Archives for the month of: July, 2015

I will be away for the next 4 weeks due to a combination of racing and holidays and with other coaches being away, too, you will be following the sessions yourselves that I have left at the pool on July 18th and August 8th.  So you if you arrive  first on Saturday morning please get the sessions out of the club box and put out for each of the lanes.

Fortunately, though, Simon has kindly offered to coach for the middle two sessions when I am away.  And as an added bonus he has written a guest post (below) on belly breathing which I think many of you will find interesting.

For those of you that don’t know Simon he is one of the speedy lane 1 swimmers who you will have learnt more about if you read Anna’s most recent, excellent weekly race report.  His article follows below.

I hope you all have a good few weeks of training and racing and look forward to hearing about it when I get back!


Breathing Techniques

Rob asked me to jot some notes down on some breathing techniques I use that has helped me push much harder on my swims from short 50 to 400m racing, hard swim sets and now the 5k swims.

A few years ago I entered the Masters National Swimming and getting warmed up for very short racing; 50m, 100m and 200m I struggled on the warm up and wondered why I felt so bad when I started and only after about 500 to 800m really felt comfortable to be ready for the race. So what was going on?

At the time I was doing my L2 Coach Course and asked the Tutor Rob Robson what was going on and got this great answer on why warm ups felt so bad at the beginning…you may all know this but for me this for was ideal as I now understood the reason I felt so bad and what the body needs to go through to prepare itself for a hard set ahead….. and thus why the warmup is so important!

O2 Deficit

If we start with the body at relative rest.  The blood is full of oxygen (O2).  At rest even the blood returning to the heart is still full of O2.  This mechanism exists as we are unable to store O2 and need a constant available supply for “fight or flight”.

So we begin to exercise. The bodies initial response is to simply extract more of the available O2 from the circulating blood.  This means the blood returning to the heart now has less O2 and more carbon dioxide (CO2) in it.

It is the increased level of CO2 which switches on the bodies response to the effort; increased heart rate, larger stroke volume, deeper and more rapid breathing.

The athletic issue is this response works behind the effort i.e. you make the effort, then the body plays catch up.  The harder the effort the longer the catch up and the worse it feels.

This is why a gradual warm up, getting heart rate and respiration etc to or above the effort of the main session is so essential. You want the bodies response mechanism already turn on and working.

This was only one part of the breathing as I now understood what I needed to go through to prepare for sprint racing but would often find myself struggling to catch breath in hard training sets even when warmed up properly.

I had a session with an Osteopath who was looking into my numb hand issue and we looked at Thorasic Outlet Syndrome as the cause. One of the exercises was to breathe from the belly to help reduce the movement in the top of the chest and compressing the nerves/arteries in this area.

It was explained to me that most people shallow breath, from top of the chest. When you sit down and breath look down what moves? If chest is moving that is likely to be shallow breathing and simply does not take in as much air as your lungs can take in.

So I tried some belly breathing drills and overtime I learnt to belly breath when I swim.
The difference this made to my swimming was immense….it felt like and still does I have an added advantage. Those in lane one will know I take a time to warm up but with my focus on the breathing and the stroke I have a much better backend to the session and can keep pushing as the set progresses. My splits at the Grafham 5k where very similar over the 7 laps, and my final lap at the Great East Swim 5k was able to pick up the pace using the belly breathing, and obviously focus on the stroke.

I think about my lungs as a pair of old bellows (not far from truth now) that you use to start a fire. Hold the bellows down the handle and pump them in and out quite fast you get lots of short puffs (Shallow Breathing). Move hands up to the ends of the handles and then open fully and at a certain point the amount of air being sucked in will be massive (Belly Breathing). This additional amount of air in my lungs means that I can really push and I find I can go into turns without taking a breath and at the backend of a distance set/swim can push more. 

It works for me, so if you want to know anymore please feel free to ask, I am about on Fridays at the lake and most Saturday’s, when not racing with the kids.


This week we’ll be taking a break from some of the higher intensity work we’ve been doing recently to do some steady-paced reps and, to make it a bit different, doing some breast stroke as well.  Going a bit steadier than usual is a good opportunity to think about your technique and make sure you are swimming as efficiently as possible.  So I would encourage you to think about the basic of fast and efficient swimming, namely reducing drag and maximising propulsion.

Most of you know all the basics about reducing drag – keeping flat in the water, with your head looking down, and keeping a straight line without any side-to-side snaking with your hips.  You also know the basics of maximizing propulsion by getting that nice, high-elbow catch of the water and using your whole hand and forearm with a nice long pull.  However, one thing that I see a lot of when watching you train is an increase in drag caused by trying to catch too early.

If you start pressing the water down hard after your hand entry into the water it feels good because you are putting effort in and, like all good triathletes, we all like to put effort in and try hard.  However, if you press the water down you push yourselves upwards more than forwards which both wastes effort and increases your drag as you bob up and down with each stroke.  So this week I’d like you all to try thinking about being patient at the catch.  This means waiting until your hand is under your head, with a vertical forearm in the water due to your wonderful high elbows, before applying power.  This also has the added benefit of engaging your bigger muscles in your back rather than your shoulders.  Doing this well will make you more efficient and make your longer swims less tiring at a faster pace.

See you Saturday!


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