One of the most common cues I hear from the coaches at my home box is “Don’t forget to breathe!” And it’s definitely a problem when you get squat deep in a short WOD or a long one and suddenly you realize you aren’t breathing well. The body does remind you when it runs out of oxygen!
Mychael from Elite Functional Fitness knows this and has some ideas on how to change our shallow breathing to deeper breathing. Many of us do this unconsciously throughout the day, but it becomes very evident when you’re working out. (He covers a few things in “Take a breath!” from April 2015.)
It all boils down to habits. We get into a habit of not sitting up straight (posture!) or breathing quickly and shallowly when we get stressed (at work, home, driving, or at the box). These two factors combine to not allow our diaphragms to work fully. We tend to then use “chest” breathing instead of “belly” breathing, which reduces the body’s ability to handle stress. We all have plenty of stress, so the trick is to retrain ourselves a bit to make it easier for the body to use it’s full breathing capabilities.
How do we fix it? First, we have to be aware that it’s a problem! Second, we can retrain ourselves to feel what deeper breathing feels like so we can use it more effectively in our everyday lives and at the box during a workout.
A good way to start that retraining is the exercise Mychael suggests in his post.
- Start by laying flat on your back on the ground.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in so that the hand on your stomach rises while the one on your chest stays still.
Once you master it while lying down, you can shift to your knees and go through the same process. And eventually do the exercise while on your feet. This gradual progression will become easier with practice.
With this skill in your arsenal, you can then apply it to stressful moments of your life. In a bad situation at work? Take a moment to use the breathing exercise to calm yourself down so you can react more effectively to what needs to be done. Stuck doing Fran and forget how to breathe for a minute? Take a deep breath and keep working through it. His post includes a video where he works through this progression in detail.
As he says in his post – “Remember, working out is a stressful situation.” And what’s a good way to deal with stress? Breathing!
Just FYI – If you have time to attend one of Jenn’s Yoga classes at CrossFit 719, that’s a great way to focus on breathing practice while challenging your body’s strength and flexibility. Belly breathing is a must there! (See ROMWOD vs. Yoga for her latest post.)