Swim tips #1

Lionel Padial is a Nelson swim coach. This is the first of a series of tips for sea swimmers

Get MORE oxygen.

If you are like the many swimmers I come across who struggle with your breathing during sea swims or at the pool the “fix” might be simpler than you think. Whether you are relatively new to sea swimming and a little anxious or one of the frontrunners, a little over-anxious to perform well, the solution is the same.

The first step is to avoid gasping. When we are shocked or anxious we tend to gasp i.e. suck air into the back of our throats and very little into our lungs. This gives us a measly 10-20% of our lung capacity leaving us feeling shortchanged. When we gasp air in we often feel like our lungs won’t allow enough air in which in turn leads us to gasp more – not a pleasant or effective way to swim.

So, what can you do? Inhalation is the solution, it sounds obvious but are you doing it properly before / during swims? Inhalation requires you to relax and open your airway and as you do so allow the atmospheric oxygen to rush into our lungs…this, if done correctly will fill your lungs more deeply and quickly than even the best gasp. You are probably inhaling quite nicely as you read this, is that how you breathe at the start of a sea swim? If not then try the following suggestions…

1. Tune into the feeling of good inhalation at times when you are reasonably relaxed and remember how it feels so that you can do it when you next swim. Notice how easily and fully your lungs inflate.

2. Imagine breathing like that at the start of your next swim (practising in the pool over and over is very effective) i.e. inhale at the start of each length as opposed to gasping.

3. On race day check in with your breathing frequently and create some kind of a reminder system to help you hold onto a calm inhalation.

4. Race start – Keep your breathing as calm as possible leading up to the sound of the horn and make sure you inhale before beginning to swim.

5. During the early part of the swim focus strongly on your breathing and manage your pace carefully – too fast and you will suffer within a couple of minutes!


 Warming up slowly before race start will help enormously.

 Focus more on exhalation.

 If you overcook it and find yourself gasping at any point slow down and re-focus on your breathing.

Have fun out there!


Oneflow swim coaching

For information about Lionel’s next workshops for swimmers, click here.