How You Breathe Impacts Your Fitness Progress

Imagine:
You are in a high-energy exercise class…
Your coach tells you to complete 20 burpees and then rest for one minute.
In the middle of your third burpee you hear him telling the class, “Remember to breathe!”

We have all heard it! Forgetting to breathe, or breathing incorrectly, is one of the most common mistakes made during any workout. This is a major no-no. Your breathing patterns are just as important as form when it comes to performing at your very best.

There’s no denying that your muscles are working harder during exercise than they do at rest. This means that your muscles require more oxygen to work. You may notice that you start to wheeze and breathe very hard during or after a workout. This is because your body’s natural response to your muscles working harder is to try to get you to bring in more of that good old CO2. Now, how do we train ourselves to stop wheezing and start breathing more efficiently? Well, it sounds easy, but it takes some training.

Nose or Mouth? I Dunno!

Let’s start with the nose/mouth puzzlement. Some experts say you should breathe in through your nose, and some say you should breathe in through your mouth. None of these studies are large enough to come to a final, distinct decision. So, if it is unnecessarily hard for you to breathe in through your nose, opt for your mouth or visa versa!

Whether or not one method is more effective or superior to the other is neither here nor there. What does matter is that you have a steady flow of oxygen.

One, Two, Breathe. One, Two, Breathe. 

Here’s where things get a bit complicated. There are multiple ways to get your daily workout in, and most of them require a different breathing pattern. So, whether you are doing cardio, lifting weights, or practicing yoga, your respiration will look a bit different.

Cardio

When you go out for your morning jog, attend your evening spin class, or finish any other form of a cardio workout, you need to remember to breathe deeply. One great way to remember to breathe deeply is to find a breathing pattern that works for you. Studies have shown that the 3:2 inhale/exhale exchange is best. This means that you breathe in for three steps and breathe out for two. It sounds (and feels) a little weird at first, but with some practice this will start to come to you naturally and will slowly help you with your performance.

Cardio Takeaway: Breathe Deeply!

Weightlifting

It’s easier for most to embrace proper breathing during weightlifting than when doing cardio. The general rule is to exhale during exertion. So, when you push the barbell over your head, exhale. When you are pushing weight back up from a squat, exhale. When you come up from a push-up, exhale.

For inhaling, the opposite is true. So, inhale when you are bringing the barbell back down, coming out of your squat or going down into your push-up.

Your breathing is incredibly important when lifting weights. Improper breathing can lead to a hernia, high blood pressure, and many other injuries. If you come to a point where you feel your breathing going awry, remember to breathe out! Holding air in your belly will only make injury more likely.

Weightlifting Takeaway: Exhale On Exertion and Breathe Out!

Yoga/Stretching/De-stressing

This is my favorite form of breathing: the kind that gets you in that relaxed state. You can practice this while stretching, cooling down, practicing yoga or even when you are just stressed out at work. This is called “sama vritti” or “equal breathing.” Equal breathing is exactly what it sounds like: Match the amount of beats of your inhale to the amount in your exhale. Let’s try it right now with 3-second intervals.

Inhale, 1, 2, 3… Pause… Exhale, 1, 2, 3.

Wow, doesn’t that feel better? With every exhale, you should try to relax a little bit more. In the end you will feel a bit euphoric, as if you just took on the world and succeeded. Which, by the way, you did! Because, even if this was just a de-stress breathing session, you kicked that stress to the curb and we are proud of you.

Yoga/Stretching/De-stressing Takeaway: Relax.

With this information in mind, get out there and breathe through your workouts!

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