How to breathe for every kind of exercise
We bet you're not even aware of how you're breathing right now. Reading this article, your focus is on reading the words, scrolling the screen (and maybe keeping your balance if you're on the treadmill!
But breathing becomes less of a simple in and out action when it comes to sport and exercise. Get it right, and you can supercharge your performance. Get it wrong, and you can end up exhausted, winded, even dizzy!
Your favourite activity and how to breathe:
You're a yogini
Ommmmm…. all yoga aficionados know how to breathe, and breath control is built into every yoga class no matter what style you practice. Although you may come across "Victory Breath" in more advanced classes, the main type of breathing you'll use in your local yoga class is Sama Vritti - "equal breath". Here's how:
Match the timing of the in and out breaths in an even 1:1 pattern. It's slow and calming, helping focus the mind, bring down the heart rate and lower blood pressure. It's very rhythmical, aiding focus on the flow of your poses.
You're a strength athlete
Is the gym your second home? You definitely need to know exactly how to breathe with the weight. It could make the difference between another rep or early failure. If you've ever seen powerlifters exhale sharply as they push through a rep, you'll know how important breathing is to weight training. Here's how:
As you lower the weight (the eccentric phase), breathe in. This helps set you up for the powerful effort phase of the exercise. Breathe out as you push or pull the weight (concentric phase), and see how this helps you physically and psychologically. Don't hold your breath! Take a bench press as an example: breathe in as you lower the weight to your chest, and then breathe out as you push it away.
You're a runner
Every runner knows how great it feels when your stride and breathing fall in line. It feels effortless, even at a fast pace. Knowing how to breathe for running can make the difference between a race PR and a painful side stitch. Here's how:
Try the 2:2 breathing rhythm: taking one breathe for every two strides (left/right). Breathe in - left/right, breathe out - left/right. This might have to change once you up the pace significantly, but should hold true for all but the fastest sprints. Breathe in and out through your mouth. Your body needs all the oxygen it can get, and now is not the time to make things difficult.
You're performing intervals
Interval training demands a whole different approach to breathing. Whether you're involved in short bursts of activity during team games out on the pitch, or doing power-based work in the gym, here's how:
Your power, strength and explosive force will benefit from taking a breath and using the air in your lungs to brace against your core. Whether you're about to be tackled by an opponent, or setting up to squat a 1RM, breathe deep in to the belly, fill with air, and hold it as you brace your core strongly. Between sets, reps or tackles, make sure you breathe deeply into the diaphragm rather than taking shallow breaths. Deep slow breaths are calming and help you recover.
How often should you work on your breathing technique?
Elite athletes and serious sports people actually work on breathing drills just the same way they work on technique, speed, endurance and match skills. You might not need to take it quite that seriously, but everyone can benefit from setting aside some time to focus on the breath. Next time you have 5-10 minutes to spare, sit quietly, with your hands in your lap and your back upright. Close your eyes, and take deep breaths - in through the nose, out through the mouth. Concentrate on breathing into your stomach (this is called belly-breathing) to ensure you are using your diaphragm correctly. This will help exercise the muscles used in breathing, expand your lungs, flood your system with oxygen, and calm the mind. Why breathe in through the nose? Nose breathing increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and is very calming. It can also make the air you take in warmer (compared to mouth breathing) - something to consider if you're exercise outside in Winter.