What makes you tire after 50m or 100m? If you’re breathing by exhaling through your nose (instead of mouth) and still having trouble, try these 5 things…


Hi, Brenton here from Effortless Swimming. In today’s video, I’m going to talk about why you might still be exhausted after 100 meters.

A few months ago we did a video titled “Are you exhausted after 100 meters.” And we spoke about the way that you might need to inhale and exhale to keep your heart rate down, and to stay relaxed, and to be able to swim longer than 50 or 100 meters without needing to take a break.

So, in that video, we mentioned that when you exhale, most of that should be done through your nose. If you do it all through your mouth, then a few things tend to happen. You get a bit of buildup of CO2, you tend to go into a bit more of a panic state, and it’s very hard to stay relaxed if all of the inhale and exhale is coming through the mouth only. So, what we want to try and do there is make sure that the exhalation comes primarily from the nose.

Now, if you’ve made that change and you’re still finding it hard to swim more than 50 meters, or 100 meters, without needing to stop at each wall, there’s a couple of other things that you might want to look at and you may want to change that will help you swim for much longer distances without tiring.

Number one is over kicking. So, that’s where your legs are working a lot harder and kicking a lot faster than they actually need to. Now, your legs are made up of the biggest muscles in the body. So, if you are kicking very, very hard, even if you’re a great summer, even if you’re in an elite swimmer, if you are kicking very, very hard for one or 200 meters while you’re swimming, your heart rate is still going to be elevated. So, if you’re a weaker swimmer and you’re kicking that hard, then it’s going to be very, very difficult to swim more than that 50 or 100 meters without needing to break.

So, what can you do there if you are over kicking? Well, first of all, with the swimmers that I’ve worked with, I’ve found that a lot of them don’t feel like they’re over kicking. They’re not aware that it’s something that’s happening. When we show them on the video, we look at it and we go, “Okay, you are kicking a lot. What can we do to change that?”

So there are a couple things. Turn down the effort from maybe a seven or eight down to a two or a three. So, if you’re looking to swim more for distance as opposed to speed for a 50 meter sprint, if you’re swimming more for distance, then you will hardly need to put any effort at all into your kick. Because if you’re looking to swim one, two, three kilometers, and you’re kicking hard, it’s not going to be sustainable. So, turn the effort level down to a two or a three out of 10, and the primary thing that we want from our kick for that sort of distance, is we want it to be well-timed, and we want it to help with our balance and our rhythm.

So what that basically means is, we want to make sure it’s contained within a relatively small space. So, the way I like to think of that, imagine a normal-sized bucket but twice as big. So, something about that big, that’s roughly where you want to contain your kick. So, you don’t need to be having really big kicks. You don’t obviously want to have it too small either, but some are in about that sort of range. Contain it within there, so small, narrow and light kicks. That’s the first thing.

The second thing we want to do there is time it. Now, this is a little bit more of an advanced thing, but if you are comfortable with it, then what you want to try and do there with your kick is time your catch. So, the first part of your stroke in the water, time your catch with the downwards kick on that same side of the body. And we’ve done a few videos on this. So I think left side catch and left side kick should go together. And if you do that then that is going to be much more effective than if you are just kicking very, very hard there.

Another thing with your kick is it’s okay to have a pause or a break in your kick. So, if you’ve got a six beat kick, then what we often say there is that the legs won’t stop. There won’t be a pause, and that’s standard. But for a two beat, or a four beat kick, which basically means one kick per arm stroke, or basically three kicks and then one kick for another arm stroke. If you’ve got a two or four beat kick, you are going to have a little bit of a pause in the kick, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Now, obviously, where we don’t want to pause is as we’re going in the reach into the catch phase of the stroke there. That’s where we don’t want a pause, but in the kick, it is okay to have a pause. So, with swimmers who are newer to the sport, they feel like they’ve got to constantly have their legs going, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That can be a good way to learn how to swim. But as you progress on, and you want to save your energy, and you want to keep your heart right down, you’ve got to allow a little bit of a pause in there, in between the kicks. And you see it with the late swimmers. You need to allow a bit of a pause there if you’re going to have a two or a four beat kick, and that’s a great way to keep the effort and energy down.

Now, a good way to practice this can be to put a pool boy in. So, if you put a pool boy between your legs, you can practice having that much lighter kick, and it basically takes care of the balance, so you don’t feel like you actually need to need to kick as much. So, putting a pool boy in, you can just practice that timing with the kick a lot easier. So, there’s nothing wrong with using a pool boy to get a feel and a sense of how your kick should be when you do get it right, and you eventually take the pool boy out.

So, number one is we want to avoid over kicking. That should be easy, it should be small, it should be quite narrow, and it’s okay to have a bit of a pause, because for you to be able to time that with your stroke, then you’re probably going to need to allow a little bit of a pause in there.

The second thing is balance. And there’s a lot that goes into balance and we’ve covered this in a couple of videos before where we look at what are some of the reasons why your legs drop, but essentially you’re balance in the water is, can you stay in a horizontal position. Because if your legs and your hips are dropping down, then the amount of energy it takes to overcome that drag is too great to be able to sustain a fast pace for a very long time. So, what we want to try and do there is be balanced in the water. Now, if your legs and your hips are dropping down, I’ll link to a video below, where we cover a lot of these in quite a bit of data, but I’ll talk about a couple of them here and give you a couple of quick solutions that can help you make the changes in your stroke.

One of the first things we want is the right posture, and tautness. So, with posture, think of that as being tall and being proud, so lifted through the chest or chest out. So, good posture. And along with that, we need a little bit of tautness around our midsection. So, I often will say that people whose legs are dropping down a lot in the water, they have a bend through their waist or through their hips. So, if you think of it as someone sort of standing in a half seated position, they look like that in the water. But for you to be able to be horizontal in the water, we need to keep this line through our middle and our mid section relatively straight and stable.

So, in order to be able to do that, there are two things that I normally recommend to swimmers. And so the first one is suck your tummy in, so draw your belly button into your spine. That’s the first thing. The second thing is you need to squeeze your bum cheeks together. You need to engage your glutes slightly to have that straighter line through the hips, because if you let your core go, if you let your glutes go, then there’s a good chance that you’re going to get that bend through the waist, and you’ve basically got no option then, except for your legs to be dropping down and for your quads to be creating a lot of drag there, because they’re sitting well below the line of your hips. So, number one, good posture and the right tautness through the midsection.

Now, we don’t want to do it to the point where you are really, really working hard through your core and through your glutes. That’s obviously not sustainable. But just generally good, tall, proud posture. Secondly, suck the tummy in, squeeze the bum cheeks together a little bit, and that is going to give you this much better alignment and tautness through the entire body.

Another big one that I see causing people’s legs to drop, and I don’t see it talked about that often, is if you’re coming over the top of the water in your recovery, so you bring your arm over the top, if you are too slow as you’re going to enter the water and your hand tends to hover above the water, that’s a big cause of the legs dropping. Because if you think of holding a couple of kilos, two, three kilos above the water, the balance of your body, legs will always drop there.

So, what you might want to consider doing instead is, instead of coming over and being very slow and being very gentle and just placing your hand on the water, get your hand in. You need to be somewhat assertive with that hand entry and get it into the starting catch position, which is hand just out in front of the shoulder, but it’s in the water a little bit underneath it. So, your fingertips will be just a little bit deeper than the rest of your shoulder.

So, we call that the starting catch position, or the start of the catch. I also refer to that as the base position, but if you’ve got your hand in that position, then it changes the entire balance of your body compared to if your hand is hovering above the water there. So, get the hand in the water, out in front of the shoulder in this position right here. That will be a big game-changer for your balance if you’re currently being too slow and too controlled over the top of the water.

The third thing is a poor catch or a bad setup phase, where you end up pressing down on the water instead of setting yourself up in a way of your hand and forearm to be pressing back. We’ve covered this in a lot of videos talking about the catch, so I’ll link to some of those below for more details and some drill progressions that you can go through to help improve your catch in freestyle. But that is obviously a really big one. Let’s look at some of the other ones.

The other one that’s partly related to your posture and you’re tautness is how much pressure you put into your chest and your head. So, if you are lifting your head up, and let’s say it’s just your face is just in the water, that’s holding too much weight up above the surface of the water, which will, again, cause your legs to drop. So, what you generally need to do there is lean a little bit on your chest. So, you’ve got your lungs, they’re full of air. You need to press into the water just a little bit through your chest to help bring your legs up. And you also need to have your head or your face in the water to the point where just the crown of your head is above the water. Because if you’re trying to hold everything up almost above the water, then that can cause the legs to drop. So you do need to lean into the water a little bit.

Now, I’m not a big fan of thinking about the term swimming downhill. To me, that doesn’t quite relate or it doesn’t quite translate to what it should feel like. So, I’m not a big fan of the phrase swimming downhill. I just think of it as swimming. Basically, you’re in the water, you’re not looking to swim downhill, because that might cause you to put too much pressure through your chest and through your head and cause you to be too submerged through your upper body.

And the last one there is lifting the head to breathe. Really common one. So, if you’re lifting your head up above the water, that’s a couple of kilos. Again, that’s going to push the legs down. So what we want to try and aim for there is looking straight to the side. When you’re breathing, you may have part of that bottom goggle in the water, but as long as you’re getting that breath as low as you comfortably can, and you’re looking to the side, and you’re not lifting the head to high up above the water, then that’s also going to help you keep your legs up near the surface.

Now, along with that, as well, if you think you’ve got this skew out running through your spine, through your head and your neck, you’ve got this skewer. Your head shouldn’t really move much outside the line of that sort of skewer. It should just turn to the side to breathe and then come back. If we’re doing too much up and down and side to side head movement and your head comes off the alignment of that skewer, then that can cause the body to snake, and that’s another thing that can cause the legs to drop, if there’s too much of that up and down movement. So, we want to try and minimize that in general.

So, there are a couple of things that you can check in within your stroke if you’re still having trouble swimming 50 meters or more. But if I was in that position, I’d check in with the over kicking first, and then I would look at those other things from there. Now, if that is the case, I don’t see there being anything wrong with doing some swimming with the snorkel on to take the breathing out of it. That takes the breathing out of the equation, and you can focus on a couple of these things. And I don’t see anything wrong with doing some swimming with a pool boy on, or with fins on, just to be able to develop your stroke, get a sense of some of the correct things you want to do.

Now, obviously you don’t want to have them become a crutch where you go to use them all the time, but they can be really useful tools to helping you become a better swimmer and learn some of the things that you are trying to develop in the stroke. So, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. You just, obviously, don’t want to come to rely on it.

If you’re looking for a step by step plan to be able to become a better swimmer and swim more than 50 or 100 meters, to be able to swim one or two kilometers without stopping, and without even thinking twice about it, then you might want to look at our Virtual Freestyle Clinic, which is inside our video membership, which is only currently $55 a year.

So, inside the Virtual Freestyle Clinic there, it basically goes through the drills that we cover at clinics and it builds a stroke up from the very basics. So, we start with fundamentals and get to the more challenging and more advanced parts of the stroke. But we start out with really simple drills that are going to help you get your breathing. Get your balance right, be able to then look at rotating to be able to then look at getting the arms and the legs to coordinate and sync up, and also improve your catch and your pull throat.

So that’s the Virtual Freestyle Clinic, which is inside our video membership. So, I’ll put a link below. Go and check that out if you are looking for a step by step plan, something you can take to the pool and follow and improve your something that way.

Thanks for watching. Please like and subscribe if you do enjoy this video, and if you know someone who is having trouble swimming more than 50 or 100 meters, then please send this video to them and spread the word because that helps us reach more people. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

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