Relax and Swim

The Wet Test

You may have strolled through the Secrets of Air and Water already. Therefore, you’ve observed yourself taking a normal breath with your mouth open. Let’s tinker with this technique to see how it’ll work in water.
Adjusting your breathing while swimming will come later, of course, but we can handle the basics right here:

A 5-second review

Take a normal-sized breath.
Exhale through your mouth and nose in a steady stream.
(If you’ve had lessons before, this should seem familiar.)
No big inhales, please, you won’t need them.
Keep your jaw loose and your mouth a little open.
This will feel more and more natural, and well it should – you do it all day, anyway.

Your home pool

Up for a test drive? We’ll need a little body of water, big enough for your face to dip into.
Any size or shape container is fine.
Whatever it is will be clean, big enough for your face to fit in, filled with warm (but not hot!) water and placed on a table.
You’ll be sitting, looking down over it.

Possible mini "pools" for at-home breathing practice

Possible mini “pools” for at-home breathing practice

So go ahead, find your practice pool and come back when you’re ready.
I’ll hang around; I noticed you have some ice cream in your freezer.
Um, do you mind?

Try this at home

OK. We’re back and ready to roll. You’re sitting at a table, facing your mini “pool” in front of you.

Take a normal breath, relax your shoulders and jaw, and dip your mouth and nose in.
Your eyes can be open or closed.
Let all your air bubble steadily out your nose and mouth, and then come on up.

Still there? How was it?

Let’s do it again. Check your shoulders – they’ll be loose, like your fingers and toes. This keeps your jaw relaxed so that your mouth can be a bit open underwater.
This part really matters, by the way. Clenched teeth, clenched swimmer. But not for you!
Your breath will take 5 seconds or so to bubble out, no more.

See you in a few…

How was it this time? And how do you feel?

You’ve come far already. I give you a lot of credit, and you’ll improve with every practice.
So go ahead, repeat, repeat.
I’ll be waiting while you do some more dips in the pool.
(Meanwhile, I couldn’t help noticing that last piece of cheesecake in your fridge…)

Back again. So.
At this point you’ve put your mouth,your nose, and a bit of your face in water, while holding your breath.
With your mouth relaxed, you bubbled your breath out your mouth and nose, then came up. You fish!

Excellent work, my friend.

Not so fast!

There’s a final item on our list still to learn before you outgrow that little bitty pool you’re using. First, though, be honest with yourself: is your breathing smooth and relaxed yet? (It never is at first; everyone needs to practice.)
All your future pool moves depend on your relaxed breathing, and you’re not about to shortchange yourself now.

If you want to practice a bit more before we move on, I’ll wait, don’t worry. (Though your fridge looks kind of empty now. But I’m the forgiving type.)
If you feel good and loose, then everyone back in the pool! (You might want to refill it with warmer water by now.)
Let’s not keep lifting your face out of the pool for your air.

Coordinate your breathing

Time to get your air like the swimmers do.
Your pool should be wide enough for your face and then some. We’re going to coordinate our breathing.

Here’s how it works:

1. Start by taking a breath and dipping your nose and mouth into the pool.
2. As you exhale, s l o w l y turn your head and neck to one side, rolling your mouth out of the water. Your ear will be submerged.
3. S l o w l y exhale through your mouth and nose as you roll out of the water.
4. Inhale while your mouth is out of the water.
5. Begin s l o w l y bubbling a little out your nose, even before touching the water again.
6. Slowly continue rolling your face back into the water, facing down, bubbling, bubbling.
7. Roll your face back out of the water, exhaling.

The first of a lifetime of swimmer’s breaths!
Let’s do that again.
Try doing the whole cycle of exhale-head roll out … inhale-head roll in steadily and slowly without stopping.

Can you see how a too-big breath will toy with your timing?
Try it, try it. So let’s stay with the slow pace for now.
And don’t forget to relax, OK? You learned to walk once, and that took practice, too.

So, here we are! If you haven’t noticed, this is momentous, yes?
You have looked that little pool in the eye and gone right in.
Water is water, and you learned a big part of handling it – breathing – here.
Swimming is based on the same breathing, with the right gear, in a larger pool.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself!

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