It makes intuitive sense that your lungs play an instrumental role in every workout. Oxygen is an essential fuel for our muscles to function smoothly. The demand for oxygen increases during workouts, resulting in an increase in breathing rate. Our ability to do a particular exercise effectively depends on how efficiently the required amounts of oxygen can be supplied to the muscles. So it stands to reason that one way to improve the experience and effectiveness of your workouts is to cultivate better breathing habits!
We always recommend talking to your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. But for those who are already in the habit of getting active, here are a few techniques that can help you breathe right for a better workout:
During cardio workouts such as running, it is beneficial to practice belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing - breathing in as the belly expands and the diaphragm contracts, allowing the lungs to expand thus inhaling maximum air, which is needed during running.
Experts also recommend developing an odd-even rhythmic breathing pattern during running for best results. In the beginning, you might have to slow down your pace to practice this technique but once you master this, you will notice a lower heart rate and will be able to finish your runs better.
It’s easy to forget to breathe during core/abdominal exercises, but holding breath while bracing your core for the exercise can result in dizziness and muscle cramping. Breathing is essential to maintain your oxygen supply and balance longer and allow the muscles to do their job effectively.
To break the habit of holding breath, try counting the repetitions loudly during the exercise.
Breathing properly when lifting weights can help you lift higher weights with more control. The simple technique to practice during lifting is to exhale during exertion and inhale during relaxation. Typically this means you exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower the weight. Breathing during exertion is very important to prevent internal injuries such as hernia and also to prevent a rise in blood pressure .
This technique is also applicable to other strength training routines such as push ups, pull ups etc. Controlled breathing helps in stabilizing your body posture during strength training, which can help enhance your performance.
It is normal to feel breathless during a high intensity workout such as interval training as the body tries to breathe in more oxygen through the mouth. When this happens, slow down the pace or stop to recover your breath before going for the next repeat.
One technique to test the intensity of the workout is the talk test - if you cannot carry on a conversation, it means the intensity may be too high and you need to slow down to catch your breath.
Stretching time, before and after your work out, is a great time to practice proper breathing with focused inhales and exhales. In addition to helping you become consistent with your breathing pattern and maintain proper breath throughout your workout routine, it's a great way to cultivate mindfulness.