Whats the optimal time to take a breath in front crawl swimming? I've looked at videos of Olympic swimmers and they all seem to (mostly) take a breath at the same side every 2 strokes (this excludes sprints).
I've watched this video about 100 times :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9Dc
It's Michael Phelps swimming a few lengths on his own. at 0:09 you can clearly see him turn to his right for a breath just as his right hand sweeps by his head. Also his body tilts about 45 degrees to the left so basically he's using his right hand to somehow "pull" himself up on the right side thus causing his body to tilt this way hence making it easier to go up for a breath.
When I watch swimmers at my local pool nearly EVERYONE does it the opposite way (Including the very fit looking people who swim lap after lap non stop). ie. If they're turning to the right for a breath they'll do it when their left hand enters the water and "hoist" themself up for a breath. In fact some of them even slap the water , using the water's surface tension then push down and back. I confess this is the way I always swam too and still feels most comfortable for me.
Anyway the other day I tried swimming the way Phelps does in this video and found it very counter-intuitive and difficult to coordinate it not to mention feeling strain in my neck due to lack of flexibility. Despite this, I persisted and managed to churn out a few laps this way and the best way I can describe it was it felt like I was "climbing" up the pool.
In terms of energy usage, The 2 methods felt about equal although the Phelps way requires much more concentration.
I'd like to hear from any competitive/experienced swimmers here about your opinion on these 2 ways of breathing. Am I making something out of nothing with this or is there a reason the pros swim like this? As I say, I watched lots of swimmers at my local pool and none of them swim like this. Are they bad swimmers or is there no "bad" way?