Have you ever been working out and felt like you’re totally out of breath? Do you feel like you might burst when you’re lifting weights? Or perhaps you have a general overall feeling of tension in your body. When we are hyper-focused on working out, getting fit, and reaching that pie-in-the-sky goal, we often forget about self-love. Proper breathing techniques not only help you get more out of your workout, but it also helps you reduce your overall stress level.
Breathing and Winter
In winter we have this primal instinct to close ourselves off and go into hibernation mode. It feels more difficult to get motivated for physical activity and we feel icky about ourselves. Intentioned breathing helps us relieve that feeling of the winter blues. When we carve out time to focus on our breath we increase our oxygen intake and decrease hypoxia (or lack of oxygen). This results in feeling more refreshed, alive, and overall positive about ourselves. Intentioned breathing not only helps us to fight the winter blues, but it also aids in keeping us energetic and motivated to work out.
Breathing and Strength Training
One of the most common mistakes with strength training is holding your breath. It’s an automatic reflex that comes with exerting your muscles, but you can train this habit away by breathing with a braced core.
Before you begin your strength training, you should keep a braced core. Brace your core by tucking your tailbone in, engaging your glutes and pulling your abs in and up. This stance protects your back, engages your deep core muscles, and also makes it tough to breathe during a workout. Start by completing some of the breathing exercises below with a braced core before you add strength training so you can get used to the sensation before adding weight.
The key to breathing during strength training workouts is to inhale through the easy part and exhale through the effort. The exhale helps your body exert more energy so don’t be afraid to make this part audible. It really does help!
Breathing and Cardio
Maintaining proper breathing techniques throughout a cardio routine allows your body to push further. Proper breathing keeps your energy level and stamina higher for longer. This translated directly to any sport or outdoor activity. When you play a sport or have an extreme adventure (like climbing for example) there is the added stress of a mental challenge. If you breathe properly throughout your activity, you’ll have a sharper mind.
There are several breathing exercises that help keep you going longer (we’ll get to them in a minute), but the important thing is to remember to practice these exercises in a low-stress situation, such as the gym. That way breathing becomes a habit so when you’re faced with a buzzer-beater shot or committing move on the crag you’ll be focused and centered.
The following breathing exercises are designed to increase your stamina and relieve stress. These exercises can be done both while engaging in a cardio routine or on their own.
Four Squared Breathing
This breathing technique is designed to rid your body of stale carbon dioxide (or CO2) in your lungs. Too much CO2 causes your hyperventilation reflex to kick in. When you first get started with this exercise, resist the urge to hyperventilate.
Simply inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, then exhale for four counts, and hold your breath for four counts. If you have to, tone down the duration until you’re comfortable with a four-second count.
Increased Count Paced Breathing
The object of this exercise is to stretch your diaphragm and increase your lung volume over time. Start by inhaling for a count of four and exhale for four counts. Repeat, but bump up the duration of breath to five seconds. Continue increasing the breath making your way to inhaling for 60 seconds.
Don’t worry, you aren’t going to reach a minute on your first go, it will take some training. Start with a goal of 15 seconds inhale and exhale then work your way up.
Increase oxygen perfusion into your bloodstream and dump that CO2 fast with this breathing exercise. Start by inhaling for three full counts then exhaling quickly in one count. Again, you can perform this exercise while doing a cardio workout for added impact.
Overall, breathing exercises increase happiness and workout efficiency while decreasing stress. Practice these exercises as often as possible. Keep it fresh by practicing in the car, in front of the TV or during your workout.