Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(not) waiting to exhale

marine boy

Front crawl, as I learned five years ago, is all about exhaling. Apart from some shaky arm swings and awkward head positioning, one of the vital pieces of the puzzle missing from my freestyle was breathing ... at the right time ... and not holding my breath.

My instructor patiently corrected my head positioning (look backwards, not forwards) and bent my arm at the elbow (no more windmill flailing) before moving on to oxygenation. I wasn't making progress because I wasn't breathing with my face in the water. Holding my breath meant I tensed up and then gasped uselessly on the surface. No wonder I wasn't getting anywhere fast!

As a mammal with a very very strong epiglottal dive reflex, the idea of letting go of precious bubbles underwater was an absolute no-no. I have a strong fear of water and only swim where I feel comfortable. Before my freestyle lessons, I felt very uneasy breathing out underwater and had a total horror of running out of air while submerged.

But Penny persevered and showed me how exhaling while my face was submerged meant I could snatch a much deeper oxygenating breath as I rolled with every third stroke. And that's the pattern I've stuck with, slowly noticing improvements in stamina and speed. To swim fast and efficiently your muscles need well-oxygenated blood; to get well-oxygenated blood you need to spend your surface time breathing in, not out. Simples!

And so with life currently.
Stop. Breathe out when you're under.
Breathe in when you're on top.
Rinse and repeat.
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