Until a few years ago I had a bad little habit of not breathing when working out. Whether it was executing a simple crunch or something that really needed my concentration, I would hold my breath. The only time it seemed like I was breathing through something was when I was stretching.
That all changed a few years ago when my dance instructor literally made us breathe our workouts out. We’d be on our third or fourth set of ab work and she’d yell out, “I can’t hear you breathing!” I made it a point to make sure I was breathing and from there it became a habit. I learned to move my workouts with my breath. Now I use breathing as a way to help count out my reps.
So why breathe? Well besides saving yourself a huge headache and to keep you from passing out? Your muscles need oxygen to function and if you deprive them of that oxygen then they’re not going to grow and stretch properly. Breathing ensures that there is proper blood flow throughout your body as you’re exercising. It’ll help prevent you from injuring yourself.
Learning to breathe properly during an exercise ensures that you’re effectively and correctly exercising one of the most important muscles in your body: The Lungs. That in itself should be a great motivator to learn proper breathing technique as it’ll improve your normal day-to-day breathing.
So what is proper breathing technique? Well most would argue that it is the old mantra of “In through your nose, Out through your mouth”. I’m not knocking that old adage, but it’s one I struggle with in practice. I don’t feel like I’m getting a full breath unless I inhale through my mouth, a habit I’m sure is left over from choir. I think however you breathe, the point is that you shouldn’t be “chest” breathing. Make sure you are breathing down through your diaphragm, commonly known as your belly. This ensures that you are breathing deeply and actually filling your lungs to capacity. Both inhale and exhale are important so make sure you focus on your exhale just as much as your inhale. Both need to be controlled. It’s like lifting weights or doing a squat, the descent is just as important as the ascent.
I hope this post helps you be mindful of your breathing! We don’t often think too seriously on our breathing because it’s something we do automatically all the time. I encourage you to even take a moment in your normal day to assess how you’re breathing, even if you’re not working out. There’s a reason we’re told to focus on it. Happy exercising and remember, Just Breathe!