A couple of things about breathing while swimming.  I think this is the most difficult part of learning how to swim.  It took me some time to figure out how to breathe at all while I swum.  It took tons and tons of research and effort to finally get to a point where I am more comfortable with it.  But like the rest of the swim, there are so many moving parts to think about that it can get overwhelming.

The first part to remember is that you need to stay balanced in the water.  If you raise your head to get air, your legs will fall back into the water causing you to kick to get back into balance.  That makes you inefficient, and in triathlon it also tires your legs before you get out of the pool.  Your goal in the water is to reserve your legs for later, so these are both trouble.

Therefore, the best way to  keep yourself balanced is to just turn your head as little as possible and let your body roll bring you up to the water.  There are a couple of tips for that.  One is to put your chin on the shoulder that is rolling up.  That way you can control how far your head turns and let your body do the work.  The other option is to put the back of your head against the shoulder of the opposite arm.  Same effect different focus.

This is how I started, and now I don’t even think about it.

The other issue that I have been working on lately is exhaling.  I have realized that I haven’t been exhaling completely underwater.  It seems counter-intuitive,  but that is really key.  If you don’t get all of the air out of your lungs, when you turn for air, you will either stay up too long, or not get enough air.  If you stay up too long your balance and efficiency is effected, if you don’t get enough air you get winded prematurely.

Lately I have been focusing exclusively on breathing.  I focus on exhaling while underwater, and then on rotating up leaving one goggle in the water.  I forget about form, and I focus on rhythm.  Almost automatically, my stroke began matching my breath.  Before I knew it I had finished a length, then a lap and then 5 laps.  Nice easy strokes with a focus on breathing.  It is really the key.

Once this becomes second nature I will focus on perfecting my form.  Until then, slow steady breathing.  Phew!