Gamechangers: Health & Fitness Tips from Coach Vance
INSTALLMENT #1. SEPTEMBER 2014.
Better Breathing is the Foundation for Workout Success
Over the next few months I’m going to be sharing tips and tricks I picked up in the Army and through competitive MMA training which should help you improve your workouts, boost endurance, and burn more fat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran, active military or a civilian: If you’re active and love a good workout, these tips are for you.
While we may not know it, failure to reach our fitness goals is often the result of poor habits and not a lack of effort or commitment. In my experience, improper breathing belongs at the top of the “poor habits” list.
Most of us breathe in a way that leaves a lot of room for improvement. Some examples would be over-breathing, holding our breath and shallow breathing. These breathing patterns are very stressful for the body – particularly when working out – and lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy. When you breathe properly during exercise you’re far less likely to run out of breath, experience dizziness or suffer from lung fatigue. You’ll also see improved athletic performance and much faster gains in training. Good breathing technique will take you to the next level.
Proper breathing looks different depending on the exercise you’re doing. Some tips for improving your breathing technique, regardless of the activity:
- Pay more attention to your breathing and to the parts of the body involved in the process. Your breathing muscles consist of the diaphragm and muscles in the abdomen, chest, neck and shoulders.
- Breathe through the nose, rather than through the mouth. The nose delivers a smoother stream of air that doesn’t trigger the survival response and more easily reaches the critical lower part of the lungs.
- Breathe intentionally and deeply. When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in much more oxygen to feed your muscles.
- Breathe from your diaphragm. The air you breathe in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly.
- Extend your exhales. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it is to inhale.
- Practice rhythmic breathing. Rhythmic breathing can decrease your heart rate, decrease lactic acid production and helps to regulate the flow of oxygen and CO2.
- Be sure to keep hydrated. Keeping up your water intake will rehydrate you and enable the body to burn more fat.
If this is all new to you, practice breathing techniques first, then apply what you’ve learned to your workouts later. Experiment with breathing rhythms and patterns. And if you’re not already a belly breather, start there. Try the following:
- Lie down on your back.
- Keep your upper chest and shoulders still.
- Focus on raising your belly as you inhale.
- Lower your belly as you exhale.
- Inhale and exhale through both your nose and mouth.
We think about training our hearts, legs and core, but we rarely think about training our lungs. I think this is a big mistake. Focus on your respiratory system: Once you start breathing properly and exhaling fully, you will be able to perform better and have more energy to finish. Focus on proper breathing all the time – during workouts and in your daily activities. I think you’ll find that the benefits extend beyond the gym. You’ll have more energy, less anxiety, improved health and a feeling of control you didn’t have before.