Bilateral “Valkyrie” breathing in freestyle swimming

I recently decided to go back to swimming laps after at least two decades of not doing it. I'm slowly getting a bit more in shape. I swim mostly freestyle (a.k.a. the crawl).

Along the way, I read about something I never considered before in the freestyle stroke: bilateral breathing. This is simply a way to develop a stroke rhythm in which you breath the same number of times on each side.

Note that in many other strokes (e.g., breast stroke, butterfly, backstroke), the issue doesn't arise because you breath in the center; in other strokes (e.g., sidestroke), it also doesn't arise because the entire body is in an asymmetric configuration. But in freestyle, the body is in a perfectly symmetric configuration, it's just that I had always been taught to breath on one side.

In my old stroke, I used three kicks per arm stroke, creating a cycle of six kicks/two arms/one breath. This is a very standard freestyle stroke.

In the new stroke, there are still three kicks per arm, but now there is a breath on every third arm stroke, resulting in a cycle of eighteen kicks/six arms/two breaths. I found this a little hard to visualize.

Something that helped me immensely in visualizing how this works is the animation on the main page of Swim Smooth, who sell an iOS app designed to help people do exactly that: visualize the bilateral breathing freestyle stroke.

As I observed this animation, I started thinking about it as a movement pattern, which made my background in choreography and music kick in. I realized that in fact, this was simply a pattern in 9/8 time, also known as “compound triple time”. The arm stroke rhythm would be represented by the main beats (one, two, three) while the kicks would be the three eighth notes per beat (one and uh, two and uh, three and uh). Breathing would occur on the down beat (beat one) of each measure; that is, it would take two 9/8 measures (six counts) for the entire pattern.

Well, when it comes to counting out a movement pattern, there is nothing better than music that fits the pattern. In this case, music in 9/8 time. This is a fairly unusual meter, but it certainly does exist.

The best example I could find was the famous theme to Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries. Listen to it here (there is some introductory material before the theme is played by the horns). This famous melody conforms perfectly to the bilateral freestyle.

This morning, I tried it out at the pool. It worked perfectly. I was able to swim a fairly smooth, rhythmic bilateral crawl while “playing” the Valkyrie theme in my head, taking a breath on each downbeat (and therefore on every third arm stroke and every ninth kick).

I think this little trick could be used to good advantage by others to learn patterns of movement that have a regular rhythmic structure, and I certainly recommend that it be used by swimmers wanting to learn bilateral breathing. It also helps to see the movement while mentally playing the melody, and for this, the animation I mentioned above was very helpful (their app turns out to be even better, since it allows the stroke to be seen from different angles).



I'm not sure what to call my approach to single-dish cooking. It's what I've used probably 5-6 times per week for many years, with considerable variations. In the past, I called it, jokingly, “slop”.

Today, I did some Google research, and found that while it is similar to pilaf and risotto, it is most similar to jambalaya, so that's what I think I'm going to call it henceforth. But it's pretty far removed from your conventional jambalaya. In my version, it is cooked using the no-oil method (it is “water-fried”). It is also low sodium and relatively low in carbohydrates. Because of its no-oil and lo-carb nature, maybe I'll call it “jamba-lo-no”, if I can stand it.

There are many varieties of this, mostly depending on what kind of stuff I have around. Here is the version I just ate today for lunch; it's fairly typical.

I took some little mushrooms and washed them and then sprinkled them with Fiesta seasoning and some garlic powder while they were still wet, and set them aside.

I scrubbed a carrot and a couple of fingerling sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2 inch chunks.

I washed some broccoli and some collards and cut the broccoli into florets and tore the collards into chunks roughly 1 inch square.

I smashed a clove of garlic, chopped up some onion, and washed and chopped up a serrano pepper.

I opened a can of water-packed sardines and drained off the excess water. (The sardines are not a requirement at all. Sometimes I use tempeh or tofu, for example, or rinsed pre-cooked black beans.)

In a small bowl, I mixed 1/8 cup of soy grits, 1T of oat bran, 1T mixed grain cereal, and 1t wheat bran.

In a skillet, I put in 1 c of drinking water and the carrots and sweet potatoes, brought the water to a boil, and then reduced heat and simmered, covered, for a few minutes.

I added the broccoli and collards, raised the heat briefly, and then let it simmer a while more.

Now I added 4T of low-sodium, no oil marinara sauce; the sardines; the garlic; the onions; and the serrano pepper. I sprinkled the sardines and vicinity with both Fiesta and a bit of cayenne pepper. I turned the heat up all the way, mixed this around a bit, then put the mushrooms on top, and mixed briefly. Then, I distributed the grain mix around on top of everything, then stirred it together, watching until there was only a bit of liquid left (this only takes maybe 10 s).

I put on the cover and turn the heat all the way off (I have an electric stovetop; with a gas stove, make sure you use a heavy skillet that will retain the heat for a while).

I then go off and do something else for a while. When I come back 10-20 minutes later, the liquid has been absorbed almost completely by the grains. Pour onto a plate and sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese.

The way this dish evolved was through a number of variations, many involving some initial frying of the the veg, then liquid and grains added to it. But the frying, which I tried always to do with a minimum of oil, was sometimes difficult to do, so I hit upon the idea of just using water, putting in the hardest/longest cooking ingredients first, and the grains last. I liked the results so much that I decided I needed a more respectable name for it.

Sorry there's no picture, I ate everything.