I do laps at the pool quite often and when I do front crawl I breathe out with my face in the water.

I tried to do the same at a lake (it was quite warm actually but choppy conditions) but found it quite a bit harder to force air out of my mouth and nearly impossible to breathe out of my nose (which I prefer in the pool).

Is there anything about open water that would make this harder? Or was it psychological?

I didn't notice myself feeling tense (I was close to shore) - but I wondered if small currents from the chop, relative to a pool made the difference?

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    My guess is it is psychological but I look forward to being wrong.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 18:45
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    I'm not a swimmer, but your idea about currents makes sense. There's a different mixture and flow of air when a lake is going unpredictably up and down. That mix might add weight or pressure which could cause exhaling to be physically harder than in the pool. The pressure could be from above, under, in front of or behind you. Also, in the pool, you can control exactly how far your head is from the surface of the water so the exhale is even. In the lake you might exhale from a deeper area which might be harder on the body. Your whole body is reacting differently too which might change things. Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 0:13

1 Answer 1


I can only answer this based on my own experience and my theory based on that. That is, that exhaling used to be difficult for me in conditions where inhaling is uncertain. When doing the crawl your mouth is very close to the water surface when inhaling, so in choppy conditions the wavelets will sometimes cover your mouth while you are in the inhaling cycle. If you are used to swimming in flat calm water, your body is conditioned to rely on being able to breathe whenever you are in the inhaling position. When exhaling, your body will sink deeper into the water. Your subconsciousness knows this and fights against this, as this will make access to air even more difficult.

If you keep practising in choppy water you will re-condition yourself and exhaling will become as natural as in flat water over time. The progress will be quicker if you learn how to avoid inhaling water in these conditions of course. It's basically about teaching your inner animal that exhaling and giving up the extra buoyancy is safe.

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