Breathing is important and you should practice it more often…
This video from @owaindoull perfectly highlights just how hard our breathing mechanism is working under exercise stress. You can also see how many times per minute we are engaging that mechanism.
Important to note how his whole rib cage is expanding, rather than just pushing his belly out. A common fault when learning to breathe more efficiently is to neglect the expansion of the rib cage in favour of pushing the belly out. This allows the diaphragm to move but does not fully expand the lungs. If we don’t expand the lungs, we drive the breath increasingly more shallow, leading to “upper chest breathing” where the shoulders elevate – often causing scapula dysfunction and neck tension – and we increase our breathing rate (hyperventilation) to offset the lack of overall breathing volume.
Additionally, if your sport requires extreme positions – cycling/triathlon, skiing, hockey, flat water kayaking, etc – then we should train our breathing mechanism in those positions. The time trial position that Owain is adopting will create a stressful position for his diaphragm, taxing his breathing patterns further (Charlton et al, 2017).
We approach this issue by training better breathing patterns in a low load/controlled environment before layering exposure to breathing stress, therefore allowing the basic mechanism to become an automatic process prior to exposure to exercise. In addition to this, assessing/diagnosing and treating areas around the ribcage/neck/1st rib that are tight and restrictive often helps to reduce breathing restriction and allow space for better mechanics to be learnt and drilled.
As well as developing better breathing patterns, inspiratory muscle training has been highlighted as a method for improving breathing performance in athletes. Tools such as the POWERbreathe allow a calibrated and quantifiable inspiratory load that can be applied in both relaxed stance and the extreme positions found in certain sports. Think of it as a gym for your lungs!
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