Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

Is there anything I can do to help me master bilateral breathing?

Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

Video analysis highlighted how uneven my technique is because I only breath to my right. I want to master bilateral breathing. Is there anything I can do to help me breathe every third stroke without getting out of breath?
Martin Holland

This is a topic that comes up a lot in my coaching sessions. I agree with your coach that often breathing to one side can make your swimming stroke uneven. This is most commonly due to the fact your body is always anticipating the breath therefore it doesn’t fully return to the centreline properly, so you get what I call the unilateral breathing limp. This is when you have a slight catch up to your stroke because you pause while taking the breath.
I myself used to prefer to breathe to my right hand side, therefore I can totally sympathise with how difficult it can be to change. Do not expect to be able to go from breathing every two to every three straightaway without being out of breath, your lungs like any other part of the body need training. One way you can get around this is by mixing up your breathing patterns. Most people are convinced that you either breathe every two or three, I say mix it up! My breathing pattern was 3-2-2-3- then repeat. This way you are getting all the benefits of a bilateral stroke, with the added bonus of being able to have more oxygen though the two unilateral breaths. I hope this helps.

“Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm into it. I am so fortunate to have found these new outlets for that enthusiasm.”

Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Cassie now coaches and is a frequent commentator at open water events.

Email your questions to: with the subject ‘Coach Cassie’

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