Although I took swimming lessons while I was a kid, I was never super strong and never mastered good free style form.

Now 50, and attempting to complete in a triathlon (sprint). As a person with a partial disability, this is a really big deal for me.

One thing I notice, is that I do not seem to get enough air on the input breath during proper free style form. My body seems to want to use far more air then what I am able to bring in. Additionally if I stick my head out of the water to breathe, I can only go a short distance while reverting to my favorite energy conserving stroke: the side stroke.

The sensation is that of a slow suffocation as I do not seem to have the ability to take a really good breath.

Any advice on overcoming that sensation? Any advice on how to become comfortable for the amount of air received?

2 Answers 2


The best advice I can give you is that it's okay to swim some sidestroke when you need to. It will obviously not be as fast as freestyle for the duration of your race, but breathing patterns are a huge part of racing, and it will take some work to master a pattern that works for you.

Also during training, maybe try one of my go-to drills: 3 Strokes, 10 Kicks. Take three regular arm strokes without breathing, then stop on your side with your bottom arm stretched above your head and your top arm at your side while you perform 10 kicks. Take a couple breaths while you are kicking. After 10 kicks, take three more strokes, stop on your other side, and ten more kicks.

This drill provides a very sustainable breathing pattern that you could use as a base to build from. As you get more comfortable, you can decrease the number of kicks (aka less pure breathing time) to 8, then 6, etc.


One of the best tips that helped me a lot for getting enough air when swimming FS is to breath out as much as possible while submerged. This will let you exhale the air that is high in CO2 to free up space in your lungs for the air that is low in CO2.

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