Breathing in, breathing out

The body does a lot of things without consulting the mind and breathing is one of them. You’d think that after 54 years of breathing, day in and day out, would make me adept at breathing: different tempos, different types, build up stamina for it. Turns out no. The day to day stuff is no sort of training at all. As you’ll discover when after a year or so of not doing lengths you try for 50 metres crawl on a three-stroke rhythm. One two three turn head left breathe in, breathe out for one two three turn head right breathe in, breathe out for one two three and repeat endlessly and still the far wall is so far away and my lungs start to shout and my heart hammers. I give up about 10 metres short and go back to breast stroke with head out of the water, and shallow, everyday breathing, the kind that comes naturally. It’s not just the shortness of breath, the lightness of head, there’s also a panic lodged in my lungs. A limit I can feel in my chest and it’s not about repeating something I already know how to do. It’s a control forced by water and pace. When your head is under and in and you can only breathe out; when it’s out and sideways you can only suck quickly and deeply – that muscle must work, must do this now, well. And it must do it again and again, rhythmically without fail. With discipline. With purpose.

“The diaphragm is the dome-shaped sheet of muscle and tendon that serves as the main muscle of respiration and plays a vital role in the breathing process.”

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