Open Water Swimming Breathing Tips: How to Breathe Properly While Swimming in Open Water

Are you looking to take your swimming to the next level? Open water swimming can be a great way to challenge yourself and experience the beauty of nature, but it’s important to be prepared. One of the most important aspects of open water swimming is proper breathing technique. Without it, you risk feeling fatigued, anxious, and even panicked. In this article, we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks to help you improve your open water swimming breathing technique and make the most of your experience.

Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to note that open water swimming can be more challenging than swimming in a pool. You’ll be dealing with waves, currents, and varying water temperatures, all of which can impact your breathing. That’s why it’s crucial to master your breathing technique before you hit the open water. With the right approach, you can learn to control your breathing and stay calm, even in challenging conditions. So, let’s get started with some tips to help you improve your breathing technique for open water swimming.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper breathing technique is crucial for open water swimming.
  • Mastering your breathing technique can help you stay calm and in control in challenging conditions.
  • Practice rhythmic breathing and be mindful of your breath to maintain stamina and stay calm in challenging situations.

Getting Started with Open Water Swimming

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If you’re new to open water swimming, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But with a few basic tips, you can be well on your way to enjoying this exciting and challenging sport.

Understanding the Basics

Before you dive into open water swimming, it’s important to understand the basics of swimming technique and safety. While the fundamentals of breathing and stroke technique are similar to pool swimming, there are some important differences to keep in mind.

One of the biggest challenges of open water swimming is navigating the unpredictable conditions of the open water. Waves, currents, and wind can all affect your swim, so it’s important to be prepared and stay aware of your surroundings.

Choosing the Right Gear

When it comes to gear, the most important items for open water swimming are a wetsuit, goggles, and a swim cap. A wetsuit will keep you warm in colder water and provide some buoyancy, while goggles will help you see clearly underwater. A swim cap can help keep your hair out of your face and reduce drag.

When choosing a wetsuit, look for one that fits snugly but doesn’t restrict your movement. A good wetsuit should also allow you to breathe comfortably and not chafe your skin.

Overall, getting started with open water swimming is all about taking the time to learn the basics and choosing the right gear for your needs. With a little practice and preparation, you’ll be ready to tackle any open water swim with confidence.

Breathing Techniques for Open Water

When it comes to open water swimming, breathing techniques are essential for a successful and enjoyable experience. In this section, we will discuss two of the most important breathing techniques: rhythmic breathing and bilateral breathing.

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing is a technique where you establish a consistent breathing pattern while swimming. This technique is helpful because it helps you establish a rhythm and maintain a steady pace. To practice rhythmic breathing, start by exhaling slowly and fully underwater through your mouth, then rotate your head to the side and inhale through your mouth as your arm begins to pull. Exhale again underwater as your face returns to the water. Repeat this pattern consistently throughout your swim.

Bilateral Breathing

Bilateral breathing is another important technique to master in open water swimming. It involves alternating the side you breathe on every few strokes. Bilateral breathing helps you maintain balance and symmetry in your stroke, which can improve your overall performance and reduce the risk of injury. To practice bilateral breathing, start by breathing on one side for a few strokes, then switch to the other side for a few strokes. Repeat this pattern throughout your swim.

In addition to these techniques, it is important to focus on your exhale and relaxation while swimming. Exhaling fully underwater through your mouth can help you relax and stay calm while swimming. Relaxation is also key to maintaining a steady pace and reducing fatigue.

By practicing rhythmic breathing, bilateral breathing, focusing on your exhale, and relaxation, you can improve your open water swimming technique and have a more enjoyable experience.

Navigating the Open Water Environment

Open water swimming requires a different set of skills than pool swimming. The open water environment can be unpredictable, with waves, currents, and wind all affecting your swim. Here are some tips to help you navigate the open water environment.

Dealing with Waves and Currents

Waves and currents can make open water swimming challenging, but there are ways to deal with them. When swimming into waves, try to keep your head down and your body streamlined. If you’re swimming with the waves, keep your head up to avoid swallowing water. When swimming with a current, try to stay close to the buoy line to avoid getting swept off course.

Sighting and Navigation

Sighting and navigation are essential skills for open water swimming. Sighting involves lifting your head out of the water to see where you’re going. This can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to it. Try to sight every 6-8 strokes to avoid swimming off course. Navigation involves using landmarks to guide you. Look for buoys, trees, or other landmarks that can help you stay on course.

When sighting, try to keep your body as still as possible to avoid wasting energy. You can also use other swimmers as a guide. If you’re swimming with a group, try to stay close to the leader to avoid getting lost. If you’re swimming alone, try to pick a landmark in the distance and aim for it.


Buoyancy is another important factor to consider when swimming in open water. Unlike in a pool, the water in the ocean or a lake is not always consistent. Saltwater is more buoyant than freshwater, so you may need to adjust your technique accordingly. If you’re struggling with buoyancy, try wearing a wetsuit or using a buoyancy aid.

By following these tips, you can navigate the open water environment with confidence. Remember to stay calm and focused, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Safety and Comfort in Open Water

Open water swimming can be an exhilarating and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to prioritize safety and comfort. Here are a few tips to help you acclimate to water temperature and use safety equipment effectively.

Acclimating to Water Temperature

Water temperature can have a significant impact on your open water swimming experience. If the water is too cold, it can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. On the other hand, if the water is too warm, it can lead to dehydration and overheating.

To acclimate to the water temperature, start by gradually exposing yourself to the water. Begin with a quick dip, and then gradually increase the amount of time you spend in the water. This will help your body adjust to the temperature. Additionally, wearing a wetsuit can help keep you warm in colder water.

Using Safety Equipment

Safety equipment is essential for open water swimming. A safety buoy can help you stay visible to other swimmers and boats, and can also provide a place to rest if you need it. Additionally, wearing a brightly colored swim cap can help increase your visibility.

It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings and any potential hazards in the water. If you’re swimming in an area with strong currents or waves, consider using a swim buoy with a built-in whistle or other signaling device. This can help you alert others if you need assistance.

By taking these steps to prioritize safety and comfort, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable open water swimming experience.

Training and Preparation for Swimmers

Open water swimming requires a different set of skills compared to swimming in a pool. Therefore, it is important to prepare yourself both physically and mentally to ensure a successful open water swim.

Physical Conditioning

To prepare for open water swimming, you need to build your endurance and strength. This can be achieved by swimming regularly in a pool and gradually increasing your distance and pace. Your coach can help you create a training plan that focuses on building your endurance and strength, which will help you swim longer distances in open water.

In addition to pool training, it is important to incorporate open water swimming into your training routine. This will help you get used to the different conditions you may face in open water, such as waves, currents, and wind.

Mental Strategies

Mental preparation is just as important as physical conditioning when it comes to open water swimming. To prepare yourself mentally, it is important to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization. These techniques can help you stay focused and calm during your swim.

Another important mental strategy is to set realistic goals for yourself. This can help you stay motivated and focused during your swim. It is also important to pace yourself during your swim to avoid exhaustion and ensure that you have enough energy to finish the race.

Overall, preparing for open water swimming requires a combination of physical conditioning and mental preparation. By incorporating pool training, open water swimming, and relaxation techniques into your routine, you can build the endurance and mental toughness needed to succeed in open water swimming.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my breathing technique for open water swimming?

Improving your breathing technique is crucial for open water swimming. According to Better Triathlete, you should first master the fundamentals of breathing in a pool. Once you have achieved proficiency in a controlled environment, move on to open water. Practice breathing on both sides to ensure that you can breathe comfortably in any direction. Additionally, try to breathe in a rhythm that is comfortable for you and focus on exhaling completely. This will help you maintain a steady breathing pattern.

What are some effective breathing strategies for swimming in a triathlon?

Swimming in a triathlon requires a different approach to breathing than pool swimming. According to FORM, you should try to take fewer breaths and exhale more completely. This will help you conserve energy and maintain your rhythm. Additionally, try to time your breathing with your strokes to avoid disrupting your body position.

How can I prevent water inhalation during open water swimming?

Water inhalation can be a common problem during open water swimming. According to U.S. Masters Swimming, you should exhale completely underwater and inhale quickly when you turn your head to breathe. This will help prevent water from entering your mouth and nose. Additionally, try to keep your head in a neutral position and avoid lifting it too high when breathing.

What are the best practices for breathing in rough water conditions?

Breathing in rough water conditions can be challenging. According to Super League Triathlon, you should try to breathe on the side that is facing away from the wind and waves. This will help you avoid inhaling water and reduce the risk of getting hit by waves. Additionally, try to time your breathing with the rhythm of the waves and avoid taking deep breaths.

Can you share any tips for synchronizing breathing with strokes in lake swimming?

Synchronizing breathing with strokes in lake swimming can be tricky. According to Verywell Fit, you should try to take a breath every two or three strokes. This will help you maintain your rhythm and avoid getting out of breath. Additionally, try to time your breaths with your arm strokes and avoid lifting your head too high when breathing.

What safety measures should I consider regarding breathing while open water swimming?

Breathing while open water swimming can be safe if you take the necessary precautions. According to Better Triathlete, you should always swim with a buddy or in a group. Additionally, make sure you are familiar with the open water environment and the weather conditions. Finally, consider wearing a wetsuit for buoyancy and insulation, especially in colder waters.

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