Photograph by Sean Laurenz
Whether you have a condition like asthma or not, you’re probably breathing wrong…
No matter what exercise type you love, what your reason for exercising is (weight loss, fitness, fun) or how good your lungs are, improve your results with smart breathing strategies. Your breath feeds your muscles fresh oxygen and clues you in to whether you can up your intensity. To get the most out of every breath, follow these pro tips.
1. Strength Training
How? Exhale through your mouth when you lift and inhale through your nose when you lower. Rule of thumb: take two seconds to raise the weight and three to four seconds to lower it.
Why? Focusing on your breath keeps your brain in the game so you’re more likely to pay attention to overall form, says exercise physiologist Tom Holland.
READ MORE: 4 Common Strength Training Myths – Busted!
How? With closed lips, breathe in sharply and deeply through the nose. Then purse your lips, as if you’re trying to blow out a candle, and exhale through your mouth. As you run, breathe in for one step and out for two.
Why? “The rapid inhale and slower exhale in this technique fills your lungs from the bottom,” says Danny Dreyer, author of Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running. “It helps you take in more air when you inhale and empty your lungs completely when you exhale.” The result? “Your muscles receive more glycogen, which lowers your chances of cramping up.”
How? Use the Hindu breathing method called ujjayi. First, inhale once with your mouth open and then exhale the same way, making a “ha” sound. Then close your mouth and continue making the same sound while inhaling and exhaling through your nose (you’ll sound like Darth Vader).
Why? “Your breathing is the barometer of all your poses,” says yoga teacher Elena Brower. Gasping for air? Back out of the pose. “Always give preference to deeper breathing over deeper postures.” What’s more, this breathing technique is largely responsible for the yoga buzz that keeps you coming back for more.
How? “The key to breathing on a bike is to go in through the nose and out through the mouth – and to be as relaxed as you can be,” says Holland. When your intensity increases on climbs or long rides, breathe more forcefully: deeper, quicker inhales through the nose and rapid exhales through the mouth.
Why? The more relaxed your breathing is, the more relaxed your entire body will be. Relaxed breathing conserves energy, prevents fatigue and improves endurance. And, importantly, using forceful breaths when you’re exhausted will get more oxygen to your muscles.
Want more? Here’s an in-depth guide on how to use breathing to get a better workout.