Breathe in and out
I learned to swim all styles on my own by watching more experienced swimmers. It was enough to stay in the water, but my technique was not right. So 40 years later I finally decided to take a lesson from a coach. It was immediately clear that he was a master. First, he clarified my goals and limitations. Secondly, he carefully watched my trial swim. Thirdly, he gave me only a few pieces of advice, but very simple and, most importantly, specific to me, and not to some ideal Alexander. Also, the coach confirmed my hunch that breathing is the cornerstone in swimming, as I had previously seen in jiu-jitsu and kettlebells. No technique can compensate for errors in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment.
In the swimming pool, this fundamental thought comes very quickly. After all, despite its ordinariness, water is completely alien to our being in it. If you hesitate a bit and inhale water instead of air, that’s it — panic in your head and adrenaline in your blood, because the environment became hostile in a moment. According to WHO statistics, drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide.
You can swim slowly or quickly, technically or clumsily, beautifully or terribly — it’s all secondary. But it is impossible to swim with impaired breathing, especially if the distance is X kilometers and not one pool. The brain is very sensitive to lack of oxygen, which every wrestler was convinced of when, after 30–40 seconds, he switched off from a chokehold or when he forced his opponent to sleep.
Unlike swimming, kettlebells, or yoga, in other aspects of life we tend not to pay much attention to breathing. But extrapolating this idea, I can only imagine the underappreciated potential, especially for intellectual workers, hidden in such an unremarkable activity as breathing in and out. Now I want to listen to the Huberman Lab podcast episode, “Master your breathing.”
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