Improve Your Training Results with Your Breath

In November I posted Breathing and Your Training about how to breathe when training. This month I want to expand on that idea even more because breathing can effect how we’re feeling, both emotionally and physically, which then means it’s affecting your training.

Most of us breath incorrectly. Some of us are either not fully using our diaphragm to breath and some of us not using it at all. This is for various reasons: too much stress, poor posture/slouching or even health ailments, like if you didn’t know you were lactose intolerant and were eating dairy the upset stomach might cause you to hunch over and create poor posture.

When you are not breathing with the full use of your diaphragm we are perpetually in ‘fight or flight’ mode (or our sympathetic nervous system) which is a stress response and we all know constant stress isn’t good for us. This causes our neck, shoulder and intercostal muscles to take over to make room for your expanding lungs. This is dysfunctional breathing and it can cause health issues like neck, shoulder pain and other joint and muscles issues, digestive issues and sleeping disorders, just to name a few.

I really like this quick video in this article checking in on your breathing and the potential reasons we end up becoming dysfunctional breathers.

Now that you have an idea of some of the negative health issues that can arise from dysfunctional breathing and some of the reasons why this dysfunctional breathing can occur, now what do you do?

Well, we want to work on resetting you back to a natural way of breathing, to diaphragmatic breathing, as talked about in the video. Using our diaphragm while breathing taps into our relaxation response (or our parasympathetic nervous system) which helps you counter act stress. Yay! Breathing with your diaphragm may also help fix some muscular or joint issue, as well as some other health conditions.

Resetting Your Breathe

There are a few breathing exercises that can do this. They all come down to intentionally breathing, but I like these few instructional videos to provide you some options that you can use right before your training sessions or anytime of day that you can take a quick break and focus for a couple of minutes.

I mention resetting your breathe right before your workout or training session because as I said above, dysfunctional breathing can cause some physical ailments and some of them can lead to dysfunctional movement patterns within your training, whether you’re squatting or reaching your arms up overhead to climb up the silks.

This first video is great for a quick breathing exercise to do right before you train, be it at the gym or before you grab your aerial apparatus. This breathing method is from the Postural Restoration Institute and this article dives a little deeper into the creator Ron Hruska and how fixing your breathing can fix your training. It’s a great read, I highly recommend it. 

You will see from the video that they are using a balloon. Feel free to go find a balloon, but if that makes you feel self conscious you could use a straw, but if that still feels uncomfortable then pretend you’re either blowing up a balloon or blowing through a straw. The balloon is obviously the preferred way, but I understand if you don’t want to carry a ballon to the gym with you.

This video has really great instruction for diaphragmatic breathing and is a great place to begin your training. The video begins with the easier version and then offers a more challenging option for when you master the first version. Use this pre-training or anytime in your day.

This next video offers a more in-depth look at finding your breath to expand 360 degrees within your abdomen, rib cage and back. I briefly touched base on this style of breathing in November in my first breathing post under the heading of More and More Challenging. Because when we are contracting our core while training this type of breathing can be helpful to use to be able to keep the abdominals contracted.

The last breathing technique that you could also incorporate into your breath work for relaxation and improving the function of your diaphragm is the 4-7-8 Breathing. This toutes that it is excellent to do before bed as a way to relax and fall asleep really quickly.

Bringing it together

The videos above offer many options to help you train your diaphragm to work properly while breathing. They also offer different options to use at various times in your day or week. When we can reconnect to our natural way of breathing we will mostly likely see tension dissipate, from manifesting as physical ailment or muscle tightness, we may see some metrics like blood pressure or cortisol lower, we may grow a few inches just by resetting our posture. The benefits are numerous.

Our lives can have stressful times and learning a breathing technique to help relax us is important, but it’s also a great way to help us be our healthiest selves as possible.

Breathe deep and Be Well,~~Theresa

P.S. If you are nerdy like me about this kind of stuff here’s a couple other article your might like reading.

Three Breathing Exercises

You’re Breathing All Wrong