Bilateral breathing

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tredders
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Bilateral breathing

Postby tredders » Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:31 am

Excuse me if this question has been asked before. I couldn't find it in a forum search.
I started focusing on bilateral breathing recently and have found it a big help in improving my style.
However I was watching the Australian swimming championships last night on TV and could not see any of the competitors using bilateral breathing.
Do elite swimmers revert to unilateral breathing for some reason?
Thanks for your thoughts. :)

Don Wright
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Don Wright » Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:38 am

Inhalation disturbs the body's flow through the water - turning the neck to inhale in the bow wave trough takes precious time when the mind is not concentrating on what the arms/legs are doing. That's why short distance sprinters inhale as few times as possible - commensurate with energy expenditure - over the course of their races. Also, if one needs to inhale, then better to do it on one's "happiest" side only - unless there is a need to keep an eye on close-hauling competitors. "3 arm-stroke bilateral" breathing is good for keeping more straight on a long OW course - there's more likelihood of going wildly off-course if unilateral breathing is used. Most good swimmers ensure that they pay as much attention to the UW arm-stroke on the non-breathing side as on the breathing one - but little individual traits, like one arm being stronger than the other, can mean that in an OW situation it is all too easy to get off-course and end up covering a longer distance. One elite pool sprinter claimed that he looked at the pool floor tiles carefully before a race and worked out where he would do his inhalations, as he counted them while passing over them during the actual race! Try timing yourself, as best you can, doing a single length at 2 arm stroke unilateral - then again at 4 arm stroke unilateral - it makes a noticeable difference concentrating on the arm/leg action during the longer period between breaths!

Sprinter
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Sprinter » Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:02 am

A good recent discussion is
http://theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/breat ... swim-race/
http://theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/inhal ... ming-fast/
(together with the discussions).

In short:
- For a sprint-race (50m), minimise breathing.
- For all other races, *maximise* breathing.
In this framework, bilateral breathing is used, if at all, only for exercising.

There are other frameworks (SwimSmooth, of course, has a much bigger emphasis on bilateral breathing) -- you need to decide.

Whatever you do, I think you also need to practice unilateral breathing! And once in a while re-evaluate your framework: your swimming changes!

It seems for breathing in swimming there are no final solutions, but in certain phases, under certain conditions, some choices are better than others.
Don't fear unilateral breathing, but minimise the imbalance it typically creates. And remember: whatever you do, it's always wrong :lol: (that's a feature, not a bug :ugeek: )

Sprinter
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Sprinter » Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:10 am

Just adding to what Don said: Concerning the effect on speed, I have my doubts that even for a good age-group swimmer the number of breaths really make a difference, IF there is a good effort in making the disturbance by breathing as small as possible (as small as possible the head movement, to not increase drag, and as quick as possible, to not disturb the stroke rate). I think there is a fundamental difference between, say, swimming 50m in 22s or in 30s, and the water is more forgiving in the latter case.

GoManGo
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby GoManGo » Sat Apr 09, 2016 12:25 pm

When I started swimming "properly" a few years a go I was a unilateral breather who favoured one side only. A friend who was a good swimmer suggested that I learn to bilateral breathe and after a bit of effort I managed to get comfortable with it and then started using it exclusively. Now, I'm not (and never was) a fast swimmer and after a gap of 3 years I have returned to swimming in preparation for a 1500m OW swim in an Olympic distance triathlon.

Having discovered Swim Smooth in recent months I have been experimenting with all sorts of techniques to try and improve my swimming and breathing is one of those. My point is that if I wasn't able to bilateral breathe I would find it very difficult to try other breathing patterns to see if they suited better to help me swim faster. e.g. 2 breaths one side, then bilateral, then 2 breaths the other side.

I think bilateral breathing is something every swimmer should be capable of and only then does it give them the ability to decide their optimum breathing pattern (on either side) for how fast they are able to go. This also allows them to change that pattern if necessary as hopefully their technique and speed progresses over time. Also during an event they might wish to breathe on one particular side to keep on course better in an OW swim, following course marker buoys for instance, as I have done in past events.
Last edited by GoManGo on Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sprinter
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Sprinter » Sat Apr 09, 2016 1:03 pm

Just a bit of personal history regarding breathing: When I (re-)started swimming in 2000, for a couple of years I did it unilateral, to my good (right) side. Then I switched to bilateral, until about beginning of 2014. I had big neck and shoulder problems, and the rotation caused a lot of problem, so then switching (back) to unilateral was a big progress for me -- swimming started to be always fun again! From the end of 2012 on I also practised more seriously, and I had my first (SwimSmooth) video analysis. I always practised a bit of breathing to the other side, but for longer than 100m it was always painful to breath to my weak side (which is restricted in rotation).

So breathing problem solved, but, I guess naturally, my stroke then became more unbalanced. So I re-introduced some lengths of breathing to the other side, and a bit of bilateral breathing.

In recent weeks I actually practised some more bilateral swimming: finally I think I have the right technique to do this properly, with relatively little movement. For a few weeks I didn't get the popeye mouth on the left side (my weak side), but I got that fixed. Moreover, that additional (dangerous) rotation (swinging), with the head from left to right and back with bilateral, forced me to really focus on minimising the movement, and I improved on that, being now able to breath with what even feels more than one goggle under water, just the far corner of the mouth sucking the air in -- feels quite good, actually!

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Tom65
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Tom65 » Sun Apr 10, 2016 4:01 am

Gotta breathe hard when you're going hard for good heath.

http://www.outsideonline.com/1926956/ar ... rt-attacks
"Since core blood pressure is already elevated by being in chilly water, piling on the hard work of swimming can be too much for that fragile system. Even under normal conditions a little fluid leaks into our lungs, Bates explained, but it’s cleared by the lymph system—which relies on ventilation—and we never notice it. Since swimmers are prone, with their faces in the water, and take longer intervals between breaths, they can’t ventilate like a runner. That makes the lymph system less efficient. Hence, edema."
Forum locked, might go to TI's forum, looked at SS's facebook page, too many photos...ewww...for me.
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tredders
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby tredders » Mon Apr 11, 2016 12:04 pm

Thanks guys for all your valuable input.
One of my goals in swimming is to even out my postural distortion, & I think the bb is good for that.
It's good that you guys have put it in perspective for me - a useful option.
:P

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Tom65
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Tom65 » Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:01 pm

I don't understand tri's breathing every three for another reason, I thought the advantage of being able to breathe to both sides allowed them to breathe on the most appropriate side to suit the conditions, otherwise you could find yourself only getting a decent breath every 6 strokes.
Forum locked, might go to TI's forum, looked at SS's facebook page, too many photos...ewww...for me.
New Forum http://swim.palstani.com/

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Mike A
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Mike A » Wed Apr 13, 2016 11:11 pm

So Brad's average stroke rate is 57 spm and Paul's is 74 spm. That means Brad's stroke period is 1.0526s and Paul's is 0.811s. Interesting to look at how that translates into breathing cycle periods.
Paul: 2 strokes: 1.62s 3 strokes: 2.43s
Brad: 2 strokes: 2.11s 3 strokes: 3.1578s

So you can see that breathing every 3 strokes for Paul is in a similar ballpark to breathing every 2 strokes for Brad.
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Mike A
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Mike A » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:36 am

...who's going to walk up to brad and tell him he's doing it wrong?


Well, probably not Paul, cos Brad beat him! :) Seriously though, it just highlights the fact that one-to-one coaching allows for tailoring to the individual in a way that can't be achieved when packaging up advice into a system/app/website. After all, with his speed over long distance, and his huge ape index, Brad is hardly your typical punter!

But you don't need to be a superfish to not quite fit the framework. For example, SwimSmooth recommends a "gentle flutter kick" for most people, and regards two-beat-kicking as an advanced technique - but for me, it was the other way around; I didn't make any real progress with freestyle until I adopted a 2bk, which immediately felt better and enabled me to quickly build stamina/distance. About a year back I had a one-to-one coaching session, and asked whether I might be better switching to 6-beat, but was advised that the 2-beat seemed to be working pretty well for me, so I was probably best to stick with it.

I guess the take-home lesson is that, when all's said and done, you just have to try out the options and see what works for you.
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Adivio
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Adivio » Fri Apr 15, 2016 12:44 pm

what is your stroke rate? have you ever measured your respiration rate while running or cycling at similar work levels? you may find bilateral is a perfect fit for you and that is great!


Hi Ducky,
I know you didn't ask me this but thought I could benefit from it :).

My stroke rate is somewhere around 64-65. Yesterday I counted my respiration rate while running at around 70% effort and it was close to 80.
Does this mean that I have to bump up my stroke rate to this level?

Adrian
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Adivio
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Adivio » Fri Apr 15, 2016 12:55 pm

not a typo. Comes naturally to me. Somehow it gets synchronized to cadence which is over 160 (both legs counted).
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Adivio » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:17 pm

I don't breath bilateral anymore. Realized this long ago that I need all the oxygen I can get.
So it's all unilateral even when going slower. It is then around 65 per minute which feels Ok. I was wondering if I need to increase SPM even more.

Another advantage of unilateral for me is that the stroke is always the same so it is easier to
pay attention to certain things when you don't need to switch left and right.
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Capri90
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Capri90 » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:52 pm

I've been trying to work out whether I should switch to unilateral or not for probably the last year. Always breathed bilaterally 1:3, but when I'm lifting the pace I do often feel gassed, especially with flip turns, usually breath to both sides out of a turn and then back to 1:3. I've noticed using a snorkel I feel much more relaxed which tells me that I probably should be breathing more often. My problem, I find unilateral feels really odd kind of lopsided. When I have tried to introduce unilateral I will swim a 25 breathing right (feels ok) and the next 25 left (really awkward). For the past year I have a niggle in left shoulder, and in Feb actually saw a SS coach for vid analysis but couldn't spot anything obvious that could be causing the problem, he thought it all looked good.

This suggests to me that I'm perhaps not rotating enough to my left considering difficulty breathing this side and left shoulder problem, but according to the video footage rotation looks even both sides to about 30 degrees (perhaps very slightly less rotation to left side, with slightly more of a swing to left arm recovery & elbow lower than right recov).

Now back to bi/uni-lateral debate. Do you think forcing myself to swim unilaterally, breathing to left (awkward) side for majority of practice could actually help with the saw shoulder and potentially unleash some room for fitness improvement?

GoManGo
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby GoManGo » Fri Apr 15, 2016 4:06 pm

I've been monitoring this thread with great interest and as a result have experimented with returning to unilateral breathing to see what effect it had. Unfortunately I came to the conclusion that I was feeling lop-sided and pulling too hard on one side. I have a weakened left arm and shoulder due to a bike accident 3 years ago and have only returned to serious FS swimming at the start of this year. As such I feel like I am pulling much harder on one side compared to the other which just felt wrong.

My biggest problem is that my swimming technique is so poor that breathing unilaterally doesn't result in me swimming any faster so I returned to bilateral breathing for today's swim session.

I was therefore surprised to learn there is such a thing as "loping" or swimming asymmetrically which seems to be quite a valid style, especially with Michael Phelps being held up as an exponent. I found this thread on here discussing the style:

http://swimsmoothforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=4189

Now that I know that it's perfectly OK to swim asymmetrically, especially if you have uneven sides, then I will persevere with unilateral breathing and see if it makes any difference to my swim times.

Sprinter
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Sprinter » Fri Apr 15, 2016 8:08 pm

GoManGo wrote:My biggest problem is that my swimming technique is so poor that breathing unilaterally doesn't result in me swimming any faster so I returned to bilateral breathing for today's swim session.

Now that I know that it's perfectly OK to swim asymmetrically, especially if you have uneven sides, then I will persevere with unilateral breathing and see if it makes any difference to my swim times.


I would be very careful with asymmetrical swimming -- every coach, who I have heard discussing this issue (for non-professionals), emphasises that one must fight the imbalance, so that it doesn't destroy the stroke (and your health!). An asymmetrical stroke should be kind of put "on top" a basic symmetrical stroke, based on *strength* (exploiting the resources of the stronger side), not on weakness (you can't do it due to poor technique).

Phelps' hybrid style I guess is still rather symmetrical, and I guess it becomes very symmetrical if he swims slower.

GoManGo
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby GoManGo » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:28 pm

Sprinter & Ducky,

Thanks for the clarification guys. I wholly misunderstood what was involved with loping and the way it was discussed previously. I thought it applied to swimmers who quite naturally favoured one side rather than a style that was actively practiced.

Don Wright
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby Don Wright » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:56 am

Ducky wrote:...many wrongly think loping is how much you bob up and down and that aspect is actually a bad thing.


Think we can blame "GoSwim"" for that - some 4-or 5 years ago they issued a couple of clips saying "enjoy the thrill of the sort of fast movement that elites make!" - or words to that effect. "cottmiler alerted me to the clip called "Loping Drill" - bods deliberately nodded their heads into the water, or do a "surface forwards dive, to burrow the head UW - to bring their legs up close to the surface and then kicked like crazy (in between arm recoveries). A later clip was more "dignified" and had "a chap with one arm outstretched waiting, as he kicked like crazy for a while, before inhaling/switching arms etc, - think that was intended to help those who were asymmetrical with one arm stronger than the other!

A more recent "GoSwim" clip showed a bod doing normal FS arm action, but using dolphin kicking (which requires the head to be nodded into the water in order to get a body undulation started. Although it involved head bobbing up/down - it certainly seemed quick, because the surface area of 2 legs together doing the kicking, compared with single alternate leg flutter kicking. Also the body undulation provided a bit of propulsion anyway. The only trouble I found was that the continual head "nod" into the water gave me a bit of a headache (water slapping against the forehead!) - also after snatching a quick inhalation during an arm up-sweep, the head has to be returned smartly to the front in order to do the next head nod! ;)

smootharnie
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Re: Bilateral breathing

Postby smootharnie » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:02 pm

Ducky, since loping is still fresh for you, you are probably more aware of the cons and pros compared to you non-bouncing stroke.

Looking at Paltrinieri I have always thought his lope is helping to pull him a bit over the water.
He is a very light persom with much upperbody power. If a wetsuit is already worth alot of speed, lifting yourself 1% higher over the water in the upbounce must gie you some extra speed there.
You re not build like Paltrinieri , but can you imagine anything like this happening?

And do you think there is some sort of undulation in the lope,or is there a bounce rhythm of buoyancy up and falling back?
Do you think the fall helps the catching side where the body is falling in, making it a bit easier pulling on that arm?

Or is it just a mix of hip and shoulderdrive and is there not much further magic behind it?
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