FORM Fundamentals: How to Breathe While Swimming

FORM Fundamentals: How to Breathe While Swimming

Get ready for week two of FORM Fundamentals! From last week, we know that your head position is key when improving your body position and swimming more efficiently. The same goes when you’re breathing, which is this week’s focus.

When you’re swimming, proper breathing comes down to timing—learning when and how to inhale and exhale. Unlike other sports, breathing can be challenging when swimming because your rhythm needs to match where your head is—in or out of the water. We’re going to share how you can properly breathe, which will help you feel more confident and comfortable when you’re swimming.

The Timing of Breathing is Everything

Breathing feels so natural, but once you’re in the water focusing on your stroke, technique, and pace, it doesn’t come as easy. It takes practice and patience to get the timing and body alignment of breathing down. Once breathing becomes more comfortable and consistent, you’ll be able to swim more effortlessly, efficiently, and effectively.

As you swim through this week’s workouts, think about these three key tips to help improve your breathing:

1. Turn your head slightly to the side

When taking a breath, turn your head slightly to the side so only one goggle lens is out of the water. You should be looking to the side at the water’s surface instead of lifting your head and looking up.

2. Quickly inhale, then exhale completely in the water

When you take a breath, focus on a quick inhale. Don’t hold your breath while swimming. Instead, exhale completely underwater. This makes it easier to take a quick inhale on your next breath instead of trying to exhale and inhale when your head is out of the water.

3. Leave your arm extended while you take a breath

As you turn your head to breathe to one side, your arm on the opposite side should extend in front of you. This helps keep your body up and supported, making it easier to take a breath. For example, if you breathe to your right side, your left arm should be extended.

FORM Fundamentals breathing blog

Switch Up Your Breathing Pattern

To feel more confident with your breathing while swimming, you can practice changing up your breathing pattern.

Breathing to Both Sides

Breathing to the right and left side is called bilateral breathing (example: breathing every 3 or 5 strokes). Benefits of bilateral breathing include a more balanced stroke, helping you roll from side to side, and it gives you more time to exhale before your next breath.

Breathing to One Side

You can also change things up and breathe on only one side (example: breathing every 2 or 4 strokes). If you choose to do this, make sure you also practice bilateral breathing to keep your stroke balanced.

This Week’s Workouts

You worked on your body and head position last week, which sets you up well to focus on your breathing this week. Drills that will help you develop the proper breathing pattern and body position (featured in this week’s workouts) are side kick and 6-kick switch. Watch this week’s video to see how to properly swim these drills. If you have a FORM membership, you can also watch drill videos in the FORM Swim App.

Check out the workouts below, jump in, and swim!

FORM Fundamentals: Breathing #1 (Total: 1400m)

FORM Fundamentals week two! Breathe easy. This workout helps you focus on proper body alignment when breathing. Remember to turn your head slightly to the side, take a quick inhale, turn your head back into the water, and exhale completely.

Warmup Set

1 x 100m freestyle easy on 20s rest
2 x 50m choice moderate on 20s rest (choose any stroke)
20s rest
2 x 50m freestyle moderate on 20s rest
45s rest

Main Set

2 x 50m side kick drill easy on 15s rest (kickboard optional)
30s rest
2 x 100m freestyle easy on 20s rest
30s rest
4 x 50m one arm freestyle drill easy on 15s rest (kickboard optional)
30s rest
3 x 100m freestyle easy on 20s rest
30s rest
4 x 50m freestyle moderate on 20s rest
30s

Warm Down Set

1 x 100m choice easy (choose any stroke)

FORM Fundamentals: Breathing #2 (Total: 1400m)

Let’s keep working on your body alignment while breathing. Focus on keeping your arm extended when you breathe, which will support your body and let you breathe easier. You’ve got this!

Warmup Set

2 x 50m freestyle easy on 15s rest
20s rest
2 x 50m side kick drill moderate on 15s rest (kickboard optional)
20s rest
2 x 50m freestyle moderate on 20s rest
45s rest

Main Set

2 x 50m one arm freestyle drill easy on 15s rest (kickboard optional)
30s rest
4 x 50m freestyle easy on 15s rest
30s rest
4 x 50m one arm freestyle drill easy on 15s rest (fins optional)
30s rest
4 x 100m freestyle moderate on 20s rest
30s rest

Warm Down Set

2 x 50m freestyle easy on 15s rest
2 x 50m choice easy on 15s rest (choose any stroke)

FORM swimmers with a membership can upload this workout to their goggles from the FORM Fundamentals collection in the FORM Swim App. You can print out the workout if you don’t have a FORM membership or goggles. For a detailed breakdown of different efforts, read our article on understanding FORM’s Effort Levels.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—breathing while swimming can be challenging. It takes patience and practice, like developing most skills in the sport. Once your breathing improves, it’ll help you maintain proper head alignment, which will help keep your body in the best position. It’s all connected.