reference points subconsciously help you without the need for lifting your head ten meters, while maintaining consistency in the route.


When you can mix spatial awareness with fine breathing techniques, you can act as a compass in real-life!



It is a known fact that swimmers generally elevate their heads in open water when taking a breath. It is a highly effective way of simultaneously combining taking in air and orientation.


The technique is most commonly seen among experienced open water swimming professionals. Moreover, at the sea, additionally, orientation and breathing, helps you in providing rest for your legs and arms as the wave passes beneath you.


However, when you're looking this way in front, when swimming open waters without losing stroke effectiveness, you'd need to use a great technique.


Firstly, you would have to shift the weight in water, deeper down with bent elbows for lifting shoulders, and raising the head out of water while you're propelling forward. You must look into the distance for orienting yourself and at the same time breathing.


Once you're up straightened, you'll notice yourself in the position of "water polo", with the head in open air and the legs compensating the imbalance through quick kicking. For this technique, you need to exhale all the air while in water for encouraging rapid inhalation. As for the orientation, when you've done the work of reconnaissance properly before you jump in, you'll quickly be able to find the way with just a blink of an eye!


The way you're returning the arms through air is quite different for the pool. Rather than lifting the elbow and bending the arm, the arm has to skim water, as close as possible.


Then the head must get lowered with the upper body for finding the place between shoulders for horizontal smooth strokes.


You don't have to use the techniques with two movements until you're not able to locate yourself at the very first. It is because it results in pace change that quickly becomes tiring. You can use it according to the environment and level of comfort for each 4, 6, 8, or 10 movement.


With these techniques and movements, you now know about the ability to remain on course in open waters! However, before beginning, you have to effectively orient yourself as this is the first precondition of clearly seeing!


You have to be sure about this; select the swimming goggle with mirrored lenses for the protection of eyes from the sun's reflection on the water. Also, avoid foggy sessions, shampoo your swimming goggles a little bit and rinse these before heading off!


Let's hope that after following this info you'll know how to breathe in open water swimming and unhesitatingly be able to enjoy your open water swim sessions!

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