Breath Control

By Garrett Weber-Gale//Olympic Gold Medalist

As swimmers and coaches all know, there are countless ways to get out of breath, and spike our heart rates. Sometimes at Texas we do breath control sets where we have to breathe every three, five, or seven strokes, and at times go a fast burst while holding our breath.


Recently, Eddie Reese gave me a set that had a small breath control component that really zapped me. Eddie is always full of tricks and small ways to make practice just that little bit harder.


At Texas we are experienced swimmers and have worked up to doing breath control sets. Never do breath control work without talking to your coach first.


The set:

  • 3x100s on 1:10 going :56.
  • 2x75s on :45 going :40 or faster.
  • Each 75 is followed by a 25 fast. For me, the 25 fast was no breath on :45.

I did this entire set three rounds, continuous, to make it 1500 yards.


Eddie’s idea on this set was to get some good aerobic work complemented with a finishing touch of anaerobic sprinting. The 100s were strong but not killer. The 75s, and definitely the fast 25 with no breath, were much more taxing because there was a significant speed change. If you and/or your coach don’t want to do the 25 without a breath, it is perfectly ok to simply swim it fast while maintaining your normal breathing pattern. Fast swimming will make you work hard regardless of holding your breath.


The first round of a set like this is always the most difficult for me. Many times it takes a round to find my grove and fully warm up. As the set wore on I got into a groove and settled into a good pace. I actually ended up going :54s on all the 100s, :3’s to :40s on all the 75s, and 10s on all the 25’s. Almost every day Eddie makes me realize that we can always go faster than we believe possible.


If you are more developed, and your coach thinks it’s ok to do, working in fast 25s with breath control can be applied to many sets. Not only will this help keep your heart rate up, but also gives your muscles and nervous system a different type of work. Sometimes it can be tough to grind out at a constant pace during practice. You can always feel free to pick up the pace or put a fast sprint in the middle of your set…no one ever got worse going fast in practice.


Talk to your coach about trying a variation of this set at home. When Eddie gave the set to me it sounded daunting, but once I got into it I loved the work. Find the right intervals for you and get after it.

ArenaBMWMarriottMyrtha PoolsOmegaPhillips 66SpeedoTYR