Although competitive swimmers often train using "hypoxic" drills, where they swim without breathing, we rarely have triathletes do those drills. Why? Triathlon is an endurance sport, centered on being able to moderate your body's effort over a long time, in the presence of plenty of oxygen. It's an aerobic sport. Even our definition of "sprint" is laughable to most speed athletes.So why are we talking about holding our breath?One issue triathletes often have is improving their swim form. It's difficult to see what you are doing unless someone can shoot video of you while you're swimming.Swimming lap after lap incorrectly merely reinforces the habits that make you less efficient.So how to know whether you are fighting against the water or working smoothly with it? One way is to LISTEN.
This is one of the lowest tech ideas there is for swimming improvement. The idea is to really tune in as to how "splashy" you are being at different times during the stroke cycle.It might sound crazy, but it's completely normal for someone who is pounding their feet loudly during a run to be instructed to try running more quietly. This is usually an indication of improved form and a technique that is more gentle on the joints.So let's take this idea into the pool.Push off the wall in a really good streamline position, with your arms against your ears and your hands on top of each other. Push HARD and then listen. Where do you hear the most noise? If you concentrate, can you feel the resistance against the water in the same area?
As you release the streamline and take your first stroke, try to avoid immediately rolling and gasping for a breath. Rolling your body and exposing your ear to the surface will interfere with the listening you are doing. Try to take at least one, but two or three strokes if possible before breathing. Listen closely as your hand enters the water and see how quietly you can do it.The most quietly you can move your hand into the water, the more efficient your stroke.
Once your hand is submerged and is working as a paddle, it is completely submerged and shouldn't be making much noise. Listen now for the sound as you rotate your body lengthwise, your hand exits the water, and moves past your head for the next entry.Do you hear any opportunities at those moments?Go ahead breathe, or better yet stop at the wall after 25 yards and catch your breath completely before having another go at it. This is not an endurance drill, nor some kind of proof of your toughness. The only reason you are holding your breath is so you can hear yourself better.Complete this drill for two lengths at the beginning and end of your swim training set and see what you learn!