Fitness Post – Breath Control in Exercise

The photo above shows the classic bent over position after physical exertion but what it doesn’t show is whether the person is breathing properly. The two biggest mistakes when trying to control your breath in exercising are breathing too fast (hyperventilating) and breathing through the mouth.

Most of the time we don’t ever think of our breathing, until maybe we don’t have enough air but in Yoga and the meditation part of Yoga the instructor will teach you how to breathe properly if they are any good. But if they say to ‘breathe through your belly’ it doesn’t explain proper breathing technique enough. Some may label it as breathing through your diaphragm but all breathing is with your diaphragm. In fact it is best if you breath with a balance between breathing deeply into the bottom of your lungs and also with your upper chest.

You should also understand that hyperventilating will cause lightheadedness because you alter the balance between the oxygen you breathe in and the carbon dioxide you breathe out. You breathe in too much oxygen which lowers the carbon dioxide. This raises the pH in your blood so that it becomes too alkaline…this can become very unhealthy and also be life threatening if prolonged. The simple solution is to slow the breathing and if that doesn’t help breathe through a paper bag, which lowers the pH levels more quickly.

Of course learning to breathe in balance is important to your athletic performance, let alone the health benefits such as helping to lower your Blood Pressure, reducing stress, balancing your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and boosting brain health. Part of it is learning to slow your breathing down quickly and learning to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth while exercising.

The first step in correct breathing is to become aware of it followed by practicing the skill of it. An easy way of becoming more aware of breathing correctly is through meditation techniques but by meditation I don’t necessarily mean sitting in a cross-legged position, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. You can practice breathing properly by just focusing on your breathing at times throughout your day. Doing this will help with controlling your stress levels, becoming more present and slowing down thoughts.

Some personal ideas about breathing in general.

When I have tested people over the years (and I have tested many), when they were having trouble catching their breath after physical exertion I have instructed them to ‘puff their breath out hard’ which had the effect of slowing their breath down. This helps prevent hyperventilation. Then as they recovered I told them to try to breathe through their nose.

Some people complained to me that they wish they could breathe through their nose but at certain times of the year it was blocked because of sinus problems which also didn’t help with the quality of sleep they were getting. Several told me that the over the counter pharmaceutical medications helped to start with, then they lost the positive effect and they seemed to have to use the medication ‘all the time.’ The simplest and most effective treatment for a blocked nose is to sniff up salt water a couple of times each nostril, but it is slightly uncomfortable until you get used to it. But it is a sure cure, you don’t become addicted to it and it is very cost effective. It will help you sleep well too.

I have given you a cure to help you to sleep in a previous post, but if you missed it it is a simple breathing technique and with two weeks practice it works well. I tell you this in a Fitness Post because sleeping well will help your physical performance. So breath in your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then breathe out your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8 ensuring you get rid of all your breath in this outward movement. Do this for 4 repetitions. I won’t get into the physiological and psychological reasons why it works but it is that simple but if you practice the technique it will work.

People complicate things when it is not necessary. Just become aware of your breathing, ensure your nose is clear and breathe through your nose slowly (and not necessarily more deeply)…because you want to keep that balance after all.


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