Help! I feel like i'm drowning everytime i try to swim!

Help! I feel like i'm drowning everytime i try to swim!

If you're trying to learn to improve your swimming for Triathlon or just looking to improve your fitness in the water. it can be a difficult and frustrating process when everytime you go it feels more like drowning than actual swimming and if you’ve come from a background in another sport and already have good levels of aerobic fitness it can be soul destroying and humbling to get in the pool and have 8 year old girls overtaking you without breaking a sweat.

The likely cause of all your swimming frustration resides in breathing or lack of it.

We usually find the reason for swimmers being out of breath at a very short time is down to the tendency to hold their breath under the water.  

We've put a video together to discuss why this might be happening as well as some ways to improve your breathing in the water.


If you want to develop your swimming the first step is learning to relax in the water and be able to control your breathing. Even if your technique is good being unable to relax in the water will still cause you to be exhausted after very short distances.

If you are anxious or tense when you first get into the water, spend a few minutes in the shallow end just breathing in and out to help you relax.

The first step is to practice exhaling out into the water, put your face into the water and as if you are blowing your birthday cake candles out, breathe out into the water - there should be quite a lot of bubbles.

For some of you, this might be a challenge and you might find you have a tendency not to exhale, this is a definite sign you are holding your breath when you swim.

Keep practicing this until you are relaxed and comfortably breathing out into the water. The next step is to allow yourself to sink down into the water by exhaling in a continuous, constant stream of bubbles. You might find it feels unnatural and you tend to exhale in bursts, this is a good indicator of how you’ll likely be breathing when swimming. It might take a couple of attempts to be able to fully relax in the water.

Give it a try next time you are in the pool, when you first get in, try a couple of sinkdowns able to relax exhale more and more each time you do it.

After a couple of sink downs, swim 25m focusing solely on breathing out into the water, you’ll be amazed how much easier it feels and you should find you’re not as tired after only 25m.

For the next few sessions focusing solely on staying relaxed and developing your breathing.

 Try the below drills to continue developing your breathing.

  1. Complete 3 x sinkdowns

  2. Complete 4 x sinkdowns one directly after the other, taking a breath as you surface then going into the next sinkdown

  3. Swim 2 x 25m focusing on exhaling into the water taking 15 seconds recovery 

  4. Repeat 4 x sinkdowns immediately after the 2nd 25m

  5. Swim 2 x 50m, focusing on exhaling into the water taking 30 seconds recovery.

  6. Repeat 4 x sinkdowns immediately after 2nd 50m

If may find that the sinkdowns are slightly harder after doing the 25 and 50m swims, this usually means you will be starting to hold onto out breath, by continuing to work on the sinkdowns and exhalation you should find that you can swim significantly easier and are not quite as tired as before.

Get in touch If you are still struggling with breathing and we can help you with 121 swim coaching or click here for more information