To learn how to side-breathe, start on the wall. That way you can focus solely on your breathing without the distraction of having to keep yourself afloat.
Float & Kick
Lie face-down in the water with your arms outstretched in front of you. Grip the gutter, and kick light freestyle to keep your body afloat. Exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Then, tilt your head to the side to breathe.
Try both sides to see which side feels easier to you. Stick with the side you like best.
Exhaling is an important step. If you don’t blow all of the air out of your lungs before you tilt your head to breathe, then you’ll have to exhale with your head tilted. This slows your breath. Additionally, it can cause a hitch in your stroke which will matter when you’re swimming without the board. It’s very difficult to stay afloat if you’ve got your head turned to the side for a long time.
As you tilt your head, relax your neck and try not to turn your body. Pretend that someone has tapped you on the shoulder, and you’re turning your head to take a look. Instead of twisting your whole body, only your chin should move near your shoulder.
Keep Your Lower Lens in the Water
While breathing, think about the goggle lens that’s lower in the water. Part of this goggle lens should stay in the water. In order to get your mouth out of the water, move your mouth to the side to make sure you don’t swallow water.
A fun way to think about breathing properly is “pirate breathing.” Pretend that you’re wearing an eye patch on the eye that stays lower in the water. Keep part of your “eye patch” in the water. When pirates say “Arrrr,” they move their mouths to the side. Move your mouth in the same way when you breathe.
Hot Tip: Stand & Practice
If you’re having trouble finding the right breathing angle, bend over in shallow water and play around with your head position… at a place where you can stand. By having more stability, it can be easier to figure out the right angle your head needs to be to breathe.
Look Behind You
While you’re breathing, you want to relax your neck and make sure that you’re not breathing forward. Instead, try to look slightly behind you. This will make it easier to keep your body in alignment and make your side-breath smoother.
After you’ve completed your breath, turn your head back down so that you’re once again looking at the bottom of the pool. A big mistake that swimmers make after taking a breath is that they glance forward. Looking forward drops your hips in the water, causing you to sink. This will lead to serious problems in your stroke, because it will be difficult to keep swimming.
Continue to cycle through your breath a few times until it starts to feel easier and more natural. Make sure you don’t rush through this step. The more comfortable you get with breathing at the wall, the simpler the next steps will feel.