It is no secret that a swimmer has one of the best lung capacities from all the athletes or at least should have. :) .
Having to be accustomed to not be able to breathe whenever you want takes some time getting used to.
Here are a few fun ways how you can improve your breath holding ability during everyday practice.
Exhale all your air and when no air is in your lungs, push off the wall and either sprint fly or free for a 25 or sprint fly kick underwater while in a streamline with maximal speed of undulation.
2). Good ol' underwater swims
40x25m underwater on 40 seconds (or your interval of choice).
You will soon notice that it gets easier.
3). Hypoxic swimming
Do a set of your chosen distances (3x400 or more) and vary your breathing by 25s, 50s or 100s as follows.
1x50 breathe every 3 strokes (stroke being one arm movement) 1x50 every 5 strokes 1x50 every 7 strokes 1x50 every 9 strokes and repeat all over again.
4.) Fast fly kicks on your back
Do a set of sprint fly kicks on your back in the streamline, head aligned with eyes looking up (not behind you), fast undulations coming from the bottom of your ribcage.
Why on your back?
To even out your kicking muscles due to the fact that the majority of kicking is done on your front and also because it is harder to keep the air in.
If you can't keep the air in and it is escaping through the nose, use a nose plug (don't be afraid - top athletes do it) OR learn to make the human nose plug.
That is the last thing you need, air bubbles coming out of your nose.
5) Underwater turns
Pick a favorite distance (not below 300) and have a set where you swim from inside the flags-to the wall-to the flags underwater
So only the section in the middle of the pool between the flags is above the water and the rest below.
6.) Front snorkel
One of the great ways to work harder in the water is to limit your oxygen intake.
Front snorkel is a wonderful tool that will do just that and it will also help you with your head and body position.
The frontside snorkel is also used for training your proper head position. Even David Marsh, a head coach at the Auburn University in Alabama, is fond of this simple tool and describes its use in his DVD set The Auburn Way.
If you do decide to get one for training your lungs, you can check out this BornToSwim snorkel which has a smaller diameter tube, so the lung training is much harder.
7.) Not taking breaths into the turns and out of the turns.
This practice is perfect for training to help you get out of the session as much as you can.
Take one stroke into the turn and one stroke out of the turn without breathing.
8.) Breathless relays
Sprint fly or free as a relay, however, without breathing.
If you are not skilled in non-breathing swimming, start with 25's, if you are more advanced I'd do 50's to make it more challenging.
There is a catch though.
If a person takes a breath during their part of the swim, the relay is penalized by one more swim or by time or any other penalty you can think of to make it interesting.
As Richard Quick, former Stanford's Women's Swimming Coach, mentions in his Championship Winning Swimming Videos, underwater swimming is a 5th stroke and up to 60% of your races can be done underwater.
So there you have it, a few fun ways to help with improving and therefore also controlling your breathing while you swim.
One last note, remember that when racing, it is not good to go into an oxygen debt, that is why you'd want to incorporate some of these exercises into your training.
And also keep in mind that while in competition, if you have a perfect stroke and body/head position, you can take as many breaths as you want without impacting your speed (there is nothing wrong with that).
In fact, the more oxygen you get in (the more breaths you take) the better.
You will swim faster with more oxygen.
For helping your breathing, you can use Power Breathe (just 2 times 30 breaths a day and you'll see a difference within a week).
Feel free to leave a comment if you know of any other interesting ways to help your lungs get fit.