Why are you holding your breath?

“Why are you holding your breath?”

What a small and simple question, that would inadvertently lead to such a big breakthrough.

Before my swim instructor could start me on drills this morning, I wanted to talk to her about my inability to breathe while swimming.  I went to the pool over the weekend and I didn’t have very good results.  I explained to her that I am just not getting enough air and I don’t know how to breathe correctly.  After about 5 minutes of me freaking out about not breathing properly she decided to scrap her original lesson/drills and instead she told me that today we were just going to focus on breathing  And she would even let me use the kick board. Love me some kick board action!

After a few unsuccessful laps in the pool and after I stopped mid-length to catch my breath – and I was using a kick board and wasn’t even incorporating in any arm strokes – she looked at me and said, “why are you holding your breath?”


I didn’t know I was holding my breath?

When she explained to me and showed me what I was doing, I realized… “oh sure, that is what I do.  I guess I didn’t realize I was actually holding my breath”.

What I was doing was trying to quickly take a gulp of air, then I’d hold my breath until I got comfortably under the water and then I’d blow it out.  I wasn’t breathing.  I was inhaling.  I was holding my breath.  And then I was blowing.  Which in retrospect makes total sense because that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life whenever I attempted to swim.  So I’m not sure why I thought I was doing it differently now.  (But also…. why the hell did it take her 7 lessons to figure out I’m holding my breath!?!?!?)

She explained to me how I should be starting to exhale on my way back into the water, not once I’m in the water.

So I tried it.

And oh my god, it worked!  I was SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE.  I didn’t have nearly as much panic as I did every other single time going under water.  It felt more natural and it was definitely easier.

I was – I am – so freaking excited!  I spent the rest of the lesson just trying to breathe correctly and exhale on my way into the water.  It didn’t always go smoothly and I still swallowed water, coughed, panicked and stopped, but it wasn’t the same type of swallowing, coughing and panicking!

I feel today I made real progress.  I now know what it’s supposed to feel like and I have something to truly practice now when I go on my own.  It’s going to take time because after I realized what I was doing wrong, I still caught myself holding my breath out of habit.  But at least something positive has come from 2 months of swimming lessons.   Yay!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)




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