Swimming differs from other sports in that managing breathing is an integral part of the skill of swimming.
It is a fundamental skill in that if not managed well, it will significantly impact your ability to swim fast.
If you’re using a snorkel to hide the fact that you’re TERRIBLE at breathing, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
The snorkel is your crutch.
However, a snorkel can definitely be used as an effective tool for improving your feel for the water.
The value of the snorkel is that you can swim without having to breathe.
We can leverage that quality as an asset to improve the quality of our practice in two primary ways, which we’ll explore below.
In the first case, we can use the snorkel to IMPROVE our breathing patterns by learning to feel the impact of our current breathing patterns.
By performing repetitions where you alternate swimming with a snorkel and swimming without a snorkel, you can begin to compare how those repetitions FEEL differently.
Most likely, you’ll feel less of a disruption to your stroke rhythm and body position when you have the snorkel on.
The goal then becomes trying to make the repetitions without a snorkel feel exactly like the repetitions with a snorkel.
There should be no change in rhythm and no change in body position.
This can be done for freestyle, butterfly, and breaststroke.
Learning to FEEL how the breath affects your stroke is critical to changing how you breathe.
If you can’t feel it, you can’t do anything about it.
Wearing a snorkel allows you to get A LOT of practice in positions where you’re not moving your head.
Of course, you could simply do a lot of swimming where you just hold your breath.
The problem is that doing so is going to cause a lot of physiological stress that is going to distract you from what you’re trying feel. You’re going to be focused on feeling like you’re about to die, not your body position or rhythm!
Beyond the distraction, holding your breath is going to require you to take constant breaks and extended rest periods.
With a snorkel, you’ll be able to get a lot more practice in, and the quality of that practice is going to be a lot better.
The strategy above is useful when you’re trying improve your feel of how your breath is affecting your stroke.
It’s a great way to create awareness of how your breathing is affecting the entirety of your swimming.
There’s also another advantage of using a snorkel.
Ironically, you’re going to use snorkel for precisely the same reason most swimmers abuse their snorkel.
You’re going to use the snorkel so you don’t have to worry about breathing!
Let’s say you’re working on your sculling and you really want to focus on what you’re feeling as you try to maintain pressure as you switch directions.
Being forced to take a breath every five seconds is going to make focusing on your sculling a lot more difficult.
The same could be said for when you’re really locked in on what you’re feeling while manipulating the surface area of your hands.
By removing the breath, the quality of your practice gets BETTER.
There’s a key difference here.
When you use a snorkel to increase your focus on a specific skill, that’s a valid use. You COULD breathe if you wanted to, but your practice is going to be even more effective if you don’t have to.
In contrast, wearing a snorkel just so you don’t have to breathe, but not focusing your attention elsewhere, is a poor use of a snorkel.
Snorkels can be used very effectively, or they can be used very poorly.
The difference is almost entirely due to what you’re trying to accomplish, and what you’re using the snorkel for.
If you’re using it to make your practice more effective, the snorkel is a wonderful tool.
Faster. Easier. Better.