For many new swimmers, breathing is a major challenge. It can feel impossible to stay afloat, move forward and take a breath without inhaling water. But trust us — with some practice, you can master freestyle breathing technique and get comfortable breathing while you swim.
If you feel super out of breath when you swim, these drills will help ease you into breathing on your side in freestyle. Let’s get started!
First: Get Comfortable
Before you start swimming, it’s important that you’re relaxed and comfortable. If your stroke is stiff and rigid because you’re nervous, stressed or anxious about swimming, you aren’t going to get the most out of your stroke.
Those feelings are very normal for new swimmers! Try taking a few deep breaths before hopping in the water to get your heart rate down. Enter the water slowly, maybe sitting on the side of the pool and dipping your feet, and then sliding in. Try dipping your face in the water a couple times.
Practice Exhaling Underwater
When you’re swimming, you have less control over your breath than you do during land-based activities. The best way to establish a breathing rhythm is to exhale while your face is in the water, rather than trying to exhale and inhale when your face is out of the water.
To practice, dip your face in the water and exhale, and blow bubbles. Making a humming noise can help you get going! After you’ve exhaled out all of your air, lift your head, inhale and repeat again.
Try this with and without goggles. Once you’re comfortable with this, it’s time to move on to our drill progression!
Drill 1: Blowing Bubbles
Do this drill in a pool that is shallow enough to stand in. Facing the wall, place your hands on the wall. Lean forward and dip your face in the water. Exhale and blow bubbles for 3-5 seconds. Lift your head, take a breath, and drop back down for another 3-5 second exhale.
Drill 2: Float Your Feet
When you’re ready to move on, try floating your feet off the bottom while you grip the side of the pool with both hands. When your feet are floating, do the same breathing exercise as drill #1: Inhale above water, dip your face and exhale for 3-5 seconds underwater.
Kick your feet lightly to keep your hips afloat. You will notice that your hips sink when you lift your head, and that’s ok!
Drill 3: Adding an Arm Stroke
Our next progression incorporates an arm stroke and moves our breath to the side. Starting with both hands on the wall and your feet floating, dip your head, exhale, and just as your exhale is finishing, take one freestyle arm stroke, turning your head to the side and inhaling as your arm exits the water near your hip.
As your arm returns to the wall, rotate your head back under and start your exhale.
If you take a stroke with your right arm, turn your head to the right to breathe. Keep kicking your feet to keep those hips level with the surface!
Drill 4: Add a Kickboard
Building on the previous single arm drill, this next drill adds a bit of forward motion to the equation. Grab a kickboard, pull buoy or other flotation device. Extend your arms straight and grip your board on either side. Begin kicking lightly and dunk your head underwater. As you kick, take one arm stroke and turn to the side to inhale.
Return your face to the water as your hand makes it back to the kickboard, and repeat on the other side. Try a few 25s of this drill — add fins for a little extra oomph if you like!
Try Swimming Freestyle
When you’re comfortable with breathing mechanics during these drills, try swimming the full freestyle stroke! Try breathing every 3 strokes, alternating sides. However, many swimmers favor one side over the other, breathing every 2 or 4 strokes.
When you rotate to breathe, try to keep the opposite arm extended as straight as possible. Think about maintaining your forward progress with a little glide as you breathe. If you stop moving, you’ll sink.
Swim with the MySwimPro App
When you’re training on your own, it can be tough to know how to get the best workout. That’s where the MySwimPro app comes in! We help you make the most of your time in the water with personalized, Guided Workouts and Training Plans designed to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
As you improve, MySwimPro Coach will keep challenging you, to help you get faster and fitter than ever before.
Sync a compatible Apple or Garmin smartwatch for extra tracking, and Set-by-Set guidance. Or, print a PDF of your Workout to bring with you to the pool.
Ready to get started? Download MySwimPro on iPhone or Android, and use code SWIM35 to save $35 on your first year of training with MySwimPro Coach!