Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rare Air

You know the saying about something you do working so well you stop doing it? In one sense I suppose I could say I'm somewhat guilty of that right now. The other day I posted a comment on Nick's blog and then forgot about it. Just now I was looking at his blog and checking out his latest P90X photos when I realized my comment was the focus of one of his entries.

"Whoa!" It was sort of like reading about yourself in the newspaper.

Well one thing I learned is I need to use the preview function on the comments and check what I write for grammatical correctness... But aside from that I was like, "You've been sitting around here all week trying to figure out what to write about on your own blog and you dropped a perfectly good topic on someone else's as a comment? And then proceeded to forget about it?"

I know. I know. I do amaze myself sometimes.

So where was, I? Oh yeah, Nick's blog. Nick was writing about an elevated heart rate during the P90X Plyometric routine. He'd been advised by some of his friends who were endurance athletes to work on controlling his breathing when he did Plyo. The comment I left on his blog advised him to go beyond controlling his breathing and to look at his overall breathing pattern. And this is where my earlier statement about having something work so well we stop doing it comes into play.

By and large most adults have just stopped breathing properly and do not completely fill their lungs with oxygen. In life this leads to high stress levels and a greater overall sense of anxiety. In exercise the result is a higher average heart rate and quicker fatigue. This is because most people breathe mainly into their chests which can be loosely associated with our "flight or fight" response.

But this was not always the case. If you want a quick primer on how breathe properly, just watch any child under the age of five. Children breathe primarily into their abdomens by fully engaging their diaphragms and expanding their bellies. This is what is known as belly breathing. When you belly breathe you literally fill you lungs and thus your body with oxygen. I don't have to tell you what this means to you as an athlete. More oxygen = more stamina, lower stress levels, and longer time to fatigue.

Retraining yourself to belly breathe isn't that hard. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to get the sense of it. To get an idea of what belly breathing feels like, lie on your back with one palm on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you breathe try to keep the palm on your chest still while you try to push the palm on your stomach up. At the same time try to get the feeling of having your diaphragm shift downward. You want to think of filling your belly with air. Once you get the sensation you can practice it whenever you think about it. Over time this will again become your normal breathing pattern and you should notice a dramatic difference not only in well being, but in sports related performance as well.

Oh and when you start breaking all those personal records, and you have to give all those, "Gee whiz, I didn't do anything special, I was just doing my thing..." speeches, try not to forget to breathe.

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