Breathing is often taken for granted, but it’s something we do more than 20,000 times a day. It has a large influence on performance. For runners, poor breathing compromises running economy by limiting the amount of oxygen delivered to the muscles. Breathing well can also oxygenate the brain and help the body handle external (not exercise-induced) stress.
Take the time to master your breathing and improve your exercise economy and overall cardiovascular performance. Breathe well to oxygenate your body’s tissues and vital organs, avoid compensatory and inefficient exercise mechanics, and better handle stress.
Assess your breathing
There are two main patterns of breathing:
- Apical breathing is when the majority of movement is limited to the upper chest. These breaths are shallow and inefficient.
- Diaphragmatic breathing is a more effective pattern of breathing where your rib cage expands in all directions, from top to bottom, back to front, and into the sides. Some call it “belly breathing.”
Take the time to assess your breathing frequently throughout the day. Laying on your back, place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath in. If only your top hand moves, this is an apical breath. If your hand on your stomach moves toward the ceiling when you breathe in, this is a good diaphragmatic breath.
The next time you exercise, pay attention to your breathing patterns at different intensities. Does your breathing method change as intensity increases?
Apply specific breathing techniques
Breathing plays a role in optimal nervous system function, proper motor function, relaxation, and focus. Try five reps of these breathing tempos the next time you’re faced with any of these situations. Each number represents a count in seconds, while an X represents an explosive exhalation:
Inhale : Hold : Exhale
- ANXIETY 6 : 4 : 10
- MEDITATING 8 : 4 : 12
- BEFORE BED 6 : 4 : 12
- PRE-WORKOUT 6 : 2 : X
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