Why so huffy?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
In the weeks leading up to my first meeting with my trainer, Donna Finnell, I thought I was doing well in my work out. After all, I'd worked out before, even lost a fair amount of weight on my own, so this was nothing new. I just picked out the exercises I remembered were effective for me - 14+ years ago - and dove in. And I got results. I lost 14lbs, which I quickly gained when our van was out of commission and I couldn't work out regularly for a few weeks. I thought my form was pretty good and I was feeling great.
I knew the various stances I had to take to effectively lift to avoid injury with free weights. I knew how to adjust seat heights and leg extender lengths and treadmill speeds but there was still something that, no matter how well these adjustments were made, was undermining my workout efforts.
Donna not only shook up my 14 year old routine but also pointed out to me, numerous times in our first meeting and more in our second, my tendency to hold my breath when exercising.
It started at the pectoral fly machine, "Okay, bend your elbows like your hugging a tree and don't forget to breath, exhale as you lift."
Then again at the seated row, "...exhale as you lift..."
Once more with the weight assisted squats, "...breath in through the nose and out through the mouth..."
The assisted crunches "...don't hold your breath..."
Do you see the pattern?
Donna explained that there are several reasons to breath deeply as you exercise. Primarily, the muscles need the extra oxygen as they are worked, especially to help with recovery. Also, breathing deeply expands the lungs and increases their capacity which helps with endurance. It keeps our brain charged to stay focused. To deny yourself proper oxygen intake as you exercise can cause dizziness and loss of focus. In severe cases it can cause hyperventilation and black out - something you really want to avoid when lifting a free weight. ;)
But it's not just necessary when exercising.
I've been researching the importance of deep breathing and found how imperative it is to our bodies as a whole, whether exercising our not.
Think of oxygen as food for the brain. When you don't eat your body goes into survival mode and starts hording fat and water to prepare for starvation. In the same way constant shallow breathing has a similar effect on your brain. When a person deprives their brain of oxygen there is a survival instinct that kicks in. The brain works the best it can with the tools it has and if it has a less than normal supply of oxygen it will 'shut down' or ignore those extra functions that are not absolutely necessary for survival (like the sense of pleasure and the ability to deal with stress) and go into survival mode (like an animal - maybe that's why I feel like a bear in this state!).
Think of a time when you were stressed out and you consciously stopped and breathed deeply for a few minutes. Perhaps the stress didn't disappear, but it probably diminished substantially because your brain was nourished with the oxygen it needed so the survival mode was put on hold and you were able to relax again.
That is how powerful the act of breathing deeply can be.
So as you go through your day, whether you're working out at the gym or merely surfing the net, breathe deeply.
When you are stressed out...breathe deeply.
If you can't sleep...breathe deeply
It may just be the breath of fresh air you needed to get you through the fog of the day.