Breathing When Swimming

Swim session with Coach NateDo you breathe to the left? To the right? Maybe, somewhere along the line, you were told that you ought to breathe every three strokes, but you’ll go blue in the face before you manage to make THAT happen!

Regardless of where you are in your training, breathing is important to every athlete, and particularly so for swimmers. Today, I want to talk about breathing basics. How often should you breathe and why? By taking the time to develop an understanding of how breathing impacts your stroke, you can build the foundation necessary to experiment with your technique and find the freestyle form that works best for your unique body type.

  1. Inhale, Exhale

“Don’t forget to breathe out” seems like silly advice, but in truth it is one of the biggest challenges for swimmers. Human instinct says that we should hold our breath while submerged, but this can cause a range of issues in an otherwise competent freestyle stroke. Holding in your air can disrupt your buoyancy in the water, preventing you from getting into a streamlined position and causing you to waste energy with an inefficient stroke. The tightened chest muscles that accompany breath-holding can prevent you from relaxing into your stroke and make your more prone to injury. Not to mention the fact that holding your breath actually makes you feel like you’re running out of air sooner than you would otherwise!

To alleviate these problems, swim a few laps focusing on the exhale that comes after each breath. Don’t get rid of all of your air – instead, exhale about half of your air underwater. As you become more comfortable with the motion, you can begin to use the exhale as a foundation to set your pace off of, allowing for a stronger, safer and more efficient stroke.

  1. One-side, Two-side

“Breathe to the side!” – If you’ve ever swam freestyle, odds are you’ve heard this phrase. Breathing to the side is, indeed, an important step maintaining an efficient stroke, but it is only the first step in perfecting the motion. Too often we learn to breathe to the side, we find a somewhat comfortable position that works, and then we stay there. Breathing in the exact same position for lap after lap, day after day can have a severe impact on your stroke.

The breath dictates how the rest of your body moves. By locking in the exact same breathing position with every arm-pull, changing other pieces of your stroke becomes incredibly difficult. Focusing on the exhale can help you overcome this, but sometimes the best way to reevaluate your stroke can come from changing your breathing pattern. Try swimming a lap breathing on the opposite side from what you’re used to. Odds are, if you only ever breathe to the right, breathing to the left is going to be really tough! This is because your stroke has evolved to center around that right-side breath. Perhaps you’re rolling more to one side than the other, or maybe your taking shorter or less precise strokes with your non-dominant arm.

They say that the best way to spot mistakes in a picture you’re painting is to hold in up to a mirror. The flipped image is seen in a new way, and our eyes are immediately drawn to the flaws that were invisible before. In the same way, flipping the side on which you’re breathing can draw your attention to the flaws in your stroke and help you achieve a more balanced technique.

  1. How Often Should I Breathe?

So we’ve established that bilateral breathing, or breathing to both sides, is important, but how can we apply that to a workout? Sure, we can breathe every three strokes to ensure that we don’t begin to favor one side, but after a couple of 100-yard swims our bodies may start complaining about the lack of air. From this conundrum is the naturally arising question: ‘How often should I breathe?’ The answer depends on what kind of shape you’re in, what race distance your training for, and what kind of pace you’re trying to hold, among many other considerations. The best way to determine how often you should breathe comes from having a coach on deck. A professional coach can evaluate the many factors that affect breathing and help you to come up with the training and race strategies that will carry you towards your goals.

Of course, life often gets in the way, so if you are unable to find a coach or a team to help you out, there are a few general rules of thumb to keep in mind when determining how often you ought to breathe:

  1. Every breath that you take slows you down momentarily.
  2. Breathing frequently allows you to sustain your pace over a longer period of time.
  3. Mixing up your breathing pattern across sets or workouts can help you to spot flaws in your stroke, because it draws your attention toward physical movements and away from cerebral distractions.
  1. Mixing It Up

If you are a beginner swimmer, or you are a swimmer that has gotten used to breathing every two strokes, you may find it aerobically challenging to take fewer breaths while swimming. A common complaint that I have from adult athletes is that the decreased oxygen leaves them out of breath, yet without the muscular exhaustion that accompanies a good workout. For someone who is training to compete, it can be extremely frustrating to go from holding 1:10s on a set of 100s while breathing every two, to holding 1:20s while breathing every three strokes. If you find yourself facing this problem, then try adapting your breathing pattern slowly over time.

For example, use a 2-2-3 pattern. Take two strokes, breathe, take two more strokes, breathe, then take three strokes, breathe. This pattern allows you to breathe bilaterally and improve your aerobic conditioning while avoiding the problem discussed above. Alternatively, you can change your pattern by length. If you’re doing 10×100 meters, try breathing every 5 strokes on the first length, every 3 strokes on the second length, every 2 strokes to the right side on the third length, and every 2 strokes to the left side on the fourth length.

Over time, you will find that you can swim at faster speeds with fewer breaths, as your body adapts and becomes more efficient at utilizing the oxygen you take in.

  1. Consider Your Environment

So, now that you’ve got an idea of just how important breathing is, it’s time to jump in the pool and churn out some laps! Before you go, however, I want to touch on one final point. We’ve talked about how to breathe as well as how often to breathe, but not about what you breathe.

Swimming is widely considered one of the least mechanically stressful ways you can work out. It’s easy enough on your body that you can do it from the time you’re two until you’re too old to walk. But even swimming has dangers to watch out for, two of which are all too common. The first is shoulder injuries, which can take up a blog post all on their own. The second, however, is something that many athletes fail to even consider until it strikes – breathing problems. The development of exercise-induced asthma is something that swimmers are especially prone to, and onset can severely inhibit your capacity to train. More often than not, this is a preventable problem so long as you are aware of your environment.

Don’t train at a facility without proper ventilation. Clean air is perhaps the most important thing you should look for when searching for a place to train. If you show up to a pool and you can smell the chlorine in the air, then you’re better off making a beeline for the hot tub and taking the day off, because working out in an environment like that does more harm than good. If you train at an indoor facility, make sure that the doors and windows are open, and that the fans are circulating air.

As for me, I’ll stick to outdoor pools. The air might be cold, but it’s always fresh.

If it’s a day ending in ‘Y’ Coach Nate can be found on deck at Sendero Springs pool, coaching swimmers and tormenting his lanes with what he affectionately considers ‘really fun workouts.’ Reach him by email at

-Nate Cox, Swim Coach, T3Multisports

Integrating a Brick into your Triathlon Training

transition-picThe term brick has a few meanings, one is that a brick workout is foundational to triathlon training in the same manner that a brick can be foundational to a structure.  Another is that after a bike/run brick your legs feel as heavy as bricks.  Integrating a brick session into your training prepares you for racing by combining two aspects of triathlon into a single, continuous workout.  The two most common examples are a swim to bike and a bike to run.

There are several ways to integrate a brick workout into your plan; however, set up is always key.  The reason for this is to minimize transition time between disciplines in the same manner as a race.  At T3Multisports, we utilize a transition bike rack that allows athletes to set their transition area up in the same fashion as they would on race day.  We set up  a transition rack (similar to those you see at races) up near our open water swim practice area or in a side parking lot near a pool.  The athletes swim the prescribed distance in their race suit, run to the transition area (complete with bike mount line) and transition onto the bike.  The duration and intensity of both the swim and bike will depend on where you are in your training or what you are targeting as an area of improvement.  If you don’t have the luxury of a rack, setting your bike up pool side (check with the life guards first) or securing it a public bike rack might be an option.

Brick training along with the transition practice will help you Transition to the Next Level!

-Andrew Sidwell, Adult and High Performance Coach, T3Multisports

T3Multisports Adult Team is Round Rock’s premier year-round, group triathlon training program for adults. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the sport or an experienced veteran; we will help you achieve your goals and Transition You to the Next Level.

Triathlon Distances Explored…Sprint vs Long Course


There is an experience that I think is common to triathletes.  When someone from outside the sport finds out that you compete in triathlon, they inevitably ask, “oh, triathlon.  Have you done the one in Hawaii?”  The answer for a great any athletes (myself included) is ‘no’.  The person posing the question then becomes confused and you get to explain that there are other distances outside of the Ironman, the qualification process for Kona, etc.  It can be a little awkward at times but begs the question, “do distances besides Ironman matter?”

I’ve explored this question through competition this year.  With my travel schedule picking up and my daughter beginning to participate in triathlon, long course races have been removed from the calendar.  Instead, I’ve done a handful of sprint relays with my father in law (I swim and run while he bikes), trail runs, and sprint triathlons.  I will finish the season with no full distance (read: 140.6) and only one “half (read: 70.3).  Does that mean I’ve taken the year off and am no longer considered a triathlete?

Part of that question is complex because it deals with identity.  The label “triathlete” can become an ingrained part of an individual’s identity with varying effects.  For some, it makes them work a bit harder, even away from sport.  The existential influence of being a triathlete might also serve to reinforce healthy dietary and exercise habits through social pressure.  Conversely, it could become such a part of a person’s identity that if an injury or life gets in the way of being a “triathlete” that they struggle mentally with a sort of identity crisis.

Having said this, I tend to see myself as an athlete in general, not just a triathlete.  Likewise, being ready to face life’s challenges or do any kind of race I want on a moment’s notice is enough external motivation to keep me training and always looking for new challenges.  Enter sprint distance triathlons.

A sprint event is normally a 400-800 meter swim, 20 km (roughly 12 miles) bike and a 5km (3.1 mile) run.  The distances involved are a fraction of those involved in an iron distance event.  How hard could it be?  The answer is simple: as hard as you want to make it.

The sprint distance is an interesting beast in that it serves as the most commonly participated in distance for rookie athletes as well as one of the toughest for racers to get right.  The challenge is that a sprint is about pure speed.  Can you set your  mind and body on the redline and keep it there for an hour?  On paper, that doesn’t seem so tough.  In practice however, it is nowhere near easy.  Doing a sprint triathlon competitively is not a simple task.  You have to swim your arms off, bike your legs off and run your lungs out.  I’ve actually had stars dancing in front of my eyes when I crossed the line at the last few events I participated in.  My average HR was less than ten beats off my max.  Put another way, a sprint is one solid hour of pure suffering.  The more you can endure, the faster you can go.

When looking at a sprint from this perspective, I submit that it is not less challenging than a long course event.  Rather, it is a different type of challenge.  Long course is all about pacing while short course is about speed.  There is pacing involved in short course and speed involved in long course but not in the same manner.  You want to be as close to your max sustainable pace in a short course race versus sustaining a consistent pace for several hours.  Your HR is lower on average as is your power output in a long course race.

The mentality involved is slightly different as well.  Rather than just suffering through a short burst of pain you have a long, steady drip.  There is also more chance for error in a long course event compared to a sprint.  Over-bike a sprint and you have a 5k to shuffle through.  Over-bike a 70.3 or full iron distance event and you’ll be shuffling along for hours.

The point of all this is that you should pick an event that is right for you.  If you really want to go fast and don’t want to spend all day racing, sprint and Olympic distance events might be a better option.  Conversely, if you have the time to train and race for longer distances, half and full iron distance events could be more satisfying.  Either way, do what you enjoy doing and if you need help, T3 coaching is always here!

-Andrew Sidwell, Adult and High Performance Coach, T3Multisports

First Time Crit Racer


My name is Andrew Sidwell; I’m a new triathlon coach with T3Multisports. My background consists of some mountain bike racing, and triathlon racing mostly consisting of half and full iron distance events. This year has been more focused on sprint distance events due to time but until September 30, I had never road raced a bicycle, hence my Crit adventure.

What is a “Crit” you ask? A Crit, (aka criterium race) is a short, fast race consisting of multiple laps on a closed section of road or a race track. The Crit I chose to participate in happened to be on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), just outside of Austin, TX. I have never previously participated in this type of racing so I figured my learning curve would be steep. Here are a few things I did to mitigate this:

Talk to Experts
I solicited advice from experience bicycle racers and coaches (i.e. Coach Boris, Coach Arlyn and Coach Daniel) about how to train and execute a solid race. Their insights proved invaluable when race day (or in my case, night) came. Bike racing is highly nuanced; talking to this panel of experts introduced me to the language of cycling as well as appropriate conduct while cycling in a group. I think it also served to make me less of a hazard to the individuals I raced with. We all have to go to work on Monday and no one wants to be “that guy” or “that girl” that takes someone out through ignorance.

Research the Venue
I am beginning to think that bicycles are sold with GoPro cameras attached to them. Unless your race is in its first year, there will be a first-person video from a previous race on the course that will allow you to see what you’re getting yourself into. Reading reviews and watching videos will allow you to understand the direction and flow of the course as well as what other riders tend to do at particular parts of the track. There are multiple videos of the COTA race that gave differing perspectives of the same course. The advantage this provided was that I at least knew what direction the course flowed, what the turns looked like and where the group tended to bunch versus pull apart. Rather than riding into a corner and figuring out what was next I came in with a tentative plan on how to string corners together and where I wanted to be on the track. Of course, this adjusted once the reality of the race took off but it gave me a foundation to start from.

If you are interested in racing your first Crit, we at T3 can help. There were a handful of “did not finish” (DNFs) due to conditioning; they simply “blew up”. Racing in general is not as easy as pro athletes make it look. Getting some solid training in prior to an event will make it more enjoyable and more likely that you’ll finish.

For me, I have a solid fitness foundation from racing triathlons so I worked on supra-threshold efforts (i.e. above functional threshold power) and sprinting. My race was five weeks out when I registered so that gave me some time to work on these aspects of my training. This type of racing is completely different from long course racing so these harder efforts are really important to get adjusted to.

My challenge was that nearly all of my training was done indoors, on a trainer. This made my bike handling skills a bit rusty. Again, not something you want to be weak in going into a Crit race. However, I was able to negotiate the pack and the turns well enough based on muscle memory and visualization, not to mentioning having spent several years road racing motorcycles on closed courses. At the same time, I know I could do better if I work more on technical bike handling skills. The value of this training cannot be overstated; if bike handling is a weakness, dedicate some time to addressing it. Doing so will make you less of a danger to yourself and others.

Arrive to the Venue Early
My race didn’t start until 8:25pm but I arrived at the track around 6:30pm. Doing so allowed me plenty of time to get my packet, put my number on the appropriate side of my jersey (race direction will tell you what side) and watch a few races with my family. It also gave me plenty of time to get some fluids in and do a solid warm up prior to heading out of the starting gate with everyone else. Lastly, arriving a bit early (but not too early) can help settle pre-race nerves for some people, allowing you to focus more on your race rather than hurrying from one place to the next.

Warm Up
Crit racing is basically full gas from the start. Make sure you take some time to get your heart rate up prior to getting to the start line. COTA has a rather large set of parking lots that made for a great warm up area. I also saw individuals with rollers and trainers. Do what you’d normally do in training. This will help get your mind and body ready to race.

Everyone is going the same direction as fast as they can. One rule of Crit racing is that the rider behind is responsible for his wheel, meaning the rider in front isn’t looking back to see what you’re doing. You have to have good spacial awareness to avoid crashing. One way of doing this is simply not thinking about crashing. Instead, focus on your position in the peloton, taking care not to overlap wheels with the rider in front of you and hold your line through a corner. Also, be aware for physical and verbal cues. If someone touches your hip it is to let you know they are near you. Likewise, you’ll hear, “on your left/right” or “inside/outside” from other riders. Using these cues keeps everyone aware and decreases the chances of an accident.

I’d read and heard about not wasting energy, staying protected from the wind and not leading if you aren’t trying to break away. Well, I can’t say that I adhered to these nuggets of wisdom as well as I should have. My wife observed that I didn’t spend as much time protected from the wind as other riders did. I’m sure this has to do with my lack of group riding time and breaking the “no drafting” mentality that comes with triathlon. It also cost me energy. Likewise, I also attempted to go ahead of the pack a few times, only to burn matches that cost me later in the race when faced with sprinting against good sprinters. All good lessons to learn for the next time.

Have Fun
The concept of fun might seem counterintuitive to some folks when we talk about racing. But in reality, that is what it is all about. I take what I do seriously but never take myself very seriously. Meaning, if I’m not having fun doing something I need to figure out why. This was my first Crit race; I did a bunch of things wrong, some of them on purpose. But, I had fun the whole way. My face had either a grimace or a smile from start to finish as did my kids. I learned a lot of valuable lessons that I can apply to my next race through trial and error. I grew a little bit as a racer and a person by doing something out of my standard comfort zone and embraced all that comes with it. Isn’t that what racing is about?

If you are interested in doing your first Crit, triathlon, 5k, trail run or swim, feel free to contact T3Multisports at We have experienced coaches that will tailor a program to your specific goals!

Why T3Multisports Trains on Rollers

Christian on rollers 2

We ride on rollers primarily because they provide a very realistic road feel during indoor training. Since the bike is free to move around, it gives our athletes the feeling of riding on the open road. It’s much more engaging and the freedom of movement brings more benefits, such as improving balance, riding in a straight line, improving pedal stroke efficiency and no excess wear on tires like regular stationary trainers with wheel tension knobs.

Mental toughness and focus is a critical part of your athlete development. The increased concentration that rollers require make them a little less boring and easier to handle mentally for our young athletes.

Training indoors is an important part of our athletes’ development, we like to say it is the lab portion of our training program. As coaches, we have the immediate ability to make corrections to technique, skills and helping the athlete understand relaxing. Stationary trainers have a role in training but don’t require balance. Rollers provide that opportunity to improve balance and pedal efficiency as the balance on rollers is coming from the gyroscopic effect of the wheels in motion. The faster the athlete pedals the more stable they are.

In addition, the ability to really teach riding in a straight line pays huge dividends when our athletes transfer to the road for pace line drills and group rides.

Our rollers of choice are SportCrafters Cadence Rollers, they provide a smooth feel as the drums turn and are extremely durable. With multiple young athletes using them and traveling with them to races…they get a lot of abuse. SportCrafters rollers have stood up to this and continue to provide us great training and results.

-Boris Robinson, Owner & Director, T3Multisports Youth Triathlon and Junior Cycling Academy

Simple swimming tip


So often you see numerous tips on swimming, how to swim faster, how to swim stronger, where your hand should enter the water…etc. This post is really simple. In order to swim faster and more efficiently you need to do two things: Increase your propulsion and Decrease your resistance. That simple.

In order to swim your best you should ask yourself two questions:

(1) Is this drill helping me increase my propulsion?

(2) Is this drill helping me decrease my resistance?

If any drill or swim session doesn’t address these two things, you should stop and reevaluate “why” (equals purpose) am I doing this?

Keep it simple and focus on more propulsion in the water and less resistance in the water.

Happy training,



Triathlon is a Sport

While this statement “Triathlon is a Sport” may sound like a statement of the obvious it really isn’t. To most triathletes this is a “no brainer” but to the layman and the recreational participate and many parents it isn’t the obvious. So many folks view triathlon as an extra-curricular activity. Something done is the off season from soccer, football or basketball. The reality is Triathlon is a sport, an Olympic sport and since 2014 a Collegiate sport for women.

What’s Wrong?

Why is triathlon not as popular or mainstream as other sports? That’s the million dollar question. Triathletes train hard, race for prize money and both men and women get paid the same. Seems like this should be worthy of the title, Sport. Well, maybe it’s how the sport came about initially; as a sport of and for age groupers. Elites came a bit later in 1989, (the sport was founded in the US in 1982).

In August 1990 the United States hosted the second ITU Triathlon World Championship in Orlando, Fla. More than 1,200 athletes from 40 countries competed. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized triathlon as an Olympic sport and the ITU as the sole international governing body in 1991. In 1993 the Pan American Games approved triathlon for competition at the 1995 Pan Am Games in Mar De Plata, Argentina.

The IOC’s recognition of triathlon as an Olympic sport allowed the federation to be eligible for up to $250,000 in grants from the USOC. The first Goodwill Games Triathlon was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 23, 1994. The sport finally reached its ultimate goal of being included on the Olympic program at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. (Courtesy of USA Triathlon website)

 There are a number of youth and junior development team in the US and athlete are competing at the local, national and international level. Where does that happen in most of the other sports in America?

Suggestion for a Fix

It is important that coaches, athletes and USA Triathlon do a better job of popularizing the sport and acknowledging the fact that it is indeed a sport. Athletes young and old should communicate this, the sport needs to get into the school system and compete within school districts. Parents need to see the value of their child competing in a life sport that may lead to a professional career but more importantly it teach life skills such as commitment, dedication, consistency and the values of goal setting, organization and critical thinking.

It is time Triathlon received its long overdue respect as a viable sports’ option for youth in America. Triathlon indeed is a sport not an extracurricular activity.

Now get busy promoting the sport.

Boris Robinson,

Director/Head Coach

T3Multisports Welcome

Coach Boris side profile on bike web

Welcome to the T3Multisports Blog.

This is blog was established for you and we hope you will find interesting and useful information here.  It is also an opportunity for us to communicate so please feel free to respond.  We only ask that you use good judgment in your response as we want to keep this family friendly and respectful to all.

The goal is to post weekly; however, there may be time when the posts will be more or less frequently depending on your level of involvement and interest.

Once again, welcome and we thank you for taking a look around our site.  Hope you will consider us as your triathlon and cycling training program.




T3Multisports, LLC