While doing a workout the most important thing which our coach reminds us of, most often, is to breathe. One feels funny! We all know how to breathe so there should be nothing to remind here! But most of the time we go wrong. No matter what kind of physical activity we are doing such as running, walking, squatting or weight training, etc. our performance can be smooth if we are breathing properly.
Holding Breath is Bad
Breathing out and holding breath, sometimes known as ‘Valsalva Maneuver’ is what we often do when we want to put our complete force on an activity. We hold our breath sometimes to stabilize our posture. Holding breath also helps to channelize energy from our core. However, that is not good. It depletes our muscle’s efficiency by not providing oxygen which is essential to produce the energy required to perform a task. Our muscles can perform in the absence of oxygen (Anaerobic) but only for a very short duration of time. By cutting the supply of oxygen for a slightly longer time puts us at risk of getting tired quickly, feeling dizzy, experiencing muscle cramps, and even falling unconscious.
Breathing While Running
Most of us have heard the term ‘belly breathing’. Here we use the entire abdominal area for oxygen and not just the upper chest. Hence more volume of oxygen is available leading to higher efficiency both in terms of speed and endurance. Also, it is important to have a rhythmic pattern of breathing in and out which can be synchronized with steps. There are various patterns that one can try depending on the event, speed, endurance, or stage of running. For example, if one breathes in for 2 steps and breathes out for 3 steps, the pattern is called 2in 3out. One most breathe what is natural however most efficient way while running is to breathe in from the nose and breathe out from nose and mouth or only the mouth. This is because while breathing through the nose, more friction takes place which warms the air a bit before it reaches the lungs. Also, hair inside our nose help keep particles, etc. out of our respiratory tract. Having said that, one must not force the pattern if not comfortable. Under any circumstances, one must not reduce the volume of air intake.
Watch the following videos for clear understanding:
High-intensity interval training is very hard for the body for a short duration. It can make one go out of breath. As we start doing HIIT training, our intensity increases, and peaks quickly. This leads to a sudden increase in the requirement of oxygen by muscles. Hence brain gives out a signal to breathe fast. In order to do so, we decrease the length of the breath thereby leaving residual air inside. This decreases the space for fresh air as we further go inside out training. Thus oxygen levels that should have increased on-demand from our muscles start to decrease. The decreased levels tell muscles to send a signal to the brain to slow down the intensity of activity or shut down. In order to avoid this, we have to ensure that we breathe regularly and ensure that we empty our lungs and fill them with fresh air.
During Weight Training
Most of us while lifting weight concentrate so much on the exercise that we almost forget to notice how we are breathing. Valsalva is a very common mistake while doing weight training. However, it is imperative that we breathe correctly. Proper breathing will delay exhaustion, allow us to lift more weight, and will help us have better control of the movement. The best way to breathe is to remember a simple breathing pattern. In any weight training exercise, while we are putting the load on the muscles, we must breathe in, and while relaxing muscles, we must breathe out. If we are doing an isometric workout, breathe in a continuous flow so that the oxygen supply is never depleted.
Yoga breathing has three levels. Level 1 simply involves breathing in and out continuously and in a flow while doing an Asana. Level 2 needs you to hold your breath once you have taken a breath in and are holding a stretch. As you release the stretch, allow the breath to flow out gently. Level 3 involves holding the breath at the end of our inhaling cycle as well as the exhaling cycle. This requires more command over the Asana and cannot be practiced while doing all the Asana. Remember Yoga is not just fancy poses. ASHTANG yog has eight legs. Once you have understood Asana, controlling breath (Pranayama) comes into play. Once must do level 3 only under the supervision of a yoga instructor.
Some Tips About Efficient Breathing
- Practice the process of inhaling and exhaling before you do your activity. Make sure that while doing the activity you remind yourself about breathing correctly.
- As your activity is important to you, so should be correct breathing. You must devote some time to breathing training.
- Remember to do proper breathing while warming up and cooling down around your activity period. Like your muscles, a warming up and cooling down routine for your breathing will also prove beneficial.
- Must do certain breathing exercises to increase efficiency of lungs.
- Practice belly breathing.
- Remember to calm your breath every time, once you start taking short breaths during an activity.