Now that January is behind us there is a spring in our step here in EasyBreathing HQ. Like many folk I have set myself some fitness goals for 2019. While there’s never a bad time to set goals, early in the a new year can be great because we can often get support from our friends, family and community to help us achieve those goals. In this post I examine how breathing better while exercising can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Not least amongst these supports is RTÉ and SafeFood’s annual Operation Transformation, an 8 week television series supported by oodles of well researched advice. Through the journeys of five leaders, we are shown regimes, recipes, diets and routines to inspire a healthier lifestyle for us all.

Many organisations get behind this drive at a local level. Organisations like parkrun ireland and the GAA welcome those embarking on their own Operation Transformation journey in the hope that they will develop a fitness habit that will change their lives. There is no end to trainers and coaches encouraging people to get moving and stay fit. Special offers for gym membership, yoga and pilates classes and even all manner of smartphone fitness apps abound at this time of year.

Enthusiasm and support are essential to start developing and keeping a habit. Sadly, we are sometimes stopped in our tracks by our own limitations. Difficulty breathing is an obstacle that many experience. This can become so chronic for some sufferers that it undermines all their good intentions and they give up exercising. Occasionally people seek medical attention or therapy but often they just leave it at that and the unhealthy cycle continues unbroken.

This is where paying attention to how you breathe can and will help breathing better while exercising.

Many athletes are aware of the benefits of nasal breathing and do try to incorporate it into their fitness regime. The common mistake that is made is they go all out on the and find it terribly difficult. Now, here’s the thing. When you begin to cycle to do you start off in fifth gear. If you do ,you know it is not good for the bike and it takes a while to get the speed up to match the gear. Would you give up ? No you would not. You would take steps to put the situation to rights and keep on going. It is time to look at HOW you exercise. Think of it as adjusting the gears..
Improving fitness depends on enhancing the release of oxygen to your muscles, organs and tissues.Increased oxygenation is not only healthy: it also enables greater exercise intensity with reduced breathlessness.
As Patrick Mc Keown mentions in his book, The Oxygen Advantage,

‘Overall fitness and sports performance are usually limited by the lungs– not by the legs, the arms, or even the mind. As anyone who engages in regular exercise knows the feeling of intense breathlessness during sporting activity dictates exercise intensity far more than muscle fatigue. The foundation of enjoying and improving physical exercise, therefore is to ensure that breathing is optimally efficient.’

So Consider the Buteyko Method the bicycle repair shop for your breathing.

Firstly let’s dig a little into what goes on in your breathing apparatus when you are exercising.

Imagine the stages of mastering your breathing are like working throught the gears on that bicycle

The first gear is AWARENESS.

Stand back and look at the bike!

Just like you would listen to the sounds your bike is making so too you should listen to yourself.
How do you breathe when you are not exercising? How do you breathe by day and by night? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Have you a tendency to mouth breathe at rest or when busy?
  • Do you snore?
  • Do you hold your breath?
  • Do you wake up at night with a dry mouth?
  • Do you regularly sigh or yawn a lot
  • Can you hear yourself breathing?
  • Can you see yourself breathing?

It is how you breathe during your daily life that determines how you breathe during physical exercise. If you want to breathe better during exercise, you may need to address an underlying problem.

Consider exercising as a cycle. As you exercise your blood pumps around your body in order to pass more oxygen to your muscles to allow them to work harder to move you at the rate your brain has instructed them. You breathe more deeply and faster in order to maintain not just oxygen but also carbon dioxide levels in your system.

Naturally, therefore, if you have developed bad breathing habits, or suffer from underlying conditions that affect breathing, these will be amplified during exercise and will cause greater difficulties. In some cases those difficulties become so extreme that the sufferer gives up the exercise. So you need to breathe better at rest so that you can breath better while exercising. Develop better breathing habits at rest and this will carry through to the times when you don’t have time to think because you’re busy doing.

Gear two Unblock your nose

Remember breathing better while exercising starts at the point where each breath enters your body.

Gear three: Breathe through your nose by day and by night.

Yes it matters how you breathe in normal time. If you suffer from any of the habits listed above you are chronically overbreathing and this limits your capacity during training to go faster or further. Therefore breathing better while exercising will increase that capacity which will allow you to go faster and further. You will smash those goals!

Let’s just look at overbreathing. Signs that you are overbreathing include mouth breathing, snoring, holding their breath, waking with a dry mouth at night, or excessive sighing or yawning. It means you are breathing more than your body needs. Just as we are aware that if we overeat we can have health issues , the same thing happens when we overbreathe. Chronic overbreathing causes narrowing of airways, limiting your body’s ability to oxygenate. It also leads to the constriction of blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart and other organs and tissues. This leads to loss of health, contributing to many ailments including anxiety, asthma, fatigue insomnia, heart problems and even obesity.

Overbreathing or hyperventilation is actually your body’s attempt to rebalance the levels of oxygen AND carbon dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide? What? Yes! Your body also needs CO2 or Carbon Dioxide in order to function healthily. Not in the same volumes as oxygen for sure, but it is essential for:

  • Transportation of Oxygen
  • Dilation of blood vessels making them more effective for energy transfer
  • Maintaining ph balance
  • Maintaining nature’s steroids like cortisone, testosterone and. … which help us feel good and strong.
  • Controlling mucus production which keeps our lungs healthy and functioning

That is why we feel good after exercise be it a walk or triathlon.

Gear four : Breathe through your nose while walking, alternate the pace.

Gear five: Breathe through the nose while doing a gentle Jog

Jog for 20 minutes. Increase the time and /or length of Jog as tolerance builds.

Gear five: Off you go.

Here in the Buteyko Breathing programme is tailored to your needs. This will help you develop a skill that will allow you to address your breathing in situations where it is put to the test and where you need your lungs and air passages to be working optimally to allow you to achieve goals, be they exercise goals or others.

This programme help patients counter symptoms like wheezing, breathlessness, stuffy noses, snoring, sleep apnoea, anxiety and tension.
Professor Buteyko, who developed the method, discovered, during his research that Asthma (bronchospasm) is the body’s response to stop and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being lost. When carbon dioxide increases to normal, the defence mechanism is no longer needed, and the result is a reduction or elimination of the symptoms mentioned above. This has been supported by many published studies over the years eg Bowler et al 1998 at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane and A randomised control trial of the Buteyko technique as an adjunct to the conventional management of asthma. Respiratory Medicine 2008 May:102(5); 726-732

Imagine you could undertake a course of workshops with Martha De Buitléir, a certified nurse practitioner and Buteyko trainer, and regain control over your breathing apparatus. Imagine if you could exercise with confidence again. You could sleep better, manage stressful situations with greater ease and reduce tension.

Get in touch today to find out more about the four session course and achieve those new year goals with greater confidence.