If you breathe out of your mouth or have ever struggled with breathing during physical exercise, you will definitely need to listen. And if you have never heard of the importance of conscious breathing while training, this article could make a dramatic improvement in your movement quality and performance.
Breathing has been a hot topic buzz word for the past few years. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how we should breathe. If you’re anything like me, I don’t care who is right, I just want consistent information that is going to help my clients and me get results the fastest most efficient way possible.
Like every exercise, it’s always super easy to make things harder. But the real genius comes with the regressions. To me there is nothing more regressed than taking in a breath. It’s the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. You will take hundreds of millions of breaths in a lifetime. Are they making you healthier or are they sending you to an early grave? Dun…Dun…Dun!
Let’s start with a few questions. What does a good breath sound like? What does a good breath look like? How should a good breath feel? It doesn’t matter if your reading an ancient yoga textbook or a modern anatomy medical journal, both will tell you the breath should look, sound and feel effortless.
It confuses me that there is so much conflicting information on the topic. I guess it falls into the insanity "no pain-no gain" culture of training. People still believe that they have to murder themselves to get results. I’ve never seen faster results with better sustainability than with mindful breathing during exercise.
I’m not suggesting that your workouts have to become easy by any means. I love to smash it just as much as the next guy, but I also love a challenge. To me it is the ultimate challenge to control all aspects of your body during a training session. The breath is your own personal trainer coaching you from the inside.
The martial arts adopted this method of training thousands of years ago, yet somehow it eludes us in our culture to even consider the breath as important. Everywhere I turn, people in gyms with mouths hanging open are huffing and puffing, stressing their already stressed bodies.
These people are living in Holy F*** all the time with no neurological rest. Stressed out from work and life, they are in sympathetic nervous system overdrive. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to prepare us for stressful situations. It is our fight or flight response. We are not meant to be living in such continuous high stress.
But that’s exactly what’s happening to you when your breathing is dysfunctional. Like audible breathing during rest, chest breathing, reverse diaphragmatic breathing and the dreaded mouth breather. All of which heighten the sympathetic nervous system.
Dysfunctional breathing is overlooked in our society. It is usually the last thing considered when someone has any type of illness or pain. It’s time to be better and start cueing our clients how to breathe more efficiently. The first step is teaching your clients how to nasal breathe.
The nose is not just a hood ornament on the front of your face! It serves many crucial functions. Besides obviously smelling, your nose filters, warms, moisturizes and dehumidifies the air you breathe.
Nasal breathing also releases nitric oxide (NO2) which helps keep the body in homeostasis, or a state of balance. NO2 kills bacteria before the air reaches your lungs. NO2 is a strong vasodilator which opens blood vessels. It is a bronchodilator that opens airways. It even enhances neurotransmission which helps brain cells communicate with each other.
The second you open your mouth, all those benefits go out the “window.” Another reason to shut your mouth is that your mouth is a bigger opening, therefore more air in and a larger volume of air per minute. That’s called over-breathing, or hyperventilation, which can lead to an endless list of ailments you don’t want.
Some of you might ask “don’t you want more air in so you get more oxygen?”
The answer is yes, you do want more oxygen, but in reality more air in leads to less oxygen saturation overall. This is due to one of the blood gasses: carbon dioxide or CO2. This is not just a waste gas that you want out of your body. CO2 is crucial in oxygen release from the hemoglobin in your red blood cells.
When you are over-breathing, too much CO2 is being released from your body. You need a certain amount of CO2 stored in your tissues, muscles and cells. Otherwise, when the oxygen molecule that’s taking a ride on your red blood cell reaches those cells or muscles, there isn’t enough CO2 to trigger the release of oxygen. So, old oxygen takes a roller-coaster ride around your body and right back out without being used.
Mouth breathing can also cause dehydration. Think about all the condensation that comes out of your mouth when you put your face next to a piece of glass. Now imagine all that moisture leaving your body as you are running on a hot day with your mouth open.
When you are starting the path to better breathing, step one is to get the nose working any way you can. One particularly powerful technique that does not require sprays or medication is a breath hold technique. Simply take a small breath in through the nose, small breath out through the nose then hold your nose. As you hold your breath gently rock your head up and down until you have a slight urge to breathe. Make sure you take your next breath in through the nose, return to normal breathing rhythm and repeat up to five times.
Nasal breathing is where you start. It is not where you finish. You can still over-breathe with the nose, so be aware of the volume of air you are breathing. When you are learning how to nasal breathe during workouts, it can be challenging to keep your mouth shut, but the rewards are greater than the alternative.
I should be paid by Breathe Right® on how frequently I promote their nose strips to people as they workout and sleep. In our gym, our clients are proud to wear them. It’s like a badge of awesomeness on your face! We know that when we are in the gym we are there to get results. Even if it means you have to where a little bandage on your nose for an hour.
My goals are longevity and youthfulness. I want to walk, bike, run, train and climb on things forever. I know that conscious breathing during exercise and life is another tool to get me there. Listen to your clients. If they have goals like weight loss, sports performance or just feel better, and you haven’t addressed their breathing, you are missing a giant piece.
Join the nasal breathing revolution by wearing your nose strip during workouts. Don’t question it! Feel it for yourself, put it on and train!
by Dave Wilton, FMS, RBC, TFW