When we are pushing our bodies to the absolute limits, we need as much oxygen as our muscles demand. This is why breathing deeply is so important to our health and fitness. Otherwise the ability of our muscles to commit to ATP is weakened. We cannot convert fat stored in our body and glucose in our muscles into the energy that we need to fuel our body. If you have ever had the feeling of being short of breath while running and then felt like you could inhale as much air as you wanted and give your muscles what they asked for, you’ll know the remarkable difference. When you’re short of breath it feels like your heart is about to burst out of your chest and at the same time, you feel like your chest is too tight. Right at the meeting of the sternum and the windpipe we get a blockage feeling too. But when you’re able to take massive gulps of air with clear lungs for deep inhalation, you feel like only fatigue can stop you and not a shortness of breath.
Train Your Muscles
There is so much going on at the same time when we are taking a deep breath in. Firstly we need our throat muscles to suck in the air from the back of our mouths. We need our lungs to quickly expand and our ribcage to inflate in size too. Then we need our diaphragm to contract and move down so our lungs can take in as much air as possible. We also need our core and abdominal muscles to give us structural strength to breathe outward as well. This is just a few things that are going on at the same time. It’s quite remarkable how complex our bodies are just when it comes to breathing.
But don’t leave all this up to just muscle memory. This is why so many runners and young athletes have to take training courses on how to control their breathing during their performance and competing. There are numerous techniques that can strengthen the relevant muscles but a simple way is to just do some stretches. Stretching your rib cage and sternum are two of the top beneficial things you can do to strengthen muscles used for inhaling. Another thing you can do is to take sharp breaths in and after briefly holding them, sharply breathing out again. This will slowly enlarge your lungs overtime because it’s much like explosive movements with weights when you’re trying to put on mass. The same goes for the lungs with sudden and strenuous activity.
Change Your Pre-workout HabitsWe all have habits that we are trying to drop. Some are more important than others but you have to make sure you’re doing everything you can to drop habits that don’t just hinder performance but they inhibit it. Things like smoking cigarettes does harm your performance during workouts because you’re simply not getting enough oxygen. Your lungs are paying the price but so is your mouth because the chemicals will overtime, decay and damage your soft tissue. Instead you can go one step lower by vaping. It’s not as concerning as nicotine and tar build up that cigarettes give so using something like Om Vapors can improve your ability to make deep inhalations if you are a smoker to begin with. It’s also a much more varied option as you have countless different oils and flavors to choose from.
Don’t drink alcohol before a workout or even a day before a workout. Alcohol is a very complex series of chemicals and they will linger in your system for multiple days. This can be horrible for your muscles as they often have to be flushed out using water only. However this also means that water is not getting to your muscles, hence why you feel more thirsty after drinking a beer. It’s a feeling of dryness that covers your skin and mouth which prevents you feeling comfortable enough to really stretch your muscles and breathe as deeply as you can.
Slow Methodical Breathing
Pursed lip breathing is a technique that is often used in many yoga styles and other relaxation techniques. Essentially, it’s a forced controlled breathing technique that expands the lungs overtime. Unlike sharp breathing where you are shocking your lungs into rapid expansion and deflation, pursed lip breathing is slow and gradual. It’s very easy to do but you need to be sitting down to make it safer to do for a longer period of time.
You should breathe in through your nose. Try to breathe in slowly and reach your maximum level of capacity in your lungs. Hold this for approximately 5 seconds and then purse your lips. Now slowly breathe out through your lips, while keeping them pursed. This will mean the air in your lungs only has a small hole from which to escape or be let out. Your lungs will have to contract for longer and this gives them a workout. Much like in massage techniques whereby the muscle is kept at a high tension and suddenly released so the pressure can sink in deeper, this is what the lungs are having done to them. The slow and methodical exhalation keeps your lungs under tension and they contract even more than they normally would.
The Fresher the Better
It should go without saying but so many of us don’t take this under note. The quality of air we breathe day in and day out is incredibly important to the health of our lungs. Your lungs will continually be fighting off germs, bacteria and infections with bad air quality. So the cleaner and fresher the air you breathe is, the healthier and stronger your lungs will remain. You won’t be in a state of one step forward and two steps back with your workouts.
Our lungs are incredibly strong but they need the surrounding muscles to work with them to give you deep inhalation while you workout. Stretch your rib cage especially as it is the least flexible when it comes to expanding your lungs.
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