Training Tip of the Week: Guided Breathing

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every month with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip of the week series is centered around Mental Training. The mind is an incredibly powerful force in any part of your life, and more and more swimmers and coaches are realizing the huge benefit that working on the mental approach to practices and competitions can have.

This week will build on the previous two week’s articles about mindfulness and meditation, focusing on practicing guided breathing. Guided breathing is one of the most accessible ways for people to learn how to settle into a mindful or meditative state, and we wanted to devote a training tip article to it to help unpack exactly how it can be helpful to honing in on your mental training practice.

How To Breath…

One of the reasons guided breathing is a great gateway into mental training is that it is a simple and relatively universal way to help individuals focus their center of attention. A lot of athletes, particularly younger ones, will have a lot of trouble sitting still and focusing to clear their mind and focus only on the present moment.

Focusing solely on the breath will help your athletes sort through all of the thoughts fluttering around and give them a tactic to control their thoughts that they can do anywhere. Starting with just 5 minutes of guided breathing where your swimmers focus only there breath is all it takes to get started. As you continue to revisit the exercise, you can start having them say “one” on every exhale, adding a number each time they catch their mind wandering and trying to keep their number as low as possible or combining it with guided imagery of their races.   

Taking It In The Water…

You can add another twist to this practice by bringing it into the pool. Simply have your swimmers grab some pool noodles, kick boards, or pull buoys and float in the pool, again directing their focus of attention on their breath and, by extension, the present moment.

Repeated practice of this will help make your athletes more capable of controlling their thoughts and give them an entry point into other methods to direct their thoughts and focus of attention on what is relevant in the moment.

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. Jack Gullery

    training tip of the week Guided breathing

Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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