Ask Our Coaches: Breathing During Freestyle Swimming


I would like to freestyle for at least a half mile. However, I have the hardest time maintaining my breathing after about 50m. I end up swimming on my back. What do you recommend?

Linda K.

Our Coaches’ Replies

Coach Kurt Madden


I would recommend you start off at a comfortable pace which is aerobic and what we might refer to as a Zone 2 effort. In other words, not too fast, just comfortable and at an effort that you can maintain for 30+ minutes.

I would also add that you really want to make sure that you are exhaling and getting all of the air out of the lungs so your heart rate does not increase and slow down the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the lungs.

Another strategy would be to breath more often or every stroke rather than every third stroke, which allows you to breathe more often and should also delay any type of fatigue or breathing issue. This would be similar to breathing regularly when you are running as compared to holding your breath while running and breathing every three steps.


Kurt Madden


Coach Jenn Reinhart

Great answer Kurt!

I would add that if your form is poor & you are struggling to turn your head to get a good breath, you might need to find a lesson or two with a swim coach. Generally someone who is quickly out of breath suffers from one or more of these issues:

  1. Holding their breath between breaths. You need to be blowing bubbles constantly between breaths. 
  2. Body position is not good, making it nearly impossible to get a good breath. 
  3. Not enough shoulder rotation to allow a good breath. 
  4. Not breathing often enough, usually as it is hard to turn their head to get a good breath, so they just don’t breathe!
  5. Poor or inefficient kick such as kicking from the knees and/or over kicking to try to go faster.  

Linda, if you don’t have access to a coach for lessons, many of us can analyze a video of your swim stroke and give direction. TriDot Pool School is super beneficial if there is one in your area. You can see the next few months’ schedule here.

Jenn Reinhart 


Coach Tony Washington

Hi Linda,

This is a challenge for many adult onset swimmers. Good body position is key. Rotating your head to the side to breathe with good shoulder and hip rotation can keep you level in the water without your legs sinking. A relaxed, bent elbow arm recovery in front of the shoulder will help prevent cross over. Underwater, pull with your arm bent, elbows pointing to the side of the pool and fingers straight down until your thumb hits your thigh.

TriDot Pool School has been very successful at improving your form and speed in the water. There are dates and locations available all over the country.

It is also Preseason time at TriDot. Get two months of free training to prepare for the 2024 season.






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