Breathing Techniques For Better Sports Performance
Breathing is an aspect of our lives that we do not pay enough attention to whatsoever. It’s actually rather silly of us because breathing properly can have a serious impact on our sports performance and general wellbeing. Health experts say that the benefits of conscious breathing are exponential. But, how you do it is even more important,
Breathing is life. If you pay enough attention to yourself right now, you can hear your breath and see your chest moving up and down. It is what we do every day without even giving it a second thought. Ironically we have to do it in order to survive, so why do we ignore it? Take a second to focus on how fast or slow you’re breathing right now. Listen carefully. I bet you hadn’t noticed before.
Doing this regularly could potentially boost your physical and mental health significantly. Interestingly, sport can help show you how along the way…
Breathing Must Not Be Taken For Granted
Previous research studies have discovered that runners who breathe in time with their stride have the highest level of performance. In addition, major recent studies using 12 runners over a six-week period show that athletes who include breathing exercises as part of their training improve their times by between 5% and 12%.
However, your breath during sports is not the only important factor in making you fitter and more focused. You need to practice breathing techniques in your daily life and the days approaching the sporting event, race or match. As a result. you’ll be able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and other factors, which will give you a much-needed boost on the day.
The simple act of using your breath is also a form of meditation. If clarity, stress-relief and energy are what you seek then all you need to do is turn back to your breath.
Fortunately, there are a few techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life for enhanced performances in sport.
1. Slow Down And Concentrate On Your Breath
The best way to begin is by taking in a big, deep breath. You can now exhale for the same length of time. You may or may not find this uncomfortable and difficult to do. The art of slowing down the breath can take some getting used it. The most common form of ineffective breathing is called ‘chronic shallow’ breathing. This occurs when you take minimal breaths into your lungs. Shallow breaths happen when using the chest to breathe instead of the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that sits between the chest and abdomen. Shallow breathing can be caused by many factors including posture, stress, anxiety and physical restriction. You don’t want to live life using shallow breaths because it causes your body to feel stressed. Therefore the longer you breathe for the more you create a physiological stress response.
Shallow breathing has shown to cause physical problems like lower immunity and respiration problems. It can also lead to physical tension in your neck, shoulders and chest which can also negatively impact your posture and sports performance.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Babies breathe like this naturally all the time. It’s the opposite of taking shallow breaths and is described best as taking deep belly breaths. A baby’s belly rises and falls with each breath. Somehow we forget to breathe like this as we get older and begin to depend solely on our chests.
Diaphragmatic breathing has many health benefits for both your body and mind. Doctors say that it activates our parasympathetic nervous system which is our body’s rest and digestive mechanism. Ultimately, you’ll be able to save on energy, slow down your heart rate and genuinely relax. The plus is that breathing can also strengthen your immune system, improve circulation, digestion and increases vitality.
Like I said earlier, deep breaths allow you to establish a sense of being grounded, calm and focused.
It’s best to practice deep breathing techniques before you train as part of your warm-up. You’ll also need to do it before any big event, match or run. Taking time to breathe helps me relax when I am going through a period of stress or tension and I need to find calmness and clarity.
3. Exhaling For A Longer Time
I am sure you’ve heard of taking a deep breath in and then exhaling for a long time. Sometimes till the point of passing out if you’re not accustomed to it yet.
The best way to do this is by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place one hand on your abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths. Now, you can prolong the inhalation and exhalation until they’re of equal length and progressively increase the length of your exhale until you have a 1:2 ratio.
You will need to keep this up for 5-10 minutes. A great example of where this technique can help is with runners who have to struggle through really freezing weather. The iciness can make it pretty difficult to breathe. Therefore, you can use the same long exhale technique to regain control of your breathing and give yourself a better chance to recharge your stamina.
A good time to approach this kind of breathing is when you can’t fall asleep or before bed. It’s also great for those anxious moments and the night before a big event.
4. Bhramari (Humming Bee) Breathing
This kind of breathing focuses on using your nostrils, inhaling silently and then exhaling to make a humming sound (like a bee). Allow your lips and face to vibrate with your exhales. You can increase the intensity of this technique by covering your ears and eyes with your fingers to achieve a full sensory withdrawal.
Try this for as long as you can, half an hour maximum. You will notice an improvement in your stress, anxiety and insomnia symptoms. Like the other techniques, you’ll feel calmer and grounded. It will also enhance your memory and concentration as well as soothe a sore throat from the cold run.
I recommend doing this in the morning or afternoon before a big event. It’s also helpful when you’re feeling anxious, jittery or stressed or suffering from a cold, sore throat or nasal congestion.
There you have it. Most of life’s issues can be dealt with by your breathing. Try not to take the importance of it for granted, because it can be life-changing.
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