Swimming crawl without stopping: mistakes and keys

In 2020, my swimming goals were:

  1. Learn how to do the swimming turn
  2. Swim 200 meters crawl non-stop doing the turn
  3. Swim 500 meters crawl non-stop doing the turn
  4. Swim 1000 meters crawl non-stop doing the turn

This week, after 44 days, I've achieved the four goals. I was thinking it would take longer to achieve them, but it didn't.


In Barcelona, when I was a kid, I lived in a condo with a ~20 meters pool. My dad played water polo when he was young and he taught me how to swim crawl at a young age (when I was 3 years old).

Moreover, from 6 until 10 years, we had a mandatory subject at primary school: swimming. We were obliged to swim two times per week, around 1 hour each time.

This means that I have been poking around in chlorine since very little. My style is far from perfect, but I enjoy swimming and I get things fast.


After high school, I stopped swimming... More than 10 years later, I decided to come back. When I came back to swim last year, I realized two things:

  1. I forgot to do the swimming turn
  2. I couldn't swim more than 100 meters without stopping to breath

Swimming turn

It took me a while to remember how I did this movement like when I was a kid. First, when I tried again, water came inside my nose and tried to arrive in my brain. I got disoriented and my turns weren't vertical, but half vertical; in diagonal with the wall.

I decided to practice the turn after the swimming routine of 500 meters, 10 times per day. First 5 times arriving in the wall breathing on my left, and the rest arriving in the wall breathing on my right.

After a week I made progress (70 turns later). Water came still inside my nose, but I tried to compensate exhaling air strongly through my nose.

At this point, it seemed impossible for me to swim 100 meters doing the turn.

10 turns/day and 1 month later, I began to be comfortable with the turn. After week two, I tried to incorporate turns into my crawl practice, so probably I made more than 300 turns in total.

Again, at school I could make turns without difficulty, I only needed to refresh them again.

Long distances

Long distances were more complicated. At school, they didn't teach us to swim more than 50 meters, so it was relatively easy for me to swim 50 meters, stop, talk with friends and repeat.

I needed to figure out what was wrong with my style.

After investigating, I came to the conclusion that I was making the following mistakes:

  1. Not breathing inside the water. You need to exhale through your nose when your head is inside the water. I was holding air and breathing in/out when I moved my head to the side. This was a big mistake.

  2. Breathing every three times. At school, they taught us to breathe every three times. It makes sense because swimming is more symmetrical if you take air every three times. But I ran out short of oxygen. So I tried to do it every two and I felt better. To not lose symmetry, now I breathe one pool to the left and the next to the right.

  3. After resolving 1 and 2, I could swim longer, but I still got tired after 200 meters. When I incorporated the swimming turn, I needed to stop; it was impossible for me to continue. I wondered how people could swim crawl so effortlessly. What was the trick? After lots of practice, I realized I was going too fast. I exhaled a lot of water while turning, that made me short of air, when I tried to breathe, my muscles were so tense, that my body swam faster to take more air, then I needed to swim even faster, and my muscles got even tenser. It was a vicious cycle.

To resolve 3, the most critical point, I tried to relax as much as I could. In the warm up, I first swam breaststroke two pools, which is quite easier, exhaling through my nose, relaxing my muscles. And then I began to swim crawl at the same relaxed pace. When I felt tense muscles, I said to myself to relax and then I slowed down.

Things got easier.

If you are struggling with crawl, maybe you're thinking relaxing is bullshit and the worst solution. I thought the same, but after I practiced to be more relaxed, I could swim 500 meters crawl easily. And after some days, I swam 1000 meters without missing a turn.

As I said, the whole process took me 44 days. I don't swim very quickly, but now I am able to swim crawl non-stop.


To swim crawl without stopping I did:

  1. Exhaling through my nose when my head was inside the water.
  2. Breathing every two times instead of three.
  3. Relaxing, going slowlier if I felt my muscles were getting tense.

Happy swimming! 🏊

Hi, I'm Erik, an engineer from Barcelona. If you like the post or have any comments, say hi.