We all know breathing is an essential part of swimming (and being alive!), but did you know that “how” you breath will affect the way you swim? In swimming, we often refer to this as “breath control”. But what does that mean? Breath control, refers to where you hold your air (lungs vs. cheeks, upper lungs vs. lower lungs, etc), how long you hold your breath, when is it appropriate to hold your breath, how slowly or quickly you exhale, and how much or little air you hold in your lungs at a given time.
When teaching beginner swimmers, make sure to use a vowel, “eee” or “ooo” rather than shaking the lips. This way allows them to practice moving air from the lungs rather than the cheeks.
Firstly, where you hold your air will affect your body position in the water. For example, if you take a shallow breath and hold your air in your upper chest, your body creates a forward (or upper) buoyancy which will cause you to swim in an uphill manner and doesn’t sustain you long enough. In order to maintain a proper horizontal alignment for reduced drag, fill the lower lungs (or tummy) and lower back with air so that your diaphragm pulls downwards. Physiological benefits are that it sustains you longer and regulates your heart rate. This creates a central buoyancy and will help your hips and lower body ride at the surface. You can practice this breathing technique while standing and placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. While breathing, alternate between breathing shallow (upper chest) and deep (lower tummy) by feeling which hand is being pushed outward.
Secondly, muscles need oxygen to perform! The best way to make sure your muscles are always being fed adequate amounts of O2, is to make sure you are constantly breathing. Holding your breath between strokes builds up CO2 (carbon dioxide) in your lungs and can lead to light headedness, or in extreme cases blacking out (which is made even worse when you’re in a pool!).
For example in Freestyle, breathing too often will slow your stroke down. So if breathing too little is bad, and breathing too much is bad, what do you do?! The trick is to breath in quickly (and openly) during the inhale phase, and exhale slowly while your face is in the water. In order to fill your lungs quickly during the breath phase, you need to make sure your airways are fully open. For the inhale phase, picture drinking water through a straw. The wider the straw, the faster you’ll be able to drink. It is no different with breathing. Remember, your inhale should be fast enough so as not to slow down the rate of your stroke recovery. Exhale slowly through your nose.
Spending dedicated time on breath control will help you develop better swimmers!
As teachers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that both the parent and child feel welcome, comfortable, and at ease. Parents have to be relaxed in this new environment as babies feed off their energy and can sense apprehension and uncertainties. Make sure the parent feels comfortable in your class and set them up for success! Explain the activities clearly and how they are to be carried out properly so that they gain confidence.
Here are a few easy to follow tips to give to parents:
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How do you fine tune kindness with your staff? Are they able to exercise empathy with the children that they teach?
Children respond better to instruction when it comes with warmth and positivity, so it is important that teachers create an environment in which the child feels comfortable. Your teachers can help create a positive environment first by being aware that children often come to the pool with lingering emotions. They could be overly tired, or experiencing growing pains. Perhaps they had a long day at school, or they might have just experienced an uncomfortable situation. It is important to keep your “empathy meters” turned up! The student always needs to feel comfortable knowing that the environment is consistent and at the same positive emotional level, every class. This also builds trust between the child and teacher and creates a good bond. In turn this creates a learning environment where they will excel. Children “read” your emotions, it’s important for you to gain the children’s trust.
Empathy is also important for teachers to exercise because there are many situations in which a student will be hesitant or refuse to cooperate. For example, if you have a crying child, sometimes just taking a moment to ask them why they are crying, or giving them a little hug or pat on the back is enough to encourage them back into the lesson. The teacher has to make an effort to understand why the swimmer is behaving the way they are in order to shift their energy into a more positive direction.
• When training your staff provide them with different scenarios and behavioural solutions; such as a simple hug, encouraging words and actions such as “great job” followed by a high five.
• When interacting with the children, make sure your staff are communicating genuinely, It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it …..most communication is non-verbal.
• Video tape the staff so that they see how they are projecting as sometimes the staff might not be aware of something as simple as the expressions they are exhibiting.
Regardless of your swimming goals or skill levels, there are some aspects of efficiency in swimming that are universal. Whether one is training for a high level of competition or just improving their fitness swim abilities, body posture plays an important role in energy conservation and ease of motion. In the Free Flow Teaching Progression, the mantra we repeat constantly is “Relax, Breathe, and Press“. This concept of “Press” refers to how we interact with the water in a non-energy consuming way to ensure a proper body position. The ultimate goal in all swimming of all strokes is to keep the hips as close to the surface as possible and eliminate as much frontal resistance.
What makes this so challenging is the anatomical structure of the human body. The heaviest part of the body is the pelvis, as this is where most of the bone mass is centered. The most buoyant part of the body is the chest as the lungs inflate. So the body wants to naturally sit with the hips low and the chest high, creating a great deal of frontal drag and resistance to moving forward. The most common thought to providing a solution is to kick harder to raise the hips and legs to the surface.
The largest muscles in the body are in the legs and require a lot of energy to do this, which for the beginner swimmers is highly unsustainable. Learning to “Press” into the water with your chest, as if you were walking into a stiff wind, will help to teeter, or buoy the hips up. It does not take energy. It does take practice! That is why from the very first lesson of our teaching progression, this concept is introduced and stressed throughout the series. “Relax, Breathe, and Press” yourself towards a better,
more efficient, more sustainable freestyle.
A new skill set, be it swimming, dancing, fly fishing, whatever – requires a considerable amount of practice to become proficient. The more this practice can be strung together uninterrupted, the faster the learning. With swim lessons, the big inhibitor to learning is breathing. Students can only practice the skill as long as they can hold their breath, which is usually 5-10 seconds before everything comes to a halt. This leads to a lot of fragmented episodes of starting and stopping.
With the Free Flow teaching system, once oxygen is freely available, any skill set can be practiced without pausing to catch a breath, lending to a much steeper learning curve. This also allows for a more patient pace in which to incorporate important aspects such as relaxation and balance, two other aspects that when applied not only helps increase the speed of learning, but also to create a better understanding of the principles involved in beginner swimming.
This is why all of our initial teaching, from the very first time in the water, begins with becoming comfortable with and using a front mounted snorkel.
“Relax – Breathe – and Press” is the mantra that will follow you and your students throughout your Free Flow experience.
When going for a breath in butterfly make sure the pull drives you forward and not upwards so that your chin just breaks the surface of the water for a breath.
Maintaining a positive work environment ensures that your staff come to work with a positive and productive attitude. Happy staff leads to happy students. This in turn leads to a better learning environment for the students. Children can feel energy, as they are very in tune with their emotions. If you have a staff member who is having a bad day and is wearing it on their sleeve their demeanor will be reflected in their teaching. This behaviour impacts the attitude they bring into their lesson and can also effect the behaviour of the children. It takes effort to maintain a great working environment. Even if the teacher is saying all the right things, they still have to be aware of their body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. These are cues that children pick up on!
The river flows both ways. As a swim school owner or supervisor you have to ensure that you create a welcoming and warm environment for your staff so that they can come to you without hesitation. Having open lines of communication allows you to work as a team and in a case where a staff member is having a bad day, they can come to you for a reset or support. As a swim school owner or supervisor you have to make sure that you don’t let a negative attitude from your staff affect you. It is part of your duty to make sure that you are able to address the situation as well as being approachable so that the staff member can come to you to discuss what is bothering them.
You can advise your staff to leave their outside problems at the door but in case they bring it inside your environment then you have to make sure there’s a strategy in place to address the issue, as it can be a reflection on your business.
Attitudes and energies are all intertwined. A staff member with positive energy will show more productivity, be genuinely engaged and get better results!
During the breath phase of your strokes make sure to exhale underwater your air fully through the stroke cycle so that when your mouth breaks the surface for a breath you only need to breathe in!