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Shut Your Mouth

There's a huge box of tools when it comes to exercise programming.

Obviously depending on what we're trying to achieve depends very much on what type of exercises we need to program ourselves with.

Some ideas can play out into real world activities of daily life, I feel much of what we do at JDW Fitness certainly reflects that.

There is one aspect of training, and everyday life for that matter, that often gets overlooked. Breathing.

Yes we all know how to breathe but is there a way to breathe better, breathe deeper and make everything you do easier? Can simply breathing make your, running, cycling, weight training and generally coping with life, easier?

The answer to that question is a massive YES!

It's been used in Yoga practice for hundreds if not thousands of years. Athletes and singers use breathing techniques to improve their game so why not You and Me, everyday athletes in the human race? Amateur athletes who love to run, cycle, row and swim in our free time?

I've been using breathing techniques with clients for quite some time now and it has helped all of them improve in someway.

One of the first things I get clients to learn is diaphragmatic breathing. Click HERE for a quick video on how to do it.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of a breathing exercise that helps strengthen your diaphragm, an important muscle that helps you breathe. This breathing exercise is also sometimes called belly breathing or abdominal breathing.

It has a number of benefits that affect your entire body. It’s the basis for almost all meditation and relaxation techniques, I mentioned Yoga earlier, which can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes (lymph etc)

  • With healthy lungs, your diaphragm does most of the work when you inhale to bring fresh air in and exhale to get carbon dioxide and other gases out of your lungs.

  • With COPD and similar respiratory conditions, such as asthma, your lungs lose some of their elasticity, or stretchiness, so they don’t go back to their original state when you exhale.

  • Losing lung elasticity can cause air to build up in the lungs, so there’s not as much space for the diaphragm to contract for you to breathe in oxygen.

  • As a result, your body uses neck, back, and chest muscles to help you breathe. This means that you can’t take in as much oxygen. This can affect how much oxygen you have for exercise and other physical activities.

  • Breathing exercises help you force out the air buildup in your lungs. This helps increase how much oxygen’s in your blood and strengthens the diaphragm.

It also helps to increase your lung capacity when taking part in sports or singing. Many of us breathe quite shallow and up in the chest which can lead to panic and anxiety.

Imagine when running, having more lung capacity and being able to relax more. Winner, Winner and a sure fire way of staying injury free. Who ever gets injured when they're relaxed whilst running?

Other breathing training techniques can be found HERE.

Another breathing technique I encourage my clients to learn is nasal breathing.

Yes you read that right, breathing through the nose. This has huge benefits over mouth breathing.

1. Nasal breathing and the Importance of Nitric Oxide Nasal breathing has been well documented to providing various benefits. The nose is equipped with a complex filtering mechanism which purifies the air we breathe before it enters the lungs. Breathing through the nose during expiration helps maintain lung volumes and so may indirectly determine arterial oxygenation. 

2. Effects of Mouth Breathing Habitual mouth breathing, conversely involves an individual breathing in and out through the mouth for sustained periods of time, and at regular intervals during rest or sleep.It is well documented that mouth breathing adults are more likely to experience sleep disordered breathing, fatigue, decreased productivity and poorer quality of life than those who nasal-breathe.

To read more about the importance of nasal breathing go to the ORALHEALTH website.

I often ask clients to go out running/jogging/walking and only breathe through their noses. It can be a messy affair with high levels of snot involved but that does calm down in time.

One of the first things you notice are that as you speed up, your body requires more oxygen and you'll want to breathe deeper. This is a good thing as it automatically introduces your diaphragm into the mix, see above.

This means more lung capacity which in turn means more oxygen getting into the blood. This in turn means a better oxygenated blood supply to the muscles, which in turn means better performance from the muscles.

How are we doing, are you convinced yet?

So a little drill for you to include in your running, cycling or simply everyday life tasks. Breathe through your nose as much as possible. Control that breathing with pace. Basically if your breathing makes you want to open your mouth, slow down.

If you're walking, running or cycling, do it somewhere nice and in fresh clean air.

Notice how much more relaxed you can become. Try it if you have anxiety or panic attacks too or just do it whilst you meditate if you don't already.

Within a week you'll notice differences in your whole world, particularly the sporty guys out there. Do a 10km run with your mouth shut taking minimal mouth breathing breaks.

Experiment by using the same route over and over purely for nasal breathing. Then after about 4 weeks of this, go and do it as a normal run and see how much different it is when breathing through your mouth but also with your diaphragm. Magic will happen.

Try these out and let me know how you get on.

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