I recently witnessed a remarkable demonstration. This amateur runner was going at full pelt on a running machine breathing calmly, and gently (pretty much
invisibly) with her mouth closed. She was in full control of her breathing throughout, totally relaxed before during and after the exercise.
Don coaching the Oxyathlete method
It was a workshop lead by Don Gordon demonstrating part of the oxyathlete programme of Patrick Mckeown ; Elite athletes trained in Oxyathlete programmes have had increased performance of up to 2%, amateurs much more.
At peak performance the majority of athletes that Don assessed (from elite, amateur or recreational) felt that their breathing holds them back, not their muscles.
Most athletes breathe badly; many have heath issues connected with bad breathing (asthma, allergies, anxiety, sleep problems)
Most have no breath training, don’t warm up lungs or diaphragm or/ have been coached to do deep breathing and/or rhythm breathing through the mouth, not the nose.
The breath training programme can deliver:
- Better oxygen delivery
- Faster speeds
- Better endurance
- Faster recovery
- More enjoyment
Incorrect breathing can:
- Constrict airways making it harder to breathe
- Constrict blood vessels reducing muscle oxygenation, speed and endurance
- Cause lactic acid build up and fatigue
- Increase free radicals/acidosis making injury/cramp/ pulled muscles more likely
- Reduce training days due to more ill health
How does it work? Optimal performance is a function of how we breathe; less breathing leads to more muscle oxygenation
The first stage improves breathing at rest and is for everyone. The second stage is for all athletes when they have progressed in stage one; learning breath control during exercise with mainly nasal breathing.
The second stage involves special warm ups and cool downs while controlling the breath as well as interval training, all while breathing calmly and mostly through the nose. The controlled way this is done strikes me as safer than the interval training where the breathing is out of control and takes a long time to come back down to normal after the training session.
Then for elite athletes the third stage simulates high altitude training via breath control (more in future blog posts).
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The diaphragm is a large, thin sheet of muscle dividing the thoracic (chest) cavity from the abdominal cavity (belly), and is the major muscle of breathing. As the diaphragm contracts, the lungs move downwards, expand and fill with air. Diaphragmatic breathing, along with breathing through the nose (not the mouth) is essential for healthy breathing. However, as a breathing educator I see many clients –especially those with ME/CFS/fibromyalgia or anxiety who make little or no use of this important muscle! Instead, they often breathe though the mouth, the breathing is obvious in the upper chest, accessory muscles in the upper chest and neck and shoulders do the donkey work of lifting the ribcage, and posture is often slumped.Continue Reading
A client asked me recently “Why not write a topic about what deep breathing actually means in the Buteyko context?” So here goes, I am preparing to open a can of worms… But before I do that I will just recap that as a breathing educator I identify and help to correct (using the Buteyko method), disordered or dysfunctional breathing and that: The aim of breathing education is to restore a healthy breathing pattern, to allow the natural, normal, nasal, soft, gentle, smooth, quiet, invisible, efficient, underlying breathing pattern to emerge, so breathing is easier and with the diaphragm free. The most effective way of doing this is by relaxation; by removal of layers of tension caused by bad breathing habits and stress. As the breathing softens and reduces, symptoms decrease too. Dr Buteyko called his method “reduced breathing by relaxation”. And when I teach I avoid the word DEEP like the plague! That is because it is so utterly confusing as it means two (at least) completely different things to different people:Continue Reading