Increasing my lung capacity

  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 1:07 PM GMT
    Anyone have any advice on how to increase my lung capacity? When I do the front crawl, after only 70-100 yards of breathing every 4th stroke I start having to breathe every second stroke, though I can keep that up for over 1,000 yards without a problem. The problem is that I lose power when I have to take a breath, as I can't seem to bend the forward arm properly when I do so to keep the elbow high, and so end up swimming a lot slower.

    I have to assume this is partially related to my being asthmatic, even though I don't end up with my normal symptoms of black spots in my vision or the feeling that my ribs can't move in and out the way I do when I run without my inhaler. Still, I'm already running around 3 miles a time, 3 days a week, and swimming a couple of days a week, so it's not like this is just a problem because I'm not used to cardio. At the moment, I've been seeing if I can find a compromise, like breathing on a 2 stroke/2stroke/4 stroke cycle, but I figure there has to be a way to get to being able to breathe on only every 4th stroke, seeing as I see others breathing every 6th stroke.

    Thoughts?
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    Jun 17, 2009 2:19 PM GMT
    I hope my reply is not a waste of your time. I don't know how to increase lung capacity. I do know from experience that some swimmers have problems with asthma because of chlorine sensitivity (might be contributing to your problem). Specifically it is the chlorine derivative nitrogen tri-chloride that causes airway irritation. When chlorine gas mixes with ammonia and urea (from sweat or urine in pools), this substance is created...Good luck on your quest for an answer...
    Another reason why people shouldn't urinate in poolsicon_lol.gif
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    Jun 17, 2009 2:32 PM GMT
    Well since I play the flute/piccolo and in order to play the flute/piccolo you need a good lung capacity. I was taught this breathing exercise where you slowly inhale as much air as you can and hold it in for 10 seconds then exhale slowly.This would continue until you hit your maximum holding time.


    Hope this somewhat helpedicon_neutral.gif
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    Jun 17, 2009 2:37 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidAnyone have any advice on how to increase my lung capacity? When I do the front crawl, after only 70-100 yards of breathing every 4th stroke I start having to breathe every second stroke, though I can keep that up for over 1,000 yards without a problem. The problem is that I lose power when I have to take a breath, as I can't seem to bend the forward arm properly when I do so to keep the elbow high, and so end up swimming a lot slower.

    I have to assume this is partially related to my being asthmatic, even though I don't end up with my normal symptoms of black spots in my vision or the feeling that my ribs can't move in and out the way I do when I run without my inhaler. Still, I'm already running around 3 miles a time, 3 days a week, and swimming a couple of days a week, so it's not like this is just a problem because I'm not used to cardio. At the moment, I've been seeing if I can find a compromise, like breathing on a 2 stroke/2stroke/4 stroke cycle, but I figure there has to be a way to get to being able to breathe on only every 4th stroke, seeing as I see others breathing every 6th stroke.

    Thoughts?



    as a supplement to your physical activity, maybe the use of an incentive spirometer can help. we use those for our patients to expand their lungs, if you have a friend who works at a hospital, ask that person to get you one. Brand new and unused please :-)
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 2:41 PM GMT
    Heh. I played the flute myself, and I always just gasped for breath at the end of any long legato phrase. The same went in choir. And if I did have to breathe during a long phrase or a sustained note, I timed it so that the person next to me wasn't doing so at the same time.

    But, really, I can hold my breath for a relatively long time when I'm not trying to be too active, it's just the more movement, the more often I need to breathe. So, when swimming for real, I'm breathing every 2nd stroke, but if I'm using a buoy to hold my legs up so I can concentrate on just my arms, I can get away with only breathing every 6th stroke
  • dionysus

    Posts: 420

    Jun 17, 2009 2:41 PM GMT
    take yoga.

    also, try increasing your breath in and breath out. parayama (sp?) breathing is done at the beginning of my yoga classes and the first time i did it, my intercostal muscles hurt like a bitch, now i have a 10-second inhale and 10-second exhale.
  • danisnotstr8

    Posts: 2579

    Jun 17, 2009 4:41 PM GMT
    As a singer, trombonist, and swimmer....

    I'd say either lay on the floor, flat on your back, or stand up against the wall if your floors are gross... and practice your breathing that way. Proper posture encourages proper breathing. But you already know that...

    So I noticed in your post that you would play your long legato phrases and then "gasp" for air. That's a no-no in both music and swimming.

    Don't try to go as long as you can without breathing. You're actually slowing yourself down. As your lungs are depleted of oxygen, so is your blood. Breathe more often in fuller, more relaxed (and less panicked) breaths. If you're starting your swim breathing at every 4th stroke and then having to switch after only a hundred yards, you're training yourself to become exhausted and then continue your workout in that pattern.

    Try starting your crawl by breathing every third stroke and try to keep that up. You'll probably have better results.

    Another thought: as you are exhaling, try to engage the lower section of your torso. You'll be able to exhale in a more controlled fashion, and may actually use your air more efficiently.

    When you inhale, are you thinking about the resistance that water places on your body? Think about actually *muscling* the breath... breathe as deeply into your lower lungs as possible against the pressure of water on your torso. You need to fill your lungs from the bottom up-- and, as your lungs are almost bell-shaped when you look at them together, nearly two thirds of your air-tank is physically below the half-way mark. Think about filling your lungs all the way from the lower extent of the rib cage all the way up to your shoulders.
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    Jun 17, 2009 6:35 PM GMT
    danisnotstr8 saidAs a singer, trombonist, and swimmer....

    I'd say either lay on the floor, flat on your back, or stand up against the wall if your floors are gross... and practice your breathing that way. Proper posture encourages proper breathing. But you already know that...

    So I noticed in your post that you would play your long legato phrases and then "gasp" for air. That's a no-no in both music and swimming.

    Don't try to go as long as you can without breathing. You're actually slowing yourself down. As your lungs are depleted of oxygen, so is your blood. Breathe more often in fuller, more relaxed (and less panicked) breaths. If you're starting your swim breathing at every 4th stroke and then having to switch after only a hundred yards, you're training yourself to become exhausted and then continue your workout in that pattern.

    Try starting your crawl by breathing every third stroke and try to keep that up. You'll probably have better results.

    Another thought: as you are exhaling, try to engage the lower section of your torso. You'll be able to exhale in a more controlled fashion, and may actually use your air more efficiently.

    When you inhale, are you thinking about the resistance that water places on your body? Think about actually *muscling* the breath... breathe as deeply into your lower lungs as possible against the pressure of water on your torso. You need to fill your lungs from the bottom up-- and, as your lungs are almost bell-shaped when you look at them together, nearly two thirds of your air-tank is physically below the half-way mark. Think about filling your lungs all the way from the lower extent of the rib cage all the way up to your shoulders.


    This makes a lot of sense. May I add just 3 points? First, do you use your inhaler before you start to swim? Secondly, while cross training is important for increasing your aerobic capacity you have also to be sport specific - ie increase your aerobic capacity while doing the actual activity - in this case, swimming. Lastly, have you had your lung function tests done. This way you will get some measurements of what your lungs can actually do. They need to be done pre and post inhaler use.
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    Jun 17, 2009 7:43 PM GMT
    breathing in swimming is not about your breathing. It´s about your swimming.

    If you want to learn the COOLEST stroke and make your swimming silky smooth try a TI seminar

    http://www.totalimmersion.net/workshops

    I got into TI when i was a triathlete. It is THE way for adults to learn (well it´s great for everyone, but if you don´t have a whole childhood to get to competative level it is the fastest way of getting an enjoyable swimming experience).

    It´s expensive, but it´s worth it if you are serious about swimming.
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    Jun 17, 2009 8:07 PM GMT
    I misinterpreted the questionicon_redface.gif I knew it was physiologically impossible to increase lung size and I thought that's what the phrase increasing lung capacity meant. There are many ways to increase the amount of air taken in by your lungs, and the efficiency with which they capture oxygen.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Increase-Your-Lung-Capacity

    If you feel dypsneic, while swimming you still need to consider bronschospasm from chlorine or exercise induced asthma as devontrainer implied.
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    Jun 17, 2009 8:16 PM GMT
    I'm a marathon runner and found that when I incorporated aggressive spin classes and swimming my lung capacity went through the roof!

    The spin classes got me to the point where I could oxygenate my muscles while engaged in high levels of physical activity. My lungs work harder and I focus on my breathing (I found breathing is the key to pretty much any endurance sport).

    The swimming helped teach me how to regulate my breathing and control the increased capacity I gained from spinning.

    Now when I run my biggest obstacle is how hard I push myself and conditioning my muscles and joints for the long run.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 8:18 PM GMT
    Thanks for the feedback.

    1) I've taken a yoga class before. It didn't help with my breathing at all. Yoga was an odd experience for me; I struggled a lot with some supposedly very simple poses (like downward dog), and found some poses simple that the instructor said were challenging (for example, anything involving standing in a lunge position; four years of college fencing make lunges not an issue). Choir training has made it that I breathe from the diaphragm except under strenuous exercise, and even then the type of exercise determines whether my asthma kicks in. I can play three hours of tennis and not have breathing problems. 15 minutes of either soccer or ultimate frisbee will leave me gasping like a fish out of water.

    2) My inhaler is a preventative albuterol one. Sometimes I use it before I swim; other times I don't. I have noticed absolutely no difference in swimming between when I use it and when I don't.

    3) I haven't had a formal lung function test. I listed off my symptoms to my doctor and the triggers I had noted for them (cold dry air, cigarette smoke, constant motion sports which alternate sprints with jogging all make it harder for me than a sustained pace in warmer, moister air. As such, I've taken to going on runs outdoors primarily in the spring and summer, preferably when it's raining, and running indoors when the weather doesn't cooperate with my lungs), he prescribed a preventative inhaler as a preliminary test, it worked, I asked if we should do an air flow test, he said it was irrelevant and a waste of money so no.

    3) The total immersion looks great, but way too expensive for me. I'm living on a grad student stipend; I can't see spending more than my monthly mortgage payment on a two day seminar on how to swim more effectively.

    Back when I swam competitively, it was the breaststroke. Breathing in that is a hell of a lot easier than in front crawl or butterfly. When I had to do one of those strokes, I did it for only short distances, most often either as part of relays or in the 200m IM. Sprints I can handle the breathing for; it's distance and therefore aerobic rather than anaerobic events which cause me to go anoxic.
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    Jun 18, 2009 3:06 AM GMT
    then the DVDs and books are really fairly decent. perhaps a DVD would be best as you can see it.

    Honestly, I have seen many people with breathing issues for freestyle. It´s not about their lungs, it´s about their swimming technique 100% (these were very accomplished cyclists and runners with very high levels of cardio fitness).

  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Jul 11, 2009 7:42 AM GMT
    Start training at 10,000 feet altitute.

    Seriously, if you can..icon_smile.gif
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    Jul 11, 2009 8:19 AM GMT
    try blowing
  • Ironman4U

    Posts: 738

    Jul 18, 2009 2:45 AM GMT
    Some good advice already. I found that drills that just focused on breathing are good. Practice doing x number of laps with a breath every 3rd stroke or every 4th stroke. Gradually increase distance (number of laps).

    Also, very important in swimming is starting to let the breadth out while you're face in still in the water (you're actually making bubbles in the water with your exhale before you raise your head to take in your next breath), so when your mouth can take in a more full and relaxed breath (versus if you are letting out the breath and taking in your breath when your mouth is above water).
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jul 18, 2009 5:58 AM GMT
    Yes, I blow bubbles continuously from my nose while my face is submerged. With only being able to do 70 or so yards at every 4th stroke, it's kind of hard to try to just bump up the laps, as I swim in a 50 yard (one end to the other) pool. And, well, training at 10k feet is not feasible, as I live at 870 feet and am not a world class athlete with the time and resources to move somewhere to train.

    Of the advice thus far, I think my most practical options are cycling and posture practice, with some possibility of trying every 3rd stroke for breathing--my neck bends far more easily to right than to the left, and thus I find it hard to time breathing to the left so that my mouth is out of the water when drawing in air and closed before the water can follow.
  • Anto

    Posts: 2035

    Jul 18, 2009 6:33 AM GMT
    Breathing while swimming shouldn't be that difficult or interrupting of your stroke. Do you rotate your body in the water when you are pulling? It makes it a lot easier to have a high elbow correctly and breathe as well. Most people I see or talk to when swimming who have a hard time breathing do so usually because they aren't doing the stroke correctly or they are uncomfortable with how to hold their head in the water correctly, like it feels unnatural to them. Problem is that it throws their whole body positioning off for doing the stroke correctly which in turn makes it hard to breath correctly, like a bad cycle icon_sad.gif

    Here is a video of Jason Lezac teaching students how to do freestyle at a university:




    "...with some possibility of trying every 3rd stroke for breathing--my neck bends far more easily to right than to the left, and thus I find it hard to time breathing to the left so that my mouth is out of the water when drawing in air and closed before the water can follow."

    Yeah, you shouldn't be having to bend your neck at all to breathe. Your head should be aligned with the rest of your body and if you are rotating (your body) with your strokes you should only have to rotate your head a little bit more to get a breathe if necessary.



    See how this guy's body is rotated so his head/face are already in a good position for breathing?
    146.jpg

    Here's article about breathing mistakes and freestyle:

    Brenton FordThere are some common questions that pop up by new swimmers about how to breath properly in freestyle swimming.


    A swimmers ability to swim efficiently relies heavily upon getting the breathing correct.

    In freestyle swimming, body position needs to be correct before anything else. But for many, once they throw in breathing...it all goes haywire! This is a result of lack of balance and breathing by moving the head and not rotating the body to breath, plus a few other things.

    These are the four breathing mistakes made freestyle, as well as how you can overcome them:

    1. Not Getting Sufficient Air

    There are a number of reasons this typically happens in freestyle swimming. To begin, make sure you breathe out all of your air before rotating to take a breath. When learning, there are some people who try to exhale and inhale while they are rotating to the side for oxygen. There just isn't enough time to do this! Exhaling should only take place in the water in the form of bubbles. The timing might seem difficult at first, but eventually you will get accustomed to it. Second, you may find yourself sinking when you breathe. Be sure to roll to the side to breathe, and not rotate your head to look straight up. Practicing side kicking drills and shark fin drills, as shown in the Mastering Freestyle program with Australian Champion Sam Ashby will also help you with this challenge.

    2. Your Leading (Extended) Arm Sinks When Taking a Breath

    This is to do with lack of balance. When you take a breath, your other arm should be extending in front. For a lot of swimmers, the extended arm drops down into the water, dropping the elbow and sinking their body while trying to inhale. The side kicking drill and shark fin drill mentioned earlier will also help to improve this. Another useful drill that will help with this challenge is the fist drill which is also a part o the Mastering Freestyle program. This drill forces you to swim without the use your hands, therefore improving your balance in the water.

    3. Sacrificing Speed While "Pausing" During Breathing

    It's typical for many swimmers to be cruising along feeling smooth and comfortable and then you take a breath and it feels as though you've lost all your momentum. To stop this, when you breathe, focus on first breathing to the side by having your mouth parallel to the waters edge, rather than breathing over the water. It may take a while to perfect, but once you do, it will get rid of the pause, and improve your speed overall.

    4. Sucking Water In When Taking a Breath

    In training, this can often occur because of #1 and #2 above. There are numerous drills to practice which will help you with this such as the side kicking and shark fin drills, so too as one-arm drill. One-arm drill is simply a full stroke but with one arm while your opposite arm rests at your side. Breathe on the opposite side of the stroking arm. This dill isn't easy but once you get you may notice a major improvement in your swimming!

    About the Author:

    Brenton Ford coaches masters swimmers in Melbourne, Australia. His Mastering Freestyle program has helped hundreds of swimmers improve their swimming.


    http://www.pannellswimshop.com/public/146.cfm
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 22, 2009 10:25 PM GMT
    I repeat: your issue is not about your breath capacity, it´s about your swimming technique. I have seen it dozens and dozens of times with triathletes.
  • Anto

    Posts: 2035

    Aug 01, 2009 8:14 AM GMT
    How is it going MSU? Anything better?
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Aug 01, 2009 3:59 PM GMT
    Not much progress as of yet, but I haven't been able to be swimming as much the past couple of weeks--I was out of town for a week at a conference, and the week before that was largely devoted to preparing the poster I was presenting.
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    Aug 06, 2009 10:22 PM GMT
    i swim often and am also asthamtic and i was taught to breathe every third stroke because then you see both sides and you dont end up straining your neck always going the same way or using the same arm less. i guess third stroke would be good for you too because its between 2 and 4 so a compromise. i just kept taking my inhaler before swimming and had a tough coach who pushed us and now im over it without a problem!
    good luck!
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    Aug 06, 2009 10:26 PM GMT
    you should have your forehead just out of the water creating a bow wave so the water is lower round your cheeks meanning you dont need to turn your head so much and shape your mouth up out the water this should help you keep momentum and not hurt your arm
    i hope this was helpful and not me just rambling haha