Swimming is a great sport for swimmers! We often choose one of the four most popular swimming styles to practice: breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly stroke. And all of these swimming styles except backstroke, when you swim, you have to breathe in the water, which means 80% of the swimming process, your head is submerged under the water. Have you ever thought about this? And why is that? What does it help you when your head in the water?
Breathing is a natural and unconscious act when people are active on land. Breathing has become so familiar that we don’t even notice it. But underwater breathing is another story. That same inhale, exhale, but completely different. So, breathing is a unique skill to learn in swimming and that is also a big difference of swimming compared to other terrestrial sports.
Correct breathing means a lot when swimming. It affects swimming technique, body buoyancy, body balance in the water, muscle repulsion, body hydrodynamics, and water resistance. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that BONUS is a skill that cannot be underestimated! If you “neglect” breathing in swimming, you will receive all the consequences. Many people float well, glide well, kick their feet well, … but turning their heads to breathe is like “chickens with hair”, and in the end, the individual good points become meaningless.
The swimmers operate right on the surface of the water with the top half being air, the bottom half being water; not completely submerged in water like fish, nor completely terrestrial like normal humans. Therefore, the swimmer’s breathing is different from the fish’s breathing (gill breathing), and also the way people breathing on land. On land, people breathe in and out evenly in the atmosphere, while swimmers breathe in and out in the air. Basically, the swimmer’s breathing has 2 differences:
The mistake of swimmers is often holding their breath under the water and all their focus is “waiting” to get their face out of the water for a breath. They focused on breathing in the air rather than breathing in the water. When they turn their heads to the side to breathe, their mouths are still closed, then “take a breath” through their mouths before inhaling. The teacher can see a little bit of water gushing up near his mouth when the swimmer makes this mistake. This error makes swimmers feel stressed, short of breath, tired quickly and their swimming movements are broken.
The correct way of breathing is to focus on exhaling through your nose while your face is in the water. If the breath is out of the water, when you turn your head to breathe, your lungs are almost empty and as long as you open your mouth, the air automatically “rushes in”.
Because of focusing on the exhalation phase, the exhalation time in swimming is longer than the inhalation time. On land, most people are accustomed to 1: 1 ratio inhalations, with inhalations and exhalations of approximately equal length. In water, breathe in usually 2: 1 or 3: 1 ratio twice or three times as long. This rate can also vary depending on the swimming style.
The shallow breathing movements are not influenced much by the movements of the arms, legs, head, and neck. You don’t need to think that one step will inhale, another will exhale, or swinging hands will inhale, swinging hands will breathe out. The underwater breathing is different: you have to coordinate the movements with the breathing. Whether breaststroke or front crawl stroke, butterfly or backstroke, exhalation, and inhalation synchronizes with hand and leg movements, resulting in different breathing patterns for each swimming pattern.
Basically, you can swim with your head above the water. Swim styles with a head above the water are often variations, a combination of swim styles depending on the buoyancy of each person and geographical features of where you swim.
It is not that the head has to be submerged and rise up when taking a breath is swimming. It’s not entirely wrong for your head to float in the water while swimming. Especially when you swim in the pond or lake area and you do not have swimming goggles, it is understandable to be head above the water while swimming so you can see the direction.
Or, when you swim in an obstacle area, you can swim with your head above the water so you can see the obstacles to avoid, and you want to be able to swim while chatting with your friends.
Of course, you must be proficient in swimming techniques of other swimming styles to be able to do this. Just like you have to be able to catch the rhythm of the water and your body, you can completely swim with your head still above the water.