Swimming Conundrum #1: I can’t breathe.

Dolphins have a convenient blowhole. Fish don’t need to worry about all of that breathing-oxygen silliness.

But evidently, I don’t know how to breathe properly while I’m swimming.

This little guy has a blowhole to help him breathe. Humans have to learn actual breathing techniques to do it correctly in the water.
This little guy has a blowhole to help him breathe in water. Humans have to learn actual breathing techniques to do it right. (Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Chalk this one up under “Lessons learned while getting active.” Yesterday, after a lifetime of sort-of knowing how to swim freestyle – at least enough to get myself back and forth in a 25-yard pool without too much angst (but also without a whole lot of speed, truth be told), my swim coach informed me that I breathe the wrong way.

Turns out I’m, well, turning my head at the wrong time – I’m starting the breath as my arm is pulling back in the water. I should be turning my head after my stroke arm has completed the stroke and is fixin’ to go forward for the next stroke. It’s a faster breath, delayed a bit from when I now start it.

And that made the workout yesterday a whole lotta fun because suddenly I’m trying to break a habit I’ve been in since summer camp when I was 10 years old. Actually, it wasn’t much fun at all. It was really hard and I ate a bunch of water trying mightily to gulp in enough air to get through my workout.

That’s what coaching gives you: an expert eye to check out what you’re doing and really teach you how to get better – not just to give you rah-rah’s about trying harder. I’ve taken lessons from tacticians and I’ve taken lessons from feel-good cheerleader coaches who don’t bother to teach a lick of actual technique. I’m here to report to the troops that the tactician may be less fun/charismatic/able to make the pain go away by being cool. But he or she just might be the best thing that ever happens to your sporting life.

Maybe yesterday I just learned how to breathe while swimming freestyle. Or maybe I started walking down the path of becoming a strong enough swimmer to eventually compete in an Ironman, because now my strokes generate more power because I’m breathing at the right time.

Time will tell. And that’s the fun part.

Yesterday’s #every48 workout: I was late to swim class but got there – 45 minutes of distance work in the pool, paying attention to every breath.

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