Just noticed that the issue of bilateral breathing has appeared again in the
newsgroup. This topic came up about a month ago, when most posters/readers
were interested in how to develop a bilateral style in their stroke. Like
most aspects of swimming (and sport in general), with every positive outcome
there is also a negative one. Bilateral breathing is something which needs
to be developed overtime, and will result in many annoying situations along
the way, such as ears filling with water, neck and shoulder problems, and
"stitches" caused by erratic breathing patterns.
Some of the swimmers I coach have perfected an individual breathing pattern
similar to that displayed by Kieran Perkins in Barcelona. Most long distance
swimmers breath every stroke or every two to three. In most cases, they have
a rythym which may be something like this: two breaths to the left, one to
the right, etc. One swimmer of mine seems to do this naturally, and while I
encourage him to opt for a more regulated pattern like every three strokes,
he seems to be comfortable with his established pattern.
I can't stress how important stretching the shoulder and neck muscles is before
commencing any form of intensive crawl training. Aside from swinging the arms
around in a windmill fashion, swimmers should also stretch the neck muscles
by tilting the head to one side so that a stretch can be felt down the side of
the neck. Also, placing one hand one the forehead and then pressing the head
into the hand. Of course stretching the lats, triceps and upper and lower
spine is imperative.
Bilateral breathing can be perfected over time, the aim should be to introduce
it gradually into your workouts. Usually in the first 800m of your swim
workout while you are reasonably fresh. Bilaterial breathing encourages a
balanced stroke, and assists with the prevention of damage to the neck and
shoulder region which can occur because of the extra workload placed on this
area by breathing to one side.
Keep on swimmin'