How Do Breathing Exercises Improve Athletic Performance?
Listen carefully. Do you hear that? It’s happening in your chest at this very moment. As a matter of fact, it happens 12-20 times per minute and anywhere from 17,000-30,000 times every single day without you even having to think about it. If you haven’t guessed what it is – I’m talking about your breath. It’s a key component to your survival and yet most of us take it for granted or ignore it, even though focusing on how you breathe could boost your physical and mental levels exponentially. If you’re looking for a scientifically proven competitive advantage, look no further because Restoic is about to show you the way.
Many professional athletes consider breathwork training to be their ‘secret weapon’ – and for good reason since it could be the difference between winning and losing. During training or competition, athletes at all levels struggle to catch their breath, which can cause the body and its muscles to shut down. It could be in the 4th quarter of the game, the final set of a match, the last 50 meters of a race or maybe it’s during practice or a weight room session. If you’re pushing yourself to the limit, you will inevitably hit the wall of fatigue and your performance will suffer.
Does this experience sound familiar? Maybe you’ve even said to yourself “I’ve got nothing left in the tank” or you find yourself bent over trying to catch your breath. Don’t worry, it’s completely natural, especially when you’re going all out and giving 100% effort. Dr. Mitch Lomax, a Sport and Exercise Scientist and a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology at the University of Portsmouth shares an explanation for what’s happening in these moments, “The body is designed so the muscles responsible for breathing and the heart will take priority for oxygenated blood over limb muscles, meaning the rest of the body – legs and arms – will be the first to “go” causing premature fatigue.”
While physical training, diet, and proper recovery play a significant role in your ability to overcome fatigue, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room that supplies your body with the essentials to not only compete, but also survive. Just like the skill of dribbling a basketball doesn’t end with learning how to bounce it up and down, breathing is not simply a matter of inhalation and exhalation. Elite athletes embrace this mentality and have implemented various breathing techniques in their pursuit of greatness. As the competitive landscape of sports continues to evolve, true champions choose to be proactive rather than reactive to performance enhancement.
Breathwork Improves Athletic Performance
Let’s first begin by defining the practice itself: breathwork is the conscious control of the rate, rhythm, and depth of breathing, a technique used to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual health. Every breath you take converts into energy – and as an athlete you know just how valuable energy levels can be. Human cells use nutrients from food and oxygen to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source that fuels cell function. If your cells receive too little oxygen, they produce less energy. If your cells need more energy, they use more oxygen. That’s why you’ll notice during exercise that your breathing rate increases. By training yourself in breathwork, you will be able to efficiently oxygenate all muscles of the body to make them work optimally, while at the same time removing the carbon dioxide produced by every cell during physical activity. Consider this for a moment, your lungs serve as the “filter” and “tank” of your body. If breathwork is done correctly and the quality of air that reaches the lungs is enhanced, the body will be able to increase performance in the short as well as the long term, becoming more explosive and capable of sustained effort. Simply put, by training yourself in breathwork you will be able to run or swim for longer periods of time at a higher intensity. Imagine those moments in which you’re physically exhausted during a competition and your opponent gains an advantage. Your muscles begin to shut down and basic skills, such as running a route or making a penalty kick, seem like climbing a mountain. That feeling of helplessness is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you’ve succumbed to fatigue rather than the opposing player. If you’ve competed long enough, you’ve likely experienced moments like these during training or competition.
But the benefits don’t end with building endurance from an increased lung capacity. In fact, studies have shown that breathwork helps: stimulate a relaxation response, increase memory capacity, boost concentration, improve alertness, raise energy levels, increase strength, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, alleviate tension, prevent lactic acid build up, strengthen your immune system, and facilitate sleep. In case you’re still not convinced of the benefits, scientists from the University of Portsmouth concluded that training the muscles responsible for breathing can improve your performance by 15%, but it’s important to note that these researchers believe this number is very conservative and did not rule out athletes making even greater gains through regular practice. Think about that for a moment. What could a 15% improvement mean to your performance? To some athletes, it may seem inconsequential, but when most Olympic races are decided by a fraction of a second or when a team comes up 1 yard short of winning the Super Bowl, that 15% will prove to be a game changer. To reiterate, breathwork is backed by science and is utilized by the world’s best athletes. With the margins to victory being so small, champions don’t leave their success to chance.
Breathwork is an established competitive advantage for the world’s best athletes. While you will notice immediate benefits from these exercises, truly uncovering your untapped potential will take a commitment to practice and letting go of your comfort zone. Treat breathwork training the same as any other skill you seek to attain and you will reap the rewards of your labor.
Let Restoic be your guide.