40 - How to Swim: Breathing

TL:DR | This is the 40th newsletter, and now if you have been following along up until now then I think you’re ready for more advanced tips. Breathing is one of those complex yet simple things…

3 min read
40 - How to Swim: Breathing

I'm gonna let you cut the wait, and teach you the basics of how to breathe.

Often one of the biggest struggles most people with when learning to swim. However I find that most of my clients tend to think about breathing, when they should think about movement first (swimming).

Why + Philosophy:

Now why do I make people wait to learn to breathe? Shouldn't that be one of the first things, as it is one of our most important factory systems?

Well yes, but no.

The reason being is that in order to breathe you need to properly be at the surface of the water. With enough momentum to keep you up while breathing, as the ACT of breathing technically slows you down. That slow down can make you sink, and that sinking can cause you to swallow water instead of air.

Seems like a slippery slope, and it really is. I'm not being dramatic about it, but rather practical. The Three Steps to Swimming were made by me to fix this issue. If you skip one of the steps, or fail to do one, then you'll fail to breathe.

How + Physics:

By kicking your legs straight consistently, then you'll get the base level of speed momentum to keep yourself up. By keeping your face down, then you'll be able to be hydrodynamic and cut through the water better. In turn helping your momentum, and more importantly your chin being down leads to the breathing directly.

When you breathe you turn your head to the side (either side depending on your strategy), and you need your chin to be at your shoulder for optimal intake. Keeping your chin done keeps it in line with your shoulder when turning.

Finally, by getting your arms out of the water, and properly diving them back in. The final step in the 3 Steps, then you'll be able to speed up even more. Giving you extra wiggle room if you mess up when breathing. Not to mention speed in general.


Let's talk about the actual breathing, as you can breathe OUT when in water, but not breathe IN.

Keeping that in mind, then you can spend your time under the water more efficiently. Now I've seen some online creators state you should breathe out continuously under the water. I do not agree.

There is a great window of extending your time underwater, simply by holding your breathe, but there is a limit. If you hit the limit then you already failed, so the trick is to breathe out BEFORE hitting that limit. That way you don't "micro-panic".

What + Psychology:

Something I've only barely touched on, but will in coming newsletters is this "micro-panic". A sensation where you feel like "I NEED TO BREATHE", and you start getting upset in a way.

It isn't like "oh I'm dying", but it is an internal sensation that everyone gets. However it isn't needed for this because you aren't actually drowning. It is a natural mechanism to survive, and we have to train our minds (more importantly BODIES) to ignore it.

In doing so we extend our time under water, but without the consequence of panic. If you panic then it leads to increased heartrate, and that in turn leads to more oxygen usage.


I strive to teach the three steps first and foremost because it gives the swimmer a baseline to follow. That baseline then is used to properly do a breathing stroke later on.

For the time being I usually just have the person stand up, and focus their time and energy on perfect form first.

You can try to breathe today, but I encourage you to think about how you are feeling WHILE doing it.


This is advice for people to level up their swimming, or perhaps get started in the first place. While you swim you should make sure you are doing so in a public facility with a lifeguard on duty for safety.

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