Breathing is one of those things we do without thinking; it just happens. You can improve your workouts by implementing some basic performance breathing tips. During workouts our breathing volume increases because muscles need more oxygen to handle the intensity. The diaphragm and the intercostal muscles located between your ribs flex and relax to force air in and out of your lungs. The better conditioned these muscles are the more efficient your oxygen uptake will be.
Performance breathing is an important and under used way to focus your mind and improve your workouts.
Oxygen and Muscle Performance
During exercise, the body increases breathing and heart rate as a way to deliver oxygen to the blood. This oxygen kicks the body into gear by signaling the muscles to release sugar known as glycogen. Glycogen signals the body to make ATP which is the energy source for the cells. Without enough oxygen (or when the cells run out), the body begins to produce lactic acid (also know as the burn you feel during muscle fatigue). During cardio exercise, the body is able to cycle oxygen which allows for longer workout. However, during anaerobic exercise such as lifting and faster exercise such as sprinting, the body can only continue for so long before your muscles run out of energy completely and reach fatigue. With better breathing and training, the body adapts to longer and more intense exercise as the body changes. Breathing plays a key roll in allowing the body to get more oxygen, workout harder, longer, and get better results.
The Basics of Performance Breathing
Our largely sedentary lives have trained us to breath from our chests instead of down low from our diaphragms. This is OK for sitting at a desk, but when you’re on a bike or in a pool swimming laps it’s not enough. Performance breathing is a set of techniques and exercises to help you train your breathing muscles and focus your mind. You can practice some specific breathing tips sitting quietly before incorporating into your training.
Workout harder, longer, and get better results with this breathing exercise
Inhale for a 2 count
Hold for a 2 count
Exhale for a 4 count
Once you master the breathing exercises while sitting you can use it during exercise. For example, the counts become steps during a run or arm strokes when swimming laps. This technique will take a little time to master, but can produce results. I used this performance breathing technique training for a half marathon. I felt it increased my energy and just as importantly, focused my mind during training and the race.
Sport Specific Breathing Tips
Many of us lift weights and if you’ve ever tried to perform a bench press or a pull-up while holding your breath you know the importance of proper breathing. The basic breathing tips for lifting weights are straightforward: exhale during exertion/ concentric portion and inhale during the eccentric/lowering portion (source). Proper breathing for swimming can be a challenge for many because it isn’t as natural as breathing during running or other activities. It took me a little time to get comfortable with exhaling under water, but eventually it clicked. The performance breathing exercise can be particularly helpful for swimming because maintaining your stroke and breathing technique are closely intertwined. The key to learning proper breathing is the mental focus to practice harnessing your body to perform at a higher level.