SIP 061: Provocative breathing, mediation, and better coaching

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We want to make swimmers better.

I had so much fun talking to Dominic Latella from SwimBox. He said multiple times that making swimmers better is his primary goal. He wants to help people and work with others that share that goal. You can see it shine through everything he says in our conversation. Dive into this episode and share his enthusiasm.

Breathing well on land is a demonstration of a good athlete.

I don’t think you realized it, but you said, “breathing is not fundamental,” and I would say, breathing is the foundation of swimming.

The Swim Box

Swim Easier after just one lesson.

SwimBox brings together technology and expertise to give you the best swim lesson experience available. The core of our protocol is injury prevention, and our dream is that everyone know how to swim. We work towards that by providing you with the safest swim lessons you can find.

Dominic Latella

In addition to his love for the sport, Dominic has been in the swimming world for over 14 years, and not just as a coach. Take a look at some pieces of his resume:

  • The only Level 4 US Masters Swimming coach in Virginia and DC (the highest level of certification available)
  • Head swim coach for Adaptive Swimming at Walter Reed
  • 2 time coach at USMS High Performance Camp
  • 10 yrs coaching experience working with swimmers of all ages and ability levels
  • US Masters Swimming Level 1-3 Certification Instructor
  • US Masters Swimming Learn-to-Swim Certification Instructor

Dominic’s straight to the point scientific approach helps you learn safe and efficient swimming technique. SwimBox’s endless pool technology allows him to be able to stop you mid-stroke and make any needed corrections/adjustments. He’ll tell you exactly what needs to be done with your swimming to become more efficient, get faster, and swim injury free.


Check out Wim Hoff:

Dominic and I have a great conversation about challenging a core swimming concept: engage your core. Should we be focusing on pulling our belly buttons into their spine? Why did we even start doing that? Functionally, we want to have the core strong and stable to promote the body rotation and the spinal axis being still to maximize the force.  But can you maintain a strong core the whole time? Can you squeeze your belly for more than a 50? Maybe we’re approaching the result from the wrong way.

We talk about how when you use diaphragmatic breathing it fills or expands your waist using the same muscles that you would with “squeezing your core” but you can maintain it for a longer amount of time. Listen to how Dominic talks about learning to breath on land by expanding your pant’s waist.

He also talks about how you should rest in between breaths, and that you shouldn’t start to exhale until your face exits the water. This will have a shallower breath, and because you’re doing that, you should breathe to the same side to keep your oxygen at it’s optimal level. If you’re doing one breath every 3 or 5, you’re going to have a deeper breath and a less engaged core as a result.

We are getting people stronger in their core through their breath.

Listen to the results SwimBox is getting focusing on breath. 00:28:00

For beginners, it is better to teach the “exchange of air” and learning that breath is an important part of swimming. I tried this with my developmental swimmers on deck first. We worked on big belly breaths, and small belly breaths. We did exercises where we got close to a mirror and touched the mirror with our belly buttons but not our nose or other body parts using our breath. This was to teach wide waist breathing and using your diaphragm to breath.

Evaluating your own coaching and meditation

We talk about how to distill down your feedback and your guidance to building into a better swimmer, or move into the next swim lesson. Dominic talks about how he can take your basic freestyle and in 5 lessons make you a better swimmer overall. In about 3.5 hours, he can give you a series of instruction that cycles through the 5 focus protocols for improved swimming.

How do you know which of the many different components of swimming to focus on? Dominic and his team at SwimBox have come up with lesson plans and what they call “protocols” to teach swimming effectively. I think this echos Swimming Ideas and our level structure for beginning swimmers. We focus on the essential swim skills to get overall better results and improvements in swimming.

It is easy to see all the different things that are wrong with the swimmer, but what is the most important thing to focus on first?

I really like how Dominic looks at a swimmer and says, “what is going on with the core, and what do I know about improving posture. Let’s work on that first, then we can move on to the legs.

Use other people’s language

Dominic and I are of the same mind here. Steal from other coaches and use their language to get the effect. Sometimes we teach and coach and our participants are not responding to our words. Swimming Ideas uses scripts and specific key words to emphasize points, but if they’re not working we encourage you to change some of the phrasing.

In the same way, we discuss how it totally makes sense to take the words other coaches use to describe an activity in a different way to get your participant to change.


Effective Coaching

USA Swimming sports consultants give coaches the “effective coaching” presentation. Take advantage of this now; it will change your coaching style and life for the better.


Learning a new motor skills and the Redemption Game

Remember that when you learn a new motor skill you can only do it for 15-20 seconds. The “redemption game” is basically during your timed swim you get 1 chance to breath wrong, but the next time you breath it needs to be correct, or you lose the game. It ties into meditation because you’re training your brain to be aware of your actions, recognize when you don’t do it, and then make a change.

We use short distance skill training in the pool to achieve the same goals here. Remember that when you learn a new motor skill, you can only maintain doing it for 15 -20 seconds. We do 3 x streamline + [new motor skill] in our swim lesson and our developmental swim team to achieve this exact time limit. We give our swimmers 5 chances in short 10-15 second bursts to do the skill well. In addition, we give immediate feedback to the swimmer right after their attempt.  Check out our complete program for more information.


Endless pools

SwimBox uses the Endless Pools to teach their swimming. There are many advantages, and you should check them out here:



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