If you take water in through your nose while swimming, you'll get a burning sensation through your sinuses and have trouble maintaining control of your breath. Correct exhalation through both your mouth and your nose as you are underwater prevents water from getting in your nose. Practice breathing in shallow water to become accustomed to the technique. Keeping water out by exhaling at the right time will become second nature.
Take in a breath, submerge your face in the water and blow the air out gently and gradually with both your mouth and your nostrils. The natural air pressure you emit from your nose during these bubbles keeps the water out. Turn your head to the side to inhale and repeat. Once you feel comfortable breathing this way when still, practice the breath while using a kick board and eventually when using a full swim stroke.
If the breath eludes your or you are eager to work on your stroke before you've mastered the breath, employ a nose clip, which squeezes your nostrils together so water can't enter. The clips can be especially helpful during the backstroke and breaststroke. The advantages of nose clips are that they reduce the fear and anxiety of getting water up your nose and can help you focus more on your stroke mechanics. Swimming purists don't encourage the use of nose clips, but some Olympians do wear them during competition. You can always start out swimming with one and then gradually wean yourself off of it as you become more comfortable with the swimming breath.
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