Breathing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re exercising or lifting heavy. I know I’m guilty of doing it myself, I tend to hold my breath when I’m more focused on my form or when I’m squatting a heavy weight, I witness the same for my clients as well. The truth is it’s actually harder when you hold your breath, you need to ease your mind and keep calm so you can conquer the move accordingly. Holding your breath increases pressure inside the chest, which is good for stability, but holding it too long can slow down the return of blood to the heart and raise your blood pressure. Smooth and efficient breathing is crucial for delivering the oxygen our body needs to function properly.
When you’re running it’s hard to focus and worry about one more thing to incorporate during your run. You first need to make sure you’re hitting the ground ‘heel-toe,’ swinging your arms, your core is engaged, you’re watching out for traffic, and of course now you need to pay attention to your breathing. Studies show that improper breathing technique can impair speed and performance. Alison McConnell, author of Breathe Strong Perform Better, says many runners find it most comfortable to take one breath for every two foot strikes. This mean your breathing in for every two steps (left, right), then breathing out on your next two steps (left, right), a.k.a. the 2:2 rhythm. She believes that synchronizing your breathing to your running cadence will keep the organs from unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which can impede breathing. Whether it’s better to breathe in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth is still up for debate. However, when colder weather is upon us it’s obviously harder to breath through our lungs. Breathing in through your nose actually helps warm the air that’s entering the lungs first. However, breathing in through your nose in general during exercise makes breathing a lot more harder. Not everyone is the same, so try ways to keep your mind focused, your body relaxed, and see what feels right for you and your lungs.
High intensity training can actually take your breath away because of the high demand of cardio that it demands from your body. “While there isn’t one correct way to breathe on the playing field or while running, the breath should come from the diaphragm-not the chest. In general, the rib cage should expand in a 3D pattern, top to bottom, back to front, and to the sides,” says Anna Hartman, director of Performance Physical Therapy at Athletes’ Performance.
This is where you want to pay attention to when you’re exhaling. You always want to make sure you’re exerting on the effort phase of the exercise. Contracting the respiratory muscles will help brace the load during heavier lifts while maintaining lumbar stability. For example, when you’re squatting, you should exhale slowly and continuously while performing a rep. McConnell says, “Be sure to keep your core engaged to protect the spine, similar to preparing for impact during contact sports.” I take a deep breath and when I’m ready I slowly and loudly exhale through my mouth as I come down into a full squat and really push and exert the last of my breath while I explode up.
Yoga has been known to calm the body and release the mind. Instructors usually have their students breathe to reach a deeper pose or stretch. You can always match an equal length inhale to an equal length exhale. Yoga instructor Rebecca Pacheco says this fundamental style of breathing is said to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. Pacheco says, “To power through more rigorous types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga, simply breathe in and out through the nose, maintaining a slight contraction in the back of the throat.”
Ditching the cigarettes, correcting bad posture, and keeping allergies and asthma in check are also key to better breathing. Whether its running a marathon, or scoring the last minute goal in the World Cup, make sure you maximize your breath for your potential for success.
Health Fit Magazine. How To Breathe For Every Type Of Exercise. By: Derek. 12/12/2013. http://healthfitmagazine.com/how-to-breathe-for-every-type-of-exercise/