Who remembers that elementary school teacher who had you and the rest of your class practice rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time? I was so terrible at this when I first tried that I spent my free time trying to make these simultaneous movements correctly sitting on my childhood bed before falling asleep at night. Okay, let’s be honest, I still randomly do it sometimes nowadays too…BUT my point is that movements like this don’t come easily to many of us, and they remind me a lot of all of the simultaneous and sometimes counterintuitive movements we have to make while we swim. Today’s topic? Proper timing of the breath.
Head Tap Drill is the best drill to work on the timing of your breath, with the added bonus of some recovery work at the same time. The main movement of this drill is to start by swimming your normal freestyle. To start the drill, you’re going to tap your head - right above your ear - at the end of your recovery, right before your hand enters the water to start your catch. Make sure your elbow is moving forward during your recovery as you go to tap your head. This movement forces your shoulder blade to move forward during the recovery, which is exactly what we’re looking for in order to protect your shoulder joint.
You want to start this drill without a breath. This helps you learn the timing of the drill in order to progress into working on timing of the breath. It goes recovery, head tap, hand entry, repeat. Once you have the hang of this start to incorporate the breath. This is the hard part! Once you add the breath it’s going to feel like the movements you’re making become rushed, you might even feel like you don’t have time to breathe, tap your head, and have your hand enter the water. Trust me, you have plenty of time. But this is where you’re going to need to focus on all of the proper timing, or the entire drill will be thrown off.
When you add the breath it’s going to go recovery, take a breath, turn your head back down to face the bottom of the pool, head tap, hand entry, repeat. Sounds like a lot, right? Typing it out I’m surprised I don’t have more trouble with this drill, but that’s just because words can sometimes make movements seem that much more daunting. But you’ve got this! Head Tap is just like any other drill you’ve encountered in the past. It’s going to be hard at first, and you might struggle when your’e first learning, but with practice and focus you’re going to get the hang of it.
I know explaining these drills can sometimes be hard over text (it’s hard to write sometimes too, oof), so make sure to check out our video of Head Tap Drill and see it in motion before trying it out. Remember, you want to start without a breath, get comfortable with the timing, then add the breath and go from there. I would suggest working on this drill before you start your workout, so your brain isn’t tired from just having gone through your whole practice. Only work on this for 10-15 minutes at a time. If you feel yourself getting frustrated take a break and come back to it later! You can only maintain new motor skills for about 15 seconds, so don’t force yourself by working on too much too fast.