Wait, I’m Breathing Wrong?
Your breathing is probably the last thing on your mind when you are exercising, unless you are in the throes of a really killer workout and it feels like your lungs are on fire. Proper breathing technique, however, can be a boon to your workouts and help you take things to the next level. Like our article on mindfulness, taking the time to think about your breathing can help center you and focus your energy during your workout. Consider these tips when you are doing your next workout.
On the Run
You might be limiting your endurance if you have never considered your breathing technique while running. Many of us fall prey o breathing technique where the upper ribs (chest) rise but the diaphragm (the muscle below the lungs) is not pushed down sufficiently; this leads to shallow breathing. Before you hit the road, try to engage your diaphragm and limit the movement in your chest; you should feel the pressure on your abdomen and your lower ribs should expand, almost like you’re trying to show off your big belly. Improving this technique and transferring it to your runs will allow you to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen more efficiently. When you do start your run, try to focus on inhaling for between 2-3 steps and then exhaling for the same amount of steps. This might require to run at a slower pace than usual for a while, but as you get used to it, this technique should help you breathe better when you increase the pace again. If you are someone who gets side stitches while running, focusing on controlled breathing could help. While there are potentially many causes for side stitches, some people have success in relieving side stitch pain by exhaling when their foot opposite the side of the side stitch hits the ground. Give it a try next time one strikes!
If you have been lifting weights for a while, you are probably familiar with the pattern of breathing in during the easy portion of the lift and exhaling during the actual lift. This is a great pattern for light lifts. For big lifts, especially the squat or deadlift, inhaling via the diaphragm and holding your breath increases intra-abdominal pressure and helps stabilize the spine; wearing a weight belt can help give you something to push against so that you ensure you are breathing deeply. As you get past the difficult portion of the lift, a controlled exhale via pursed lips will help you finish the lift strong.
You are doubled over with your hands on your knees because you just pushed yourself to the point of exhaustion with your workout. Stop! Place your hands on top or behind your head and give your lungs and diaphragm room to expand. Again, try to take deep breaths that engage your diaphragm and slowly exhale to control your breathing.
Take in long, measured breaths and exhalations while you are stretching or doing yoga. Your body should be relaxed when youÂ are stretching; holding your breath and tensing your muscles is a common mistake. Ask your yoga instructor for further guidance on how you should be breathing.