As you go through your day, how often do you stop to think about your breathing?
Breathing is one of the several bodily functions controlled by our autonomic nervous system (ANS), a part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system, maintaining homeostasis in the body. Activities controlled by the ANS are generally performed without conscious control or sensation, and the actions are involuntary.
The human body has been created to keep itself alive without conscious effort through several unconscious processes, breathing being one of those. However, on top of keeping us alive, breathing aids us in several activities like falling asleep, relieving stress and making our exercise more efficient. Concentrating on breathing in tandem with your bodily movements while exercising can help make you faster and stronger, because it provides greater focus on the movement, as well as keeps everything working together.
When your breathing is erratic, is more likely that your running form is lacking, but when you join breathing with your running, each step suddenly has a purpose. Each time your foot hits the ground, it is stronger and more focused, helping to build strength and efficiency throughout your body.
In addition to running, breathing can be joined with other cardio exercises as well as weight lifting. If you are a swimmer, there is a natural breathing pattern that comes with your stroke. Bikers may find it easy to being implementing this practice while pushing up a large hill, and boot campers may find joy in joining breaths with jumping jacks.
Weightlifting is also boosted with practiced breathing. We have all been in the gym and heard the obnoxious man grunting with each chest press — that is not a prime example. Instead, try breathing in for two and out for two as you do bicep curls — up two counts, down two counts. You can mix this up several ways, inhale and curl for two, exhale and return for four. Increase your pace and heartrate by scaling back to one count each. However you combine the breaths with the movement, when you exhale, you are focusing the breath to provide strength to your whole body. Flex your abdominals when you exhale for stability and strength, and voila. You’re doing an abs workout as well.
This month, I challenge you to begin trying to focus your breath in tandem with your movement, whether it be with weights or cardio. Find focus and strength in your breath and push that through your entire body for a more efficient workout.
Information provided by Julia Steggerda, Fitness World 24 – Downtown, 418 Sixth Ave., #110, 288-1111.