BY BRYAN MINEO | Fellow Swim Mechanics Coach (info below)

How are you breathing? Do you notice that you tend to hold your breath during stressful moments? Does your breathing become shallow or rapid when overwhelmed at work or school? Few of us give much thought to breathing. We breathe 10 million times per year! It comes naturally. However, we’re not fish. In the water, knowing how much air you should be ventilating the lungs with can be tricky but is necessary to creating an efficient freestyle.

There are two extremely common breathing errors I find in swimmers: working with too much air and late timing to each breath. This creates a slew of negative effects in your stroke, from a dropped body position, to excessive drag, to increased heart rate and wasted energy. The breath is the foundation of your stroke and should always be considered closely first before any other element of your stroke. With discerned breathing focus in the water, you can raise the ceiling of your swimming potential.

How Much Air Do I Need?

Take notice of the natural rise and fall your breath maintains on it’s own before you push off the wall for your next lap. Because of how regular you take oxygen in, about 20 times a minute, your body isn’t demanding a great volume of air each breath. The same approach should apply during your swimming. The goal is to utilize about half of your lung capacity each breath, meaning your inhale and exhale should be equal, leaving a bit of dead air in the lungs, opposed to completely emptying the lungs each exhale. This dead air volume will allow you to maintain neutral buoyancy and body position in the water. Many swimmers take too large of inhales, causing extra buoyancy in the chest, subsequently causing a drop in the hips and legs in the water.

Each inhale should be a small sip of air through the mouth, rather than a large, frantic gulp of air. Knowing that the next inhale is only 2-3 seconds away ensures that your body isn’t demanding any more oxygen each breathing cycle than the small sip.

As for your exhalation, in a relaxed, sighing sort of manner, allow both your nose and mouth to gently expire the same volume of carbon dioxide each breath. Strive to gently blow small bubbles out of your nose and mouth the entire time your face is in the water. Pay close attention that you are not holding your breath when you face first enters the water each stroke. The split second your face enters the water is when the exhale should begin, creating a smooth, seamless breathing cycle and stroke.

Sync it up

Knowing how to properly and effectively ventilate your lungs is one thing, but equally important is maximizing the amount of time you have for each breath during freestyle. It’s common to feel as if you don’t have ample time for each inhale, and luckily the fix is quite simple. The problem lies within the timing of your inhale, meaning literally when you start and finish the breath.

There is a specific unilateral breathing pattern you should be employing specific to open water swimming. Breathing every stroke, but occasionally alternating sides for symmetry and balance, allows you to sync the cadence of your stroke precisely with the rhythm of your breath. Using the mental device of saying in your head, “inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale,” will hold you accountable to focusing on your breathing. This will help to eliminate any breath holding that may be occurring while your face is in the water, as well as help you time the breath precisely with your stroke. For a left-sided breath, assign the inhale to your right arm and the exhale to your left arm. During freestyle, as your right hand slices into the water, your head and body rotate to the left side. Precisely when your right arm reaches full extension is when you should begin your inhale. If you find that your right arm is already dropping or pushing down on the water as you begin your inhale, your timing is late.

On the following stroke your left hand slices forward and body rotates to the right. Your face should return to the water simultaneously as your left arm reaches its most extended position. If you’re able to see your left hand pass your face and slice into the water, you are finishing your inhale late. This creates a hitch in your stroke and break in momentum and power.

Practice these two precise timings by slowing your stroke rate down a hair, and/or using a pull buoy to take the legs out of the equation temporarily. More often than not, you’ll find that the timing of your breath is late, causing a snowball effect of bad habits. The easy solution is to sync the breath with your stroke.

Focus on Your Breath

Our brains are only able to process and focus on one thing at a time. Your breath should always be your first focal point when swimming. Once you have the effort and timing of your breath dialed in, you can then move on and focus on an additional element of your stroke. If at any point you find yourself breathing shallow and constricted or feeling especially tense, tune back into the breath to reset your stroke. Keeping close attention to your breathing while swimming open water is particularly valuable as it helps to isolate your focus, and distract your mind from any negative self-talk or pre-existing fears. Remember: Focus on your breath.

The Swim Mechanic, Bryan Mineo, is an open water swim mechanics coach based in Los Angeles. His methodology is uniquely specific to the needs of triathletes. Bryan teaches an ‘order of operations’ by educating athletes on the cause and effect of their stroke inefficiencies. The Swim Mechanic holds clinics around the country, as well as writes monthly articles on swimming mechanics for several national publications.


PROGRAM OBJECTIVE: A focused and fun to intense weekend of pre-season training and informative presentations to prepare triathletes for successful racing in 2016 @ IMLP or other venues. Schedule is adaptable to individual needs.

PRESENTERS /TRAINING GROUP LEADERS: Mickey Cassu and guests. USAT certified coach and multiple IMUSA finishes.

WHERE:Training and activities will take place on the Ironman USA (Lake Placid) course. “Camp Cassu” is serenely located on the run course (near mile marker 5) about 4 miles from downtown Lake Placid. With ample parking and gear storage provide a unique immersion environment where you have access to all amenities, your peers and coaches throughout the weekend.

PROGRAM COST: $285 per athlete. $100 deposit due to hold spot and remainder due by May 1, 2016.(Add $50.00 after Jan 1) This includes all group training activities, group discussions, nutrition, goodies, support, lodging(for single beds/shared rooms*) and all meals.

PARTICIPANTS**: Accommodation is limited and spaces are envisioned to fill quickly. A first-come basis will be adopted so please sign up quickly to insure your spot. Once accommodation has been filled, we will accept training only participants though you will need to arrange your own lodging.

Cancellation Policy – Cancellations 30 days or more prior to the camp/clinic start date will be refunded by 50% of the registration fee paid. No refunds for cancellations less than 30 days prior to the camp/clinic start date. No transfers. No exceptions.


Why Triathletes Should Go Trail Running

by The Coaches on January 9, 2016

Hit the trails! Try trail running for better balance, power and fun

Republished with permission of VeloPress from “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton. For more, visit

Why: Your Body
Running on trails does a body good. Thanks to varied terrain and softer natural surfaces underfoot, running on trails can both improve your overall fitness and be more forgiving to your body than road running.

Nice bod
A fit physique may not be your main reason to head out for a run on trails, but it’s not a bad side effect. Running on variable surfaces, such as trails riddled with rocks or roots — or even on smooth, twisty singletrack — forces your body to use stabilizing muscles (hello, core) and strengthen connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) that don’t normally get recruited on road runs. And running hilly terrain on trails builds leg strength — working quads, calves and gluteal muscles more than running on flats.

Plus, research shows that trail running can burn up to 10 percent more calories than running on a road or track for the same time or distance.

Better balance
The varied terrain of trails engages small, intrinsic muscles situated deep within our bodies for balance, improving coordination by teaching us proprioception.

proprioception \’prō-prē-uh-’sep-shun\ n. 1. Awareness of the position of one’s body, helpful to runners and all other living creatures.

Running trails has multiple benefits. Science says so!

Studies show that walking on uneven terrain requires more energy than walking on smooth ground, engaging more muscle activity and metabolic expenditure. If this applies to walking, just think how it applies to running.
Running trails — unstable ground, uphill/downhill, altitude — often strengthens balancing muscles, such as core muscles and small stabilizing muscles, normally not engaged in road running.
Trail surfaces are softer than pavement and thus create lower overall impact and reduced pain while running.
Running trails improves bone density that may help combat osteoporosis.
“Mechanically, trail running challenges athletes in all three planes of motion: sagittal (front/back), frontal (side/side) and transverse (rotational). This means there’s a high degree of muscle control and strength, plus coordination and proprioception, required to trail run.” — Charlie Merrill, licensed physical therapist and competitive trail runner

Soft landing
Trails compress, or dampen, to varying degrees with every step. That means that each time your foot hits the ground on trail, the impact is less harsh than on pavement or concrete. This minimizes wear and tear on your body — the same kind of wear and tear caused by the repetitive motion of running on a hard surface, which can lead to a multitude of overuse injuries. And the softer the surface, the more energy your body expends to rebound during your stride — a good thing. Running on very soft surfaces (such as deep sand) increases muscular strength and overall stamina.

“In the same way you go to the gym to get strong, running on changing terrain makes muscles, tendons and ligaments stronger. Compliant surfaces are great for muscles and joints because they store and return your energy. Running in the sand, which has a lot of dampening, works foot and calf muscles and burns a lot of energy. And running on uneven terrain makes your heart rate and overall energy cost go up.” — Daniel Ferris, Ph.D., professor, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan

Easy does it
Doing too much too soon can shock your body and cause injuries. With any training program, easing into things is important. With trail running, gradually building up to more technical terrain will give your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons time to adjust and prepare them to become stronger than ever.

Be a Better You
Your body has a lot to gain from trail running.

If you’re a road runner …
You have: Cardiovascular stamina, leg strength, good bone density
You’ll gain: Core strength, intrinsic muscle strength, balance, agility

If you’re a road cyclist …
You have: Cardiovascular stamina, leg strength (singular plane/circular)
You’ll gain: Core strength, dynamic leg strength, increased cardiovascular strength (your legs keep moving downhill), increased bone density from the impact of running, increased balance, increased agility

If you’re a mountain biker …
You have: Cardiovascular stamina, leg strength (singular plane/circular), some core strength
You’ll gain: Increased core strength, dynamic leg strength, increased cardiovascular strength (your legs keep moving downhill), increased bone density from the impact of running, increased balance, increased agility, another perspective of the trails you love (and access to some you can’t ride)

If you’re a swimmer …
You have: Cardiovascular stamina, core strength, upper body strength
You’ll gain: Improved cardiovascular stamina, leg strength, increased core strength, increased bone density from the impact of running, balance, agility, a change of scenery from the bottom of the pool

Republished with permission of VeloPress from “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton. For more, visit


Fundamentals of Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

December 20, 2015

Good Points by fellow USAT coach TONY ZAMORA With the cooler and shorter days among us, now is the perfect time to head indoors and focus on strength training. Triathletes live busy schedules and have to find the time to train for three sports. Adding in a fourth of weight training always seems to get [...]

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Season ending races…

October 19, 2015

Well Autumn is upon us… Congratulations to all of the Start-tri athletes (past and present) that tackled everything from sprint triathlons to Ironman races, 5K runs to marathons and even a ride across the USA! We were at 100% finishes for all athletes that began an Ironman!!! Recent finishes included numerous awards at the Triathlon [...]

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Need some motivation through the hot days (Dog Days of Summer)…

August 31, 2015

Start-tri athlete, Lawrence Writer, is taking on the journey of a lifetime. He is biking from Portland, OR to Portland, ME. Discovering our great country along the way. Be sure to follow his blog (along with some great pictures): Train smart, Race hard, Have fun… The coaches

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Happy Bastille Day!

July 14, 2015

As Le Tour de France heats up and heads into the Pyrenees (home of my paternal side), I continue to be amazed at what these athletes can do! Here on the home front our own Start-Tri athletes have had some very impressive results! At the Flat as a Pancake Tri, the Start-tri Team brought home [...]

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At the races…

May 26, 2015

Racing season has hit the Northeast in the last few weeks!!! After a long winter many Start-tri athletes emerged from hibernation at the Jerseyman Triathlon. Zoli Kemescei, Dave Swezey, Tom Whelan, Matt Starr, Mike Tropea and Coach Mickey tackled the tough course and all had good finishes. This weekend saw racers Tom Whelan, Matt Starr [...]

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End of March Motivation:)

March 28, 2015

We are going to run an age graded mile (together or on your own). You can run this on or off the track. You just have to prove using garmin, polar, strava, other file. I plan to run mine on the track. Once you run your mile, you will plug into calculator below and see [...]

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New Race Kits for 2015

March 5, 2015

Happy Snow Day in March! Many of us are planning/have planned our 2015 schedule…toward that end our Start-tri team, athletes and friends will be racing in their new kits at the opening races of the season Jerseyman Triathlon and Flat as a Pancake Triathlon. We hope you like them:) Train smart, Race smart and Have [...]

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