Breathing is as crucial to your life as water is to your swimming.
You draw a breath thousands of times per day, yet how often do you actual stop and examine your vital breathing pattern.
Similarly, when training, you more than likely tend to focus on endurance and muscular strength. If you are a bit more seasoned athlete, you also hopefully include technique training in a good portion of your workouts, and a bit of psychology coaching.
How about breathing, though?
If the end goal is to improve in whatever physical activity you are doing, then it would stand to argue the more efficiently you can breathe, the better you will perform.
This being a swimming advice blog, let's focus on breathing in terms of swim training.
It is no secret that having your head below the surface of the water for most of the swim practice or a race could cause a huge oxygen efficiency issues. This is drastically detrimental to your performance.
Therefore, if you can be more efficient and effective with your breath, it will directly influence the way you swim and how you enjoy swimming in general.
Good news is that, like with everything else these days, there is an app for that :). So read on to learn more.
In the past, I have already mentioned that there are some useful breathing swim sets you can incorporate into your workouts to strengthen your lung skill set.
There is also the simple device called PowerBreathe which does a fine job. But to be honest, since there is no feedback loop, it gets a bit boring to use after a while.
Let me introduce you to a fairly new kid on the block which brings your breath training into the 21st century.
Drum roll please...
Meet the Airofit.
The Airofit breathing device is simple in design, yet sophisticated enough to do what it was designed to do.
In essence, it will become your training partner on your way to healthier and stronger lungs.
I got my hands on one of these devices last year and have been giving it a whirl to check if the marketing claims are up to par with the actual performance gains.
To get rid of the suspense....I like it.
It does exactly as promised. After just a few sessions, I could feel more aware of my breathing and learned to utilize my diaphragm better.
After just 2 months, I was able to learn to increase my lung capacity from 6 Liters to over 8 Liters. See for yourselves below.
It feels as if the device helps you open up your lungs to absorb more air, as well as strengthens the diaphragm muscles to help you inhale and exhale.
Airofit is very easy to use and the Danish team behind it put together an intuitive mobile application (see, I told you there is an app for that :)) which will guide you through your personalized lung workouts.
When you order the actual breathing device, it will come in a professionally looking box with plenty of instructions.
In addition to the basic Airofit setup, you will also receive an extra mouthpiece, a charging cable to keep your tech running and a small soft cushioned pouch to store it in while travelling.
After you have installed the Airofit app from the app store of your choice and your device is connected to your phone (only available in the Pro version - more on that below), you are prompted to choose whether your focus area is Sport or General Wellbeing.
The next step is to select your preferred sport. Swimming, right? :)
At this stage you are presented with a generalized program which lasts 28 days. I suggest you start here to get familiar with how the device works and what it can do for you.
Before you begin, you will be asked to perform a lung test to establish your base.
Don't worry if your stats are not what you expected them to be, you will perform similar lung tests throughout your training. So plenty of opportunities to check your improvement progress.
There are 3 key metrics you will receive from the lung test:
At the end of each lung test, you will see your results compared to your predicted values.
For some reason, I did really well on the lung capacity and inspiratory pressure, but my expiratory pressure was lousy.
From my experience, it is better to perform your breath training at the same time every day (ex: morning), because your performance/focus will vary throughout the day and is also based on your physical health. Hence, if you keep to set schedule you will more likely be in the same condition and the results will have more meaning.
After you set your baseline lung test, you will perform 2 routine breathing exercises every day with the occasional lung test in the mix.
The basic exercises include inhale, muscle flexibility and exhale strength sessions.
First, you will set the inhale and exhale resistance on the device with the help of the two side dials, as depicted on the images above and below.
Then a calming voice guides you through inhaling, exhaling and holding your breath, depending on what type of session the app chose for you.
Now you just need to stick to the daily routine and follow the instructions.
All it takes is just a few minutes per day, and soon you will start seeing results.
When you are done with the 28-day training program or if you need more training, the Airofit app comes with plenty of other programs to select from, so you can breathe your way to success as much as you wish.
As much as I like the device, I did run into a few issues (one more of a personal problem and the other technical).
1) After the initial excitement wore off, it was very hard to keep my motivation up to continue with the daily routine.
Even though, I can use it only 10 minutes per day, the exercise is just so odd (breathing into a device) that I had a difficult time to keep to my schedule.
But of course, this is just me. If you have a clear goal in mind, perhaps it is easier.
You will also need a place where you are not distracted. Best to try to combine it with some meditation-like time during your day.
In the Premium subscription, there is an option to compare your results to peers in the same age group etc., so this could serve as a helpful motivational tool.
2) Now onto the technical issue. It happened a few times when I could not get into the app. Either my phone was acting up or there was some technical update which caused the app not to function properly.
I would try logging in, but was unsuccessful. The only way to sort this out was to clear cache and storage on my device. However, this caused an issue with losing all my progress, because the data was saved on my device.
You can imagine my disappointment when I lost 3 weeks worth of progress and had to start over ;). The only data that were retained were the lung test data.
I think, however, that this issue was already sorted by the development team, so hopefully it was just a one time occurance.
3) When you put the Airofit app into the background and try using other apps at the same time, the guided voice and the app itself will not function.
You will have to have the app in focus in order to use it.
Since there is a voice guiding me, in some of the exercises you do not need the visuals, so it would be nice to have the app function while I also do other tasks.
Nevertheless, overall, the device performed very well and these are just some minor issues that I am sure the developer team will address.
While breathing, there is a lot of spit build up in the device, therefore it is a good idea to clean it once in a while.
Luckily, this is quite simple.
Just take it apart and wash the non-electronic parts under running water.
Then, let it dry and you are good to go for your next breathing training session.
To get a better understanding of how the app works, you can check out this short walkthrough of some of the available functionality in the app.
At the time of writing, the Airofit team has released another simpler and more affordable device.
There are now 2 versions of the device: Airofit Pro and Airofit Active (I was testing the Pro, but the Active seems like a good choice to get you started).
Below you will see the comparison between the devices:
You can get the Airofit Active in the following ways:
You can get the Airofit Pro version in the following ways:
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, there is an app that is used with the Airofit breathing device, and you can either use it as a free user or try the Premium membership for 30 days free.
If you decide to go the membership route, here is what you get:
If you'd like to learn more about how the Airofit breathing device works, just check out the official airofit manual here.
No matter who you are or how you train, improving your lungs and overall breathing wellbeing should be incorporated into your training as well as your daily life.
Do not neglect it.
I am lazy by nature, so if someone tells me, train harder, and you will improve, I can already feel my brain complaining :).
That is why I like to train smarter by improving technique of my movements and by focusing on often forgotten aspects of training, breathing being one of them.
So go out there and learn to breathe better and in turn swim smarter and not harder :)