People learning to swim often feel ‘out of breath’ and put it down to overexertion due to poor stroke technique or lack of fitness. However, It is possible for swimmers to practice breathing in the water whilst immobile and that ‘out of breath’ feeling can still quickly occur.
Generally, breathing is a process that we don’t give much thought to. In our day to day lives we only really notice our breath if it is abnormal due to illness or exertion. We don’t pay much attention to what goes in and what comes out and how our bodies achieve this exchange.
I have taught for a long time that successful breathing, when swimming a recognised stroke, requires a swimmer to inhale when their face is sufficiently out of the water and exhale the rest of the time. I don’t think this is bad advice, just an oversimplification. I’m now of the opinion that the quality of the inbreath and the intention of the outbreath need more consideration. The inbreath needs to be achieved using the diaphragm (deep but not rushed) and the intention of the outbreath should be fearless (freeing the body of tension). If there is a pause in the flow of the breath (breath holding) at some point it doesn’t matter as long as it is not caused by fear.
Clearly we are all very different and there is no one size fits model, so use your time in the water to be aware of your breath and experiment. As long as you let your breathing flow by inhaling an unhurried ‘belly breath’ and then letting it go calmly, you will be able to relax and enjoy floating or swimming with your face in the water.