Breathing is everything. Not only in our everyday lives but also in athletic performance and recovery. While the physiological process of respiration will always take place, the act of breathing, and breathing well, is not as concrete. Reach Outcomes identifies successful breathing as one of the key factors in caring for the whole athlete. As a team, we have identified several crucial aspects to consider, including deep breathing techniques, respiratory muscle training, general health status and recovery capabilities.
You’ve probably heard of a beneficial “belly breath” at some point in your life. While this deep breath may feel relaxing, it’s actually not the most efficient way to utilize the power of your diaphragm. This dome-shaped organ is most productive when it can expand in all 360 degrees, as opposed to the simple upward movement that comes with belly breathing.
There are several simple ways to train your body to embrace the 360-degree breathing style. One thing to keep in mind, especially with us spending so much time at home, is that being in a seated position hinders the diaphragm’s ability to fully expand. To test how well your body is utilizing the strengths of your diaphragm, begin by standing with your hands on your lower ribs. While taking deep breaths, you should feel your ribs expanding both upwards and outwards, signaling that your diaphragm is fully expanding in the 360-degree motion it excels in.
However, a lack of rib expansion is not the only telltale sign of a need to improve your breathing habits. Frequent upper chest and neck muscle soreness and stiffness should not be overlooked, as these can be huge indicators that your body is not breathing at its peak ability. Discomfort in the scalene muscles, upper trap muscles and pec muscles may signal that your body is lacking the fulfilling breathing actions it requires. Like testing your diaphragm, simply stand in front of a mirror and focus on your shoulders and chest as your breath; your chest and shoulders should remain relaxed while inhaling and exhaling. If these areas largely rise and fall, this is another indication that your diaphragm is not being used to its fullest potential.
One of the easiest ways to ensure your diaphragm is being utilized fully is to focus on maintaining proper posture. This encourages a more complete exchange of oxygen, as well as promoting the diaphragm to expand in all directions. Ultimately, fuller breaths will better equip our athletes to perform their best before, during and after competitions.
Along with the application of capnography that will be a staple of our soon-to-come facility and partnerships with elite breath-training devices like the Breather Fit, we train our athletes to control their breathing. Awareness of breath prior to a game, event, or race guarantees our athletes don’t tire their accessory muscles before the competition begins. By training our athletes to understand and control their breathing, overuse and quicker depletion of muscles is avoided. Deep breathing exercises to manage anxiety and “pre-race” jitters encourage proper gas exchange, avoiding borrowing oxygen from the muscles that will be used in the actual activity.
We also train our athletes to quickly alter the manner in which they breathe during and after workouts. While using accessory muscles during high-intensity exercise is expected, our athletes are taught to balance this with the typical manner using the abdomen. Even more importantly, we ensure our athletes can alter their breathing habits immediately after the exercise ends. Utilizing deep breathing exercises for stress can also have profound results. Altering the breathing to be entirely via the abdomen encourages success in the nervous system, switching its happenings from sympathetic to parasympathetic, which encourages a slower heart rate and the initiation of a recovery state.
So, how often should you use deep relaxing breathing techniques? Effective breathing is also applicable in everyday life, which may be the most important, especially in our given situation. Diseases that affect the respiratory system like COVID-19 or pneumonia can be largely less detrimental to individuals who practice breathing with deeper breaths. With a higher muscle endurance in place, the body is able to more effectively perform inhalation and exhalation and potentially avoid the damaging effects of these diseases.
We are proud to continue our offerings for breathing success virtually. Experience our knowledge in this area, as well as in nutrition and sleep with a free, 30-minute virtual consultation, and be sure to look out for our new facility coming soon.