In other words, what goes in must go out. And I'd been doing that wrong. When I first started swimming laps 5-6 weeks ago, I asked two authorities how I should be exhaling during my stroke. My 8 year old daughter said that she does a continuous exhale so that she's ready for her next inhale. That same day, we were hanging out with one of the faster 12 year olds on the team, she said that she holds her breath, then does a big exhale right before taking a breath.
I tried both ways and found I liked the holding your breath technique more. At least I thought I did. Fast forward to last Friday when the Master's Coach actually gave me two pieces of advice: 1) breathe into your stomach, and 2) exhale continuously. He brought up really good points too. I don't hold my breath when playing basketball, why would you when swimming. And I have limited time to take my breath, might as well be absolutely sure I can maximize that time.
This morning I tried it and found it was really really helpful. I was about halfway through my laps when my usual next-lane-neighbor showed up; I commented about the Master's Coach's advice and she noted that she could tell -- I could actually talk in between laps! At the end of my laps, I really felt I could keep going and didn't feel as tired as usual. I'm on the right track.
I had a chance to talk to him after my laps and thank him for the help. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to find out more about the master's team and what they did in the mornings (besides getting up at an UnGodly Hour). They swim a lot more yards...and faster. But he pointed out that I am doing a little less than half their work out in about half the time, I'm not as far from being ready as I think (especially with my top secret new breathing technique).
Since he could tell I'm interested, he gave me some steps to get ready. It's called the pace clock. I often see swimmers at the wall, staring at the pace clock getting ready for their next laps. I often stand at the wall catching my breath, staring at the pace clock so it looks like I have a reason to be there. But now I will. I told him my times (39.5 seconds full speed, ~50 seconds regular speed for a 50 free). He wants me to do 10 sets of 50 on a 1:15 interval, basically giving me ~25 seconds of rest in between 50s. And keep doing that until I can work it down to a 15 second rest.
At that point I'm ready for the slow lane.