How to Breathe Properly when Outdoor Swimming

July 9, 2024
5 min read

Should you breathe differently while wild swimming?

When wild swimming, using the right breathing techniques can make a world of difference in improving your experience so that you get the most out of your swim. 

While many people may not give it much thought, consciously adjusting your breathing patterns while swimming in open water can have numerous benefits. One of the key advantages of breathing differently during wild swimming is that it can help you stay calm and relaxed in potentially challenging situations. By taking slow, deep breaths, you can regulate your heart rate and increase oxygen flow to your muscles, enabling you to swim more efficiently and comfortably. 

Another important aspect of breathing techniques when wild swimming is adapting to the changing conditions of the water. Unlike swimming in a pool, where the water is still and predictable, open water can present various currents, waves, and temperature changes. By being mindful of your breath, you can better adapt to these conditions. For example, if you encounter a strong current, taking quick, controlled breaths on one side can help you maintain your balance and navigate through the water with ease.

Additionally, adjusting your breathing patterns whilst in the open water can also help to improve your performance, helping you to get fit wild swimming. By synchronising your breath with your stroke, you can establish a steady rhythm that allows for efficient movement through the water. Additionally, focusing on your breath can help you stay present in the moment and enhance your connection with nature. Taking deep breaths of fresh air while surrounded by the beauty of the natural environment is really relaxing and a great way to immerse yourself in the moment. 

How to breathe when cold water swimming?

Keen to master your wild swimming breathing technique in cold water? If you’re planning on trying cold water swimming with us, it’s particularly important to know how to breathe properly to stay safe in the water. 

The first thing to remember is to stay relaxed and calm. When you first immerse yourself in cold water you’re bound to feel shocked, so make sure you take deep breaths before entering to prepare your body and mind. 

As you start swimming, focus on your breathing rhythm. Take a breath in as your face is above the water and exhale slowly through your nose or mouth when your face is in the water. This will help you maintain a steady breathing pattern and prevent any panic or discomfort

Remember, the key is to stay in control and not let the cold water affect your breathing. With practice and patience, you will become more comfortable and confident in your ability to breathe while cold water swimming. 


What is the best breathing technique for open water swimming?

One of the best breathing techniques for open water swimming is bilateral breathing. This means taking breaths on both sides, alternating every few strokes. By doing so, you develop a balanced stroke and maintain a steady rhythm in the water. Bilateral breathing also allows you to keep an eye on your surroundings, which is especially important in open water where you need to be aware of any potential hazards or changes in the environment.

Another important tip for open water swimming is to practise rhythmic breathing. This involves taking regular, controlled breaths in sync with your strokes. By establishing a consistent pattern, you can regulate your breathing and avoid panicking or feeling out of breath. This technique is particularly useful in open water, where the conditions can be more challenging than in the pool. Remember to take deep breaths from your diaphragm rather than shallow breaths from your chest, as this will help you take in more oxygen and maintain a steady pace.

Breathing tips for cold water immersion

If you’ve heard about the benefits of cold water immersion, you might’ve thought about taking the plunge and trying winter swimming or sauna and cold plunge

From reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, to weight loss and positive impacts on mental health, cold water therapy is a great way to feel energised, refreshed and healthier. But, when immersing yourself in cold water, how do you breathe properly? 

If you’ve ever had a shower that’s turned icy cold out of the blue on a frosty morning, you’ll know that cold water can quite literally take your breath away. However, if you’re wanting to truly reap the benefits of cold water therapy, then you’ll want to master your breathing technique to make the most of this invigorating experience on a regular basis. 

Before taking the plunge into cold waters, take the time to focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs completely, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This simple act of mindful breathing will help to calm your nervous system and prepare your body for the cold water immersion.

When you’re in the water, you will then need to maintain control over your breath. Resist the urge to gasp for air as soon as you hit the cold water. Instead, try to take slow and steady breaths. This will help regulate your heart rate and prevent hyperventilation. Your body can adapt to the cold water, but you need to give it time.

Another helpful technique is to focus on your exhales. As you swim, try to prolong your exhales, making them longer than your inhales. This will help to release any tension in your body and keep you calm and relaxed.

Lastly, if you find yourself struggling with your breathing while wild swimming in cold water, try a technique called box breathing. This involves inhaling slowly for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding the breath again for a count of four. Repeat this cycle several times until you feel more in control.

How do I stop getting out of breath when swimming?

Finding yourself gasping for air every time you swim? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Whether you’re new to swimming, recovering from an injury or illness, or simply haven’t exercised in a while, feeling a bit out of breath when exercising is something many people struggle with. 

If this is the case, try to focus on your breathing rhythm, exhaling slowly and fully underwater, then taking a quick, deep breath when your face is out of the water. 

We’d also recommend swimming regularly to improve your swimming technique and improve efficiency and reduce energy expenditure, all whilst building your cardiovascular fitness. With time and practice, you'll soon find yourself gliding through the water effortlessly without feeling breathless.

Outdoor swimming lake in Surrey

Are you looking for a wild swimming lake near you? Whether you’re based in nearby areas like Reigate, or slightly further afield in London, Divers Cove is the perfect escape for you. 

With gin-clear waters, a sandy bottom and year-round wild swimming and sauna sessions, we welcome everyone who’s interested in the world of wild swimming. Book a swim or find out more about us today. 

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