19 Feb The One Easy Thing You’re Not Doing that Could Immediately Improve Performance
23,040. That’s how many breaths the google machine says we take a day on average. Most of the time, we don’t give a second thought as to our breathing. But sometimes, focusing our attention on breathing and controlling it for a time can be the best thing for us.
Deep, focused, controlled breathing can do wonders for us. It can calm us and put us into a deep, meditative state. There’s a lot of focus put on the psychological and emotional benefits of practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing, but there’s not a lot of talk about just how important it is for total health and how it improves performance by aiding in recovery and preparing the body for stress of training.
There are some easy and short breathing practices that everyone should know about that, if included in any typical day, can make training more effective by helping to turn the switch on when it’s time to go and helping to turn it off when so that there can be some real rest and recovery.
These are just a few techniques you can add to your warm-up and throughout your day to help you be the badass ying-yang type of warrior that I know you are.
Practice #1 – Pause And Breathe During Your Day
You don’t need to start a meditation practice, although it’s not a bad idea. Just set off reminders throughout your day to turn your attention to your breathing until it becomes habit. Whether that means setting three to four reminders on your phone spaced out throughout the day or just going old-school with some string around your finger, pause what you’re doing and take three to five deep breathes. Inhale through your nose for a count of five to six seconds focusing on trying to expand from your lower abdomen and spreading to 360 degrees of expansion by also breathing into your sides and lower back.
Let the air also slowly fill your upper-abdomen and finally reach all the way to your sternum. Then exhale through your mouth for the same five to six second count. Make sure to completely exhale and feel your ribcage dropping down and your waist getting smaller.
Too many of us walk around with our mouths gaping open as we keep our breaths shallow. Breathing this way, our lungs stay over inflated because we never breath in using our diaphragm and we never fully exhale. This over inflated lung issue may lead to postural changes, though this point is still a topic of debate.
But more importantly, the absence of deep proper breathes keep us from ever entering to a resting state during the day.
We’re often run around in a frenetic, coffee and adrenaline induced state and we burn ourselves out psychologically and physiologically so much so that we don’t even know what it feels to be normal and rested anymore. Without rest there can be no recovery and without recovery there can be no chance to reach a state of arousal great enough to train hard and get stronger and better year in and year out.
This practice helps reduce our level of arousal when it’s time to rest so that we can recover and be ready to turn on for the next bout of stress and give an even greater effort.
Practice #2 – Box Breathing
I first started practicing this after reading an article from Mark Divine of SealFit, a former Navy SEAL Commander. According to Divine, box breathing should be done in a quiet setting before you enter into battle. But although he knows all about true combat, Divine believes this practice can and should be done before every“battle of life.” This can include business dealings, presentations, and stressful personal situations.Training is no different, and since I’ve begun doing this before I train, I’ve seen a difference in how I feel when I get started.
Next time you train, try to find a quiet corner and breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, exhale completely for five, and hold without any air in your lungs for another count of five. Repeat three to five times.
This isn’t a relaxing breathing exercise. When you exhale all of your air out and hold, it sucks. But it prepares you for the stress that’s ahead and increases your state of arousal while keeping it in your control.
Practice #3 – Breathing Between Sets
The best way to prepare yourself for the next set is by slowing your breathing and calming yourself down after the last one. Just as pausing and turning your attention to your breath improves recovery on a larger scale, slowing your breathing between sets improves recovery on a micro-level.
When we put all our effort into a set or movement, our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes labored as signals are sent to increase our level of arousal. If we push ourselves into a frantic state of aggression by taking on a heavy weight or doing a very high intense activity, we increase stress signals that help us for the moment. Think of it as a controlled panic state where we’re ready to run from a danger or attack something and keep attacking until it stops moving. But to repeat or continue the same high level of output each set or for the next group of movements, we have to reduce the panic state caused by the stress of effort.
We can’t repeat the same level of output and work ourselves into this same frenzy if we don’t reduce the panic state a little while we’re training. It’s not sustainable to operate at this level an entire training session and performance will decline if we try. Breathing between sets helps you recover and prepare you to go at it again.
This idea has been around for a very long time in both martial arts and in the coaching of competitive Olympic weightlifting. In our frantic, overstimulated culture, it’s not very popular to try to slow down during training, but maybe we should take a lesson from the practices of those that came before us.
Don’t Get Caught in the Frantic
They say champions are masters of the mundane. I’ll go further to say that every man should see himself as someone who is responsible for improving every area of his life and train his body and mind as equal and interdependent parts. Health as a whole must be looked at first so that when it’s time to tackle a stress, you’re able to turn the switch on swiftly and powerfully and be able to repeat this until it’s time to rest again.
A man must have control over his mind to have control over his body and part of this is slowing yourself down with breathing techniques to give your system a chance to recover.
Give it a try and let me know or share some other ideas on how to incorporate this int he comments.
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