Sunday, January 6, 2013

How to Breathe

How to Breathe?  First we talk about 'how to run' which is arguably VERY natural to humans, now how to breathe??

Consider this; a common question at the gym.  People ask 'am I just out of shape or is there a trick to breathing??'.  It is easy to dismiss such questions as 'just work harder, adapt, get fitter' but there are interesting nuances to consider.  Our bodies can recognize that we're working hard (say, during a work out) so let's increase the flow of oxygen!  A simple mechanism is to just breathe faster, but that is not always the best solution to adapt to a serious fitness demand we're placing on our bodies.  For example a measure of fitness is the VO2Max is a measure of when (given a constantly increase in effort-level) does one exhale perfectly good oxygen.  In other words, our trigger to breathe faster usurps our ability to USE the oxygen we are taking in.

Many of us are training their bodies to be fit, but there are also techniques to train our lungs to work better.   Two take ways in my research is to:

a.)breathe deeper
b.)breathe smarter

Deeper is simple to understand, when you feel like you can't get enough air, take a moment to slow your breathe's cadence and increase the depth of breathes.  Try it at as you read this, breathe deep, then try to breathe deep using your mouth.  There are benefits to using those deeper air sacs and like many skills if you consciously do it eventually you'll naturally do it!  Also play with this, experiment when in your 'zone' - how many steps (while running) do you take per breathe?  Doing burps? Give yourself the luxury of a deep breath per rep.  Make a breath what you're heading for, your milestone to reach. Say 'breath breath breath' to yourself when in a high intensity workout!

Breathing smarter is a funny way i like to say - use your breathing muscles the way they were intended.  Use your belly to breathe!  Here is a test, are you a belly or a chest breather:

You can test whether you are a chest breather or stomach breather. Place your right hand on your chest, and your left hand on your stomach and breath normally. If your right hand rise more, you are a chest breather, and if your left hand rises more, you are a stomach breather.  (By Ollie Lawson)

The stomach obviously can expand MUCH further and is therefore a better group of muscles to take in air.  I always joke with my running seminars that my race pics look ridiculous because my stomach is usually distended.  It is worth the unflattering pictures to have enough air.  

Master this, then you have no excuses ;)