Freestyle - Popeye Breathing

Jul 14, 2006
Freestyle - Popeye Breathing

It makes no difference whether you breathe every other stroke, every third stroke, or if you are a sprinter and you breathe less frequently. If you swim you must breathe. Popeye Breathing, a drill sent to us by David Kaufman, teaches you to breathe seamlessly and to minimize drag. David swims with the Aquafit Masters of Long Island, at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, NY.

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At a recent meet, a professional photographer captured me breathing during a freestyle event. Initially, I looked at the picture and admired it, but then I noticed that I was slightly raising my head to breathe. My whole face was going to air instead of remaining partially submerged. You don't need to expose your eyes and nose in order to fill your lungs with air.

Why Do It:

Raising your head (even an iota) to breathe causes your lower half to sink, and this increases resistance. Most swimmers KNOW they shouldn't raise the head (coaches tell us this all the time). But the question is: How do you eliminate this nasty habit? How do you learn to take a quick bite of air without creating resistance and without slowing down your stroke cadence?

How To Do It:
1. Practice breathing by standing in a shallow section of the pool and bending over to submerge your face.

2. Assume the Popeye position as you breathe: Mouth open on the side to which you are breathing, keeping one goggle above water and one goggle under water while looking under water.

3. Swim a few easy laps of freestyle, making an effort to breathe in the Popeye position.

Breathe this way whenever you swim freestyle. The only time you won't breathe this way is when you swim with a snorkel.

 Go Swim using all your favorite pool toys: fins, paddles, fist gloves, tempo trainer, etc (You don't have to use all of them at the same time ;-)

6. Repeat from step 1 on the opposite side.

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

1. Don't linger on your side. Take a quick breath without stopping the flow of your stroke.

2. While breathing, try looking at what's going on next to you but below the surface. Try peeking at the person swimming in the next lane; however, do not look at him above the surface. Check him or her out under the surface. You have to consciously focus the eye that is submerged.

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