Excited to have world-renowned strength & conditioning coach, and personal trainer Steve Maxwell back at The Fit Stop this year in February. He will be hosting a 6 hour seminar on breathing.
Correct breathing is an often overlooked factor when it comes to health & fitness, yet it is arguably the most important place to start – it can literally add years to your life.
When you ask anyone at the highest levels of sports performance coaching, high level athletes, Elite military special forces from all over the world, and people working in the fields of mindfulness, stress reduction and higher consciousness like Yogi practitioners etc., they all recognize the importance of breathing as the foundation of everything.
You can have your training and diet in order yet if your breathing is dysfunctional it can cause a whole host of issues ranging from:
– Anxiety, stress
– Decreased mobility
– Decreased ability to lose body fat, increase muscle & strength
– Light headedness
– Fatigue & lack of energy
– Excess muscular tension & tightness
– Feelings of breathlessness & chest tightness
– Decreases cardiovascular capacity / output
The way you breathe, will literally directly impact your physiology.
Your breath is tied closely to your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which regulates all of your body’s internal processes.
Dysfunctional breathing or over breathing can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (which is part of your ANS) and essentially over stimulates your body’s stress response.
We have all heard of ‘flight or flight’ mode, which is the body’s stress response when it perceives harmful or stressful situations. The body will release more of certain hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, whilst increasing heart rate, blood pressure, slowing digestion and shunting blood flow to certain areas of your body.
This natural stress response is very helpful in times of genuine emergency, however our body’s cannot differentiate between the stress of encountering a grizzly bear in the wild, or the stress of modern life, like being stuck in traffic or running late on a deadline at work.
Some people are overly sensitive to these perceived threats (for many reasons ranging from hormonal imbalances to past emotional trauma etc) and end up in a constant highly-strung state of high alert.
Dysfunctional breathing and the over stimulation of your body’s stress response goes hand in hand, and fixing the way you breathe can directly impact your physiology and greatly improve how you handle the daily stresses of modern life, leading to an improvement in your stress levels, anxiety, energy, blood pressure, resting heart rate and general well-being.
Another by-product of improved breathing is better results with your exercise routine. When you chronically raise stress hormones like cortisol (which also promotes the storage of body fat & hinders muscle growth), slow your digestion and increase muscular tension & tightness leading to decreased mobility, how do you think your training quality and results are affected?
There are several common dysfunctional breathing patterns, the most common ones being over breathing, where you’re taking in large volumes of air and/or too many breathes per minute. Breathing through the mouth at rest generally indicates over breathing.
Chest breathing is also very common, which results in over using the muscles around neck, shoulders and upper chest to breathe, instead of using your diaphragm. This often goes hand in hand with poor posture (i.e rounded shoulders, hunched back, head forward), which can restrict normal use of the diaphragm.
Many people inadvertently alter their posture by sucking in their stomach or walk around with their shoulders elevated without even consciously realizing it. This can all affect proper breathing.
A quick way to practice good breathing (belly breathing):
1. Lie flat on your back either with legs straight, or legs bent and feet flat on the floor
2. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
3. Close your mouth and inhale through the nose. Take a long, slow breath for a count of 4, hold the inhale for a count of 4, then exhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold the exhale for a count of 4. Repeat.
4. As you inhale your belly should rise (not the chest), as you exhale your belly should fall. Imagine you have a balloon under your belly button, it should inflate and deflate with the inhale and exhale.
5. Relax your mind and focus on your breath. Nothing else!
If you’d like to know more about breathing and how you can improve yours, details for the seminar are below. If you’re an active Fit Stop client then you’ll be getting a lot of this information from our trainers anyway, who will be attending.
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