Breathe for Better Fitness
July 31, 2020
Has COVID-19 put a damper on your workout routine? You aren’t the only one. Even at Pisgah Valley, our wellness center has been closed for months leaving members and residents of our facility in need of guidance for at-home workouts. Posture, speed, proper weight and breathing technique can make or break a workout. Proper breathing keeps oxygen moving to your muscles and brain so you stay focused and feel good throughout your routine. Here’s how to catch the best breath for a specific workout.
- Cardio: “Muscles use oxygen to create energy,” says Pete McCall, director of fitness education for the Sports Club in Boston. If you’re not getting enough oxygen while doing cardio exercise, you won’t last long.” Posture is the key. Lengthen your spine to keep the airway open, then inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. “When you slouch, you close off the trachea – which carries air to and from the lungs- and reduce oxygen flow,” McCall says.
- Resistance or weight lifting: “It’s common for people to hold their breath during a resistance exercise, but holding your breath while exerting force increases your blood pressure,” McCall says. “You should be breathing with every movement.” Exhale during the lengthening phase. For example, during biceps curls, exhale as you perform the curl and inhale as you straighten your arm.
- Stretching: “Breathing correctly while stretching allows more efficient elongation of muscle fibers,” McCall says. Breathing during a stretch should be slow, deep, and controlled, with inhalation and exhalation of equal duration. For example, during a seated hamstring stretch, sit with legs extended, back straight. Start with one or two deep breaths, then reach for your feet as you exhale. Lengthen your spine as you inhale, then exhale as you ease closer to your feet. “It takes 20 to 30 seconds for the nervous system to respond and allow muscles to relax,” McCall says. Breathe slowly throughout the stretch, moving deeper into the stretch as you exhale, then return to start.”
- Yoga: Breathing is one of the top priorities for proper technique. In yoga, the practice places emphasis on matching your breath with your body movement. In vinyasa yoga, the technique is to breathe in and out deeply and smoothly through the nose while constricting the back of your throat. As you work through each pose your breath should match the change in movement.
- Rowing: Whatever you do, don’t hold your breath. Breathe on the exertion or in the case of rowing, on the push out and inhale on the slide back in. Once you can match your breath and get into a type of cadence, you may notice your workout go very smoothly.
- Running: The key is to breathe deeply and slowly. Some beginner runners may find this extremely difficult, but as time goes by and your runs become consistent you may find that your body will sink into a natural cadence. You will feel your upper body relax and your breath begin to slow down. Consequentially, you may find that your runs not only lengthen in distance and time but become more comfortable and enjoyable.
Remember that proper breathing can not only benefit you in your exercise routine, but also in everyday life. Breathing techniques can help control lower stress levels, calm the nervous system and clear the mind. So if your gym is still closed, be sure to try some of these breathing techniques while you work out in the safety of your own home. When it is time to get back to the studio for a group yoga class your body will be conditioned, your breath will be matched and your flow will move as if nothing was ever shut down.