Breathing is often overlooked when people are trying to improve their performance levels. There is so much focus on physical training and diet that we do not take into account that breathing correctly during exercise is important as well. Breathing not only helps with allowing more oxygen to enter into your circulatory system but it also acts as an aid to improving your posture. Inhale deeply, allowing your belly to fill up, and then exhale. You will find that your posture when breathing correctly significantly improves, rather than if you were hunched over performing shallow breathing, or the type of breathing that we do not even take notice of.
During aerobic exercise, your body delivers oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. But to get this oxygen you need to breathe, and every inhalation counts as oxygen is used to burn fat and carbohydrates into energy.
Proper breathing is also the reason why athletes do not get stitches and why lactic acid does not build up so much in the muscles. Meaning you’ll have the ability to go harder and faster for longer.
But it differs according to what you are doing…
Breathing and Aerobic Activity
We’ve all seen marathon runners complete what many of us feel us impossible, but a lot of it has to do with breathing because it is necessary to transport oxygen throughout your body to remain at the peak of your performance.
What is most commonly understood as a tactic to employ is using ratios to keep track and when and how you are breathing, ensuring that you can raise your level of performance. This can go one of two ways. Firstly, you can use a 3:2 ratio whereby you inhale every third step and exhale every second step. The other way of doing things is using the 2:2 ratio, meaning that you will continuously be breathing in and out every second step. Whatever you choose, do what is most comfortable for you and even though at first it’ll seem a bit foreign, you should acclimatise quickly and see an improvement in your times and how your body feels after a run.
Breathing and HIIT Training
Often, in times of high performance breathing is overlooked because you are more focused on what is going on around you in keeping with the high intensity nature of training. The type of HIIT being discussed here is on the football or rugby field, and not training in intervals on the treadmill.
There has been a movement away from people breathing from their chest, which a lot of people do, or people breathing in a shallow manner, which doesn’t allow enough oxygen into the body. A new technique to employ is to activate your diaphragm to increase the strength of it and from there you’ll see positive effects for both respiratory and functional processes.
A quick way to “train” your diaphragm is to lie on your back and with your hands placed on your stomach breathe in and out, all the while focusing on using your diaphragm to breathe. Once you have mastered this technique you can then try it while sitting upright and finally when playing sports.
Breathing and Weight Training
When it comes to breathing, one method does not fit all workouts. Learning how to breathe properly has also been linked with improved performance as you are mastering the art of bringing more oxygen into your body when it really needs it.
During strength training, the Vasalva manoeuver is the breathing technique you should try – inhale on the easy part, hold your breath for a short second as you approach the hardest part of the exercise (the sticking point), and once you’ve completed it, exhale as usual. The manoeuvre helps you tighten your core muscles and maintain proper form generating a strong foundation throughout your body. And remember, don’t forget to breathe out.