Breathing is one of the things we generally do without thinking about it. Most of us probably do not even register how we breathe. Go for a fast walk up a hill or a fast run and you soon notice your breathing rate getting faster and it may be getting harder to catch your breath. When you get to the top of the hill, it may take you a good few breaths and a bit of time to recover.
A runner or athlete would spend time training their cardio system for better performance, this could be by doing endurance work, high intensity sprints, hill work or similar. For the general population going on different walks in the week would benefit your health. But how you breathe may influence how you walk, run or perform sports, but who’s training their respiratory system alongside your cardiovascular system? Aren’t they both the same? or could there be a difference in training?
How do you breathe when you take a breath? Are you a chest breather or a belly breather? And did you take that breath in and out of your nose? in and out through the mouth or do you breathe through the nose and mouth? Does your chest rise when you breath in? Do you get stiffness/tension in the shoulders and neck, how is your posture? Do you sleep well? Some methods of breathing may affect how well you get oxygen around your body and into the individual cells combined with the removal of C02.
Research shows that breathing through your nose helps to utilise your diaphragm for breathing, which can benefit core stability and stabilisation of the spine. When you breathe through your nose, nitric oxide flows into the airway expanding your blood vessels in your lungs and helps with oxygen transport to your cells. Nitric oxide is also known to be anti-bacterial.
So now you are probably trying to work out how you breath when you walk or run, and the influence it may have on your ability?
This method of breathing may not be for everyone, people with a breathing or medical condition or concerns should always seek medical advice first.
Adding some breathing exercises into your daily routine may benefit your health, recovery or performance at all levels. We breathe in excess of 14.000 times per day and although doing some breathing exercises does not seem very exciting to do, they can, have a definite impact on your training. They may already be part of your Pilates training; we incorporate some exercises into our classes. Or as an athlete or runner you may benefit from separate breath training exercises.
Breathing exercises have often been used by singers to help get that long note hold and of course in meditation practice. They are now being promoted for use for athletes, runners, and the general population as another system to exercise for health and improvement. You may have a perception that you must sit in a meditative pose to do these breathing exercises, these practices are often used in certain types of yoga. At first you may have to take things slow and learn breathing exercises in a static position like lying on your back with knees bent, but then you may be able to the exercises standing, walking or running.
The way you breath may also be affected by your mechanics, stiffness around your ribs and trunk may determine how you breath and move. If you are trying to change your breathing these areas may need to be mobilised as well.
Reading through this article you may have realised now that your breathing mechanics may affect your cardiovascular training and influence the movement of oxygen into your cells. In the next part we will look at oxygen and carbon dioxide.