Find Your Breath
July 30th, 2019
A common phrase you'll here from our coaches during a tough session is, "Find your breath."
But have you ever thought about your breathing when you work out? Breathing is something we do all day every day, but we often forget to intentionally breathe when we work out. I know. You’re probably thinking to yourself “Breathing? Duh! I’m always breathing”. As silly as it may sound, there are so many benefits of intentional breathing when training, especially when strength training. Let’s break it down a little more to understand why it’s so important.
When we talk about breathing during physical activity, it’s similar but different to the way we breathe naturally when we are moving through the day (inhale slowly, exhale slowly). Because we already know how to breathe, we don’t need to practice or learn how to do it. What we CAN practice and learn, is how to improve the quality of, intention of and control over our breathing when we move in different ways throughout the day - specifically when we increase our movement in the day. Practicing more efficient breathing, being aware of your breath, and knowing when to change the way you are breathing can improve your performance in the gym and result in better progress overall - improved cardio, the ability to build more tension, lift heavier weights, jump higher and run both longer and faster! Oh, and did I mention quicker recovery during your workouts? You name it! Breathing can help with it all!
But why? Well, your body needs oxygen to function and move. When you inhale, your lungs separate the air into oxygen and carbon dioxide. The oxygen is pumped to your brain, heart and muscles, allowing your heart to function more efficiently and providing fuel to fatiguing muscles. When your body is at rest, your breath keeps a pretty consistent rate. But when we move more, we need more oxygen to fuel our muscles. Adjusting your breathing rate to match the intensity of physical activity you’re performing allows you to work harder and get stronger! This is why it is so important to be aware of your breathing during your workout and practice improving the control you have over your breath when you exercise.
Proper breathing not only supplies the muscles with the oxygen it needs to perform best, your core and breathing go hand in hand. We love a strong core here at Grit and Gratitude. Your core is the main source of tension in your body and plays a HUGE role in the strength and power your body produces. When your core is packed tight, you avoid “leaking tension” from the body and less leakage means more stability and power! Proper breathing patterns will help with building that tension in your core, reduce the risk of injury to your lower back and give you the strength you need to lift heavier and move well. In other words, efficient breath means a strong core, and a stronger core means stronger reps!
You’re probably thinking to yourself “So what should my breathing look like? How will it change?” Well, it will change based on the exercise you are doing. An easy way to start practicing better breathing during your workouts is by matching your breaths to your reps. Inhaling during the eccentric part of a rep (the loading or lengthening part of the motion) and exhaling on the concentric (explosive or shortening part of the motion) is an excellent start. Let’s look at a squat for example. Inhaling through your nose as you pull your weight down to the floor (eccentric motion) and exhaling through your mouth as your drive up from your squat (concentric motion) will help keep your core stable and improve how long and how well you can move. When recovering in between sets of reps, think longer belly breaths (i.e. inhale for 2-3 seconds, hold for 1-2 seconds, and exhale for 2 – 3 seconds). This breathing will be longer and more controlled and will help with bringing your heart rate down as your recover between each push.
So, the takeaway from it all? Make a habit of being mindful of your breathing! Practice! Be aware of the difference in your breathing as you warm up compared to when you start your first set of reps! Start by simply matching your breath to your reps and see if you feel a difference in stability, power and endurance. Overtime, breathing through your workout will become second nature!
“What we can practice and learn, is how to improve the quality of, intention of and control over our breathing when we move differently throughout the day, specifically when we increase our movement in the day.”