Chapter-8: How We Float
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One Perfect Breath~Individual

About One Perfect Breath

You may first wish to read the instructions for "One Perfect Breath--Instructor" in Chapter 7~B and also view the illustration shown there.

The idea behind taking just one perfect breath is to help pupils learn the correct body alignment, head to arm position and forward momentum while taking only ONE breath. Once beginners experience what it's like to take a "perfect breath" they will more easily be able to accomplish a second, third--or even a perfect fourth consecutive breath. It's important and also easy, to "feel" the correct body position and head rotation for at least ONE breath. Often, in regular swim classes instructors expect pupils to continue on their own with continuous breathing and arm strokes. In Water-Shy classes (as well as regular classes) having the knowledge that everything is executed correctly at least ONCE gives pupils much encouragement.

So far, you have learned the Free Float; Push from Wall; Push off Pool Bottom; a proper kick and correct arm stroke. You have also mastered a good recovery.

You will now learn rhythmic breathing for the Front Crawl. Were you to quit at this point you could probably swim fifteen or twenty feet face down without taking a breath but with proper breathing, that distance can be extended anywhere from thirty to a hundred feet or more depending upon body condition. Using this ability for aerobic lap swimming will not only bring health benefits, but will also enable you to save yourself in the event of a water related accident.


If you are by yourself and pool rules require everyone to swim lengths in lanes where the deep end is above your waist, DO NOT swim toward the deep end! Instead, WALK from shallow end to where the water level is no higher than an inch above your waist. From there, swim short lengths TOWARD the shallow end ONLY! If lane swimming is not required be sure to swim WIDTHS across the shallow end.

Warmups and Review

1--For warmup, push off and perform a slow prone float for 10 plus feet and recover. Push from bottom and float back to wall. Perform this task at least 3X.

2--If you have a partner, take turns standing out from wall as each partner floats to the other, turns around and floats back, at least 3 X.

3--Review and perform the prone float with kick at least 3 X.

4--Review and perform the prone float with kick and arm stroke at least 3 X.


Progressions for One Perfect Breath

In practicing One Perfect Breath it's necessary to push off the wall. If you are by yourself and required to use lanes that lead into deeper water, notify the lifeguard that you need someone who will keep you from swimming into deep water. During "family swim" most pools have a lane line cordoning off the deep area and you may wish to practice during that time. If you are in a pool during open swim which does not require length-ways swimming, practice One Perfect Breath facing WIDTH at shallow end.

1--Stand sideways next to pool wall.

2--Holding onto side with hand nearest to wall, bend sideways away from wall until downside ear is lying atop water.

3--Place the arm which is facing the open pool straight on top the water. In this position the arm next to wall should also be straight. See illustration:

Fig. One~Standing in partial position for One Perfect Breath.

Fig. Two~Feet in ready position for Pushoff. One Perfect Breath begins when both arms are extended, ready for Pushoff.

Fig. Three~Upon pushing off, head stays in same position but as breathing-side arm performs the Lift for one perfect breath, At the Arch, head begins downward turn and opposite arm pulls back.

Fig. Four~Face is down into water as breathing-side arm enters the Dip and opposite arm begins the Lift.

At this point do not try to exhale while face is in the water. There are too many moves to think about. Simply taking one good breath in the perfect position and following through with one FULL arm stroke, and the recovery, is sufficient.

1--Practice One Perfect Breath (above) at least 5 X or until performed smoothly and with ease.

2--Next, instead of taking only one complete stroke after the breath, keep head down in the water and continue with a face-down arm stroke and kick for at least two full strokes (without another breath) and recover.

3--Turn and perform the arm stroke with kick back to side. Practice # 2 and # 3 together at least 5 X or until mastered.

4--Push off again, but this time, after turning head down into water, do not hold breath, but exhale into water. Mouth MUST CLOSE at finish of exhalation. Continue with at least two more full arm strokes with head down and MOUTH CLOSED. 5 X or until mastered.

5--Push off side as before taking One Perfect Breath, turn head down, exhale and close mouth. As breathing-side arm pulls back (The Pull), imagine that it's also pulling your head to the side until face is completely out of water but BACK OF HEAD IS LYING ATOP WATER. At the Lift you' are in position for a SECOND Perfect Breath. While kicking hard, hold the Lift position (while on your side) to count of 3 before taking a second breath, then turn head back down into water and continue with arm stroke and kick for two or three more strokes. Practice until mastered.

NOTE: It is not necessary in #5 to actually TAKE a second breath, only to become used to holding the breathing side arm an instant to allow TIME for a breath.

6--This time when face is exposed to air the second time, actually take the second breath at the Lift, turn head down, exhale into water, CLOSE MOUTH and THEN expose face to air again as breathing-side arm begins the Lift once more.

Mouth MUST be closed just before opening it to take the second breath. If mouth stays open, residue water will be inhaled along with air and you may choke. Choking, or the fear of choking when taking a breath of air while swimming is the number one problem preventing people from swimming more than a few feet at a time.

Because no one has explained to many beginner swimmers that the mouth MUST CLOSE an instant before the face is turned up for a breath, they go through life believing there's something wrong with their anatomy that causes them to inhale water and choke every time they take a breath. This is especially sad when they witness others swimming a mile or more continuously and doing flip turns without stopping for a breath. It's such a simple thing to know that can make a BIG difference in bringing you pleasurable swimming and good health for a lifetime.

7--Keep practicing One Perfect Breath with two breaths--the second breath taken when breathing-side arm begins the Lift just after the Pull. Continue with one or two more strokes and recover. Practice until mastered.

8--It's rare for Water-Shy swimmers to get the "hang of it" and go right on with a third or fourth breath and strokes, however, some people do manage to learn rhythmic breathing in this manner. If you are able to keep adding a breath at each Lift of the breathing-side arm, continue with it.

If you studied the "Red Cross Breathing Drill~Instructor" in Chapter 7~C, you know that the combination of the RCBD and One Perfect Breath makes it easier for most people to learn and understand rhythmic breathing. Progressions for the "Red Cross Breathing Drill~Individual" are shown and explained on the next page, Chapter~8~B.


1--UNABLE TO STAY AFLOAT. This is usually the result of having head held too high above water instead of keeping it down on the surface. Try pushing off on your side with the lower-side ear under water, lower arm facing pool and top arm holding onto pool side. DO NOT take the breath but concentrate on keeping ear down in water. Push off and see how far you can float that way. With side floats, as in prone floats, forward momentum slows down or stops when the head is lifted. You should be able to float with kick in that position for at least 15 feet. After perfecting the side float with kick, repeat, take OPB and then proceed with a complete arm stroke.

2--CAN'T GET BREATH IN TIME. You are taking a breath at the Arch portion of your stroke instead of the Lift so when you breathe, your upper arm is in the way. Practice pushing off on your side while kicking hard and holding breathing-side arm in the Lift position. Go at least 15 feet without taking a breath. Do this several times. Repeat, but this time take a breath while holding arm at the Lift and turn face down into the water, exhale and proceed with rest of arm stroke (Arch and Dip). You may need to hesitate a moment at the Lift a few times to allow for a breath but after a while that won't be necessary.


Another good way to learn rhythmic breathing is to push off the side in position for OPB but with BACK of head lying on water's surface and face turned up. You may need to increase the kick in order to maintain forward momentum. While doing this, you will be able to take a breath whenever you choose, but REMEMBER as soon as you take that breath you MUST turn face down, exhale and continue with arm stroke. You may take a few strokes face down, then at the Pull, again turn face-up, pausing the stroke at the Lift while taking another leisurely breath, then continue with face down for the rest of stroke.

In effect, you are merely holding your stroke each time at the breathing-side arm Lift, kicking to maintain forward momentum then taking a breath when you feel like it. You may swim the pool width like that. This is an excellent method for teaching young children rhythmic breathing and it often works for adults as well.

Also, see One Perfect Breath--Instructor in Chapter 7~B>
and the Red Cross Breathing Drill--Individual in Chapter 8~B

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