Swimming is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
That would have been Yogi Berra’s famous quote had he been a swim coach.
And a lot of the ninety percent has to do with breathing. As someone who previously spent my time in the pool simply taking a deep breath, diving to the bottom, and playing around until I needed to come up for air, I can definitely say that I was unable to make any real progress with my swimming until I learned to relax my breathing. Easier said than done–but that really is the key to learning to swim confidently and efficiently.
It also seems that folks easily confuse being “out of breath” with their level of exertion or fitness. After using Garmin’s new swim-capable heart-rate monitor, the “HRM-Swim“, I was amazed at how low my average heart-rate can be during a 30 minute pool session. Granted, I’m not breaking any short-course records when I’m in the pool, but my heart-rate certainly didn’t match up with the perceived exertion. I leave the pool much more “mentally drained” than physically tired.
I’m certain there will come a time when the technique starts to become second-nature and more of the workout can focus on increasing the intensity. But the time-being, I’ll just keep working on that first ninety percent.