Water is dangerous for humans to inhale because we breathe air, as we all know.
Our need to breathe happens automatically, so when we exhale our body simply does what comes next: inhale new air.
This can’t happen in the water, can it? There is no air for us to breathe in the water – and our lungs wouldn’t be able to “process” oxygen out of the water if it was in there.
When a person is underwater and struggles for air – and doesn’t know what to do – their body may do what comes naturally and try to inhale because there is no time to surface and inhale. If this struggling person swallows and aspirates (which means to take water into the respiratory system) they’re in danger of drowning.
New or non-swimmers must hold their breath because that is all they know how to do to keep water out of their lungs. But holding the breath can tense the body up (which is not good for a novice is this situation).
That is why it is critically important for swimmers to learn to control their breath in the best way – early on.
The technique of bubbling helps swimmers to breathe properly. When you swim, you inhale through your mouth when your face is above water and exhale through your mouth or nose when your face is underwater. Beginners often panic during the underwater phase and hold their breath. By exhaling a steady stream of bubbles as you swim, you can avoid this type of tension and focus on performance.
Breathing improperly isn’t just a beginner ‘thing.’ Many intermediate and advanced swimmers don’t have the proper breathing technique, often holding their breath underwater and causing themselves unnecessary tension.
This is important because exhaling and inhaling properly makes your swimming relaxed – and therefore better.
Building Tension and Excess Carbon Dioxide
Tension is a swimmer’s enemy and if you hold your breath, your body naturally begins to tense up. This deficiency of oxygen is matched by an increase in carbon dioxide in your lungs and bloodstream. This combination of circumstances triggers desperation to take a breath.
If you exhale a steady stream of bubbles while swimming, the carbon dioxide doesn’t build up in your system and you won’t feel the anxiety to take a breath. Trying to inhale and exhale while your head is above water just squeezes too many actions into one short window.
Get Comfortable with Bubbles
There is an exercise to help you grow more comfortable breathing bubbles underwater.
– Bobbing with It
If you bob (where you sink underwater and slowly exhale a stream of bubbles through your nose and mouth) it gives your body a way to grow familiar with breath control. Upon returning to the surface, you inhale and sink back into the water and exhale again.
According to Olympic swimmer Janet Evans’ book “Janet Evans’ Total Swimming,” Evans used an exercise where she hung on to the pool’s edge, inhaled deeply and then submerged her head and body underwater. She then would blow the air out of her nose, emptying her lungs via bubbling before she surfaced. This is a simple yet effective way to learn bubbling.
– Sinking to the Bottom
The next stage after bobbing is to learn how to sink and stay at the bottom of the pool – while you’re exhaling bubbles, of course. By growing comfortable with being underwater, you can help yourself overcome the natural instinct to tense up.
Begin this exercise by treading water at the deep end of the pool and exhaling the air out of your lungs. Relax the muscles in your body, imagining that you’re settling into a cushioned sofa. Allow yourself to sink straight down in a slow and controlled manner while you continue to exhale. When you reach the bottom of the pool, exhale until you need to take a breath. Rise to the surface – still holding your breath – and inhale after your head breaks the surface and your nose and mouth are clear of the water.
Practice sinking several times.
– Sitting Bubbles
Do you want to advance your bubbling exercise even more?
Try sitting or lying on your back on the bottom of the pool while blowing out bubbles.
Blowing Bubbles Teaches Exhaling
Blowing bubbles out of your mouth is the precursor to exhaling underwater. Basically, whenever your face is in the water, you want to exhale constantly and smoothly. Exhaling releases any tension that your body has built up and helps your body to keep from tensing up anymore. You can exhale through your mouth or through your nose or both. Try to make a smooth constant stream of bubbles.
There is a rhyme that helps you remember the best breathing technique: Blowing bubbles will end your troubles.