In this week’s post, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the power of bubbles and breathing because they are the foundation of swimming. Without them, there would be no swimming and I believe their power is sometimes underestimated. I often hear parents who are not swimmers say to their children, “Hold your breath!” as they jump into the water. Although they are trying to be helpful, we want to avoid saying this because this creates a fight-flight-freeze stress response in the body for the child. It generates panic and fear, which is the opposite experience we want to create for a swimmer, especially a beginner.
At the Farnsworth Swim School, we focus on creating a healthy relationship with water while transforming fear into joy. This begins with the bubbles and breathing. Our relationship to our own life began with the breath, and this is what connects us to our vitality and the innate life force that is within us. Without the breath, we would not be here.
The Farnsworth Swim School actually started in the 70s in San Diego, and my mom was teaching while she was pregnant with me. This is why the expression, “bubble, bubble, breathe,” became ingrained in me and it’s now a part of my muscle memory. Then, when we moved to San Jose, I continued to hear the expression over and over to the point that it was in my dreams. As you can see, this is important since it was the most widely used expression amongst all the swim instructors. Bubbles are far from being an elementary skill– As students advance, there are more in-depth skills to master with bubbles and breathing that must occur in order for water safety, endurance, and swimming success to happen.
The reason that bubbles are important is because they are the exhale while swimming, and also create buoyancy and stamina for the swimmer. On a practical level, they prevent the swimmer from swallowing water, which is probably why parents tell their children to hold their breath, when instead they should be reminding them to blow their bubbles. Bubbles are the exhale, and lifting or turning the head to breathe while swimming is the inhale. I recommend that my swimmers breathe in (inhale) for 2 seconds and bubble out (exhale) for 3 seconds for successful swimming. The whole reason that people choke on water is because they haven’t mastered bubbles and breathing yet. This takes time and is especially challenging for beginners across all ages.
Coughing and swallowing water is part of the learning process. Just like when you were learning how to ride a bike and fell multiple times, swallowing water and coughing is a natural part of the learning process when learning to swim. Beginning adults often are challenged by it because they are afraid. I have seen many adults who know how to swim, but never learned to breathe properly. Whether this is you, your child, or someone else you know going through the challenges of mastering the rhythm of “bubble, bubble breath,” be patient and try your best! At the Farnsworth swim school, we have an expression, “Swim Smarter, not harder” and this starts with creating a powerful foundation through the breath and bubbles. This is why we practice bubbles and breathing everyday with the kickboard, as well as while standing in the shallow end. Practice makes perfect, and gradually bubbles and breathing can be mastered. We try our best to create optimal conditions for our swimmers to thrive at the Farnsworth Swim School.