Proper exhalation while swimming is a vital skill for two reasons: 1) it’s how we teach your child to keep water out of their nose while they are on their back whether it be floating in Level 2, flutter kicking in Level 3, or learning backstroke, and 2) it’s how swimmers release air in preparation to take a breath.
Ultimately swimming is all about breathing. In Level 1 we focus exclusively on teaching your child how to breathe underwater. Developing and maintaining a correct pattern of inhaling and exhaling is the first fundamental in teaching your child how to properly swim. If your swimmer is in Level 1 or is still “bob-reluctant,” check out our deep-dive on bobs blog post here.
This blog post is for you if your child has ever gotten frustrated or exclaimed, “I can’t…”
… go as far as the coaches are asking
… hold my breath that long
… float – I just sink!
… do a somersault in the water
… touch the bottom of the pool (at 3-4 feet of depth)
The average healthy child should have no problem covering a distance of 20 feet in the water provided they are exhaling properly and performing the skills being taught correctly. Swimmers that are not exhaling properly are likely to feel winded or become out of breath more quickly. Exhaling, on land or in water, releases tension. When you hold your breath, your body is unable to release carbon dioxide (CO2). This causes a sense of urgency or “needing” to breathe and results in a swimmer lifting their head and losing their body position.
Holding the breath and retaining tension makes it hard to feel comfortable and confident in the water. This feeling of needing to breathe creates a sense of fear and no one, regardless of age or ability, is able to learn when fear is present. By first teaching every single student how to breathe underwater, we are able to help a child establish a baseline comfort and confidence in the water that allows them to then be able to learn.
For more advanced swimmers who are expected to bilaterally breathe during freestyle, stockpiling CO2 from not exhaling makes the time between three strokes feel very long regardless of how strong or powerful you are. A swimmer, in this case, is more likely to revert back to breathing solely on their favored side. This results in your stroke becoming lopsided from poor body rotation on your non-breathing side which then leads to arm pull deficiency and other problems such as the arm crossing the body’s centerline. All stemming from a poor breathing technique!
Whether your child is in Level 2 or Level 10, you can encourage them to make sure they are remembering to exhale (in the form of bubbles) through their nose while their face is in the water. Ask them to demonstrate at Family Swim Night or in the bathtub at home. Double check that bubbles are emerging from their nose. Heck, have them role play and demonstrate their breathing and head rotation anywhere!
If your child is struggling to exhale through the nose, suggest they close their mouth and hum (exhale in the form of bubbles) as they put their face into the water. As your child improves their ability to exhale without needing to think about it, they will be able to exhale easily through the nose with their mouth open. However, this can be difficult to achieve when first learning how to exhale through the nose.
For more tips on how to set your child up for success learning how to swim check out our other blog posts here!