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Unilateral and Bilateral Breathing for Swimmers

Aubrey Gladstone

Aubrey W. Gladstone, a commercial pilot who is rated to fly helicopters, commercial airplanes, and jets, serves as the project manager and CEO of Gladstone Consulting, Inc. In his free time, Aubrey Gladstone enjoys a variety of sports including tennis, golf, and swimming.

When in the water, swimmers usually employ either unilateral or bilateral breathing. Unilateral breathing means a person takes a breathe every other stroke on the same side of the body. This ensures swimmers have plenty of oxygen, but it can cause them to become imbalanced in their swimming technique. Over time one side becomes stronger than the other, causing swimmers to go off course when swimming long distances in open water.
For a more balanced approach, swimmers can employ a bilateral breathing technique. This technique has swimmers take a breath every three strokes and ensures swimmers breathe on opposite sides of the body each time they take in air. Since there is more time between each breath, swimmers must learn to control their breathing more efficiently to ensure they don’t get out of breath during their swim. Swimmers must also be more cautious about injuring themselves, since the repeated rotation of the body in both directions may cause shoulder pain.

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