How Focusing On Your Breathing Can Improve Your Fitness
Breathing is a unique process in the human body. It can occur voluntarily or involuntarily, be a conscious or unconscious decision, and is constantly responding to feedback from sensors in your body. Oftentimes are breathe is being stifled by our emotional state, body position, or
Posture and breath
When you inhale your diaphragm contracts and moves downward expanding the chest cavity and giving the lungs space to expand. This simultaneously lifts the ribs and sternum. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and expands into the chest cavity as the ribs and sternum lower.
The key muscles or primary movers in this process are the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Secondary mover muscles include upper trapezius, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and pectoralis minor.
Poor posture categorized by rounded shoulders and a forward head position can cause these secondary movers to become tight and overworked. This leads to a decline in respiratory function which can further exacerbate the breathing muscles and contribute to even worse posture.
To jump start your muscles involved in breathing try out this stretching and breath practice from Jill Miller at Yoga Tune Up: The Abdominal Vacuum.
So you might be wondering why you should worry about your breath when it’s so easy you can literally do it in your sleep?
Let’s start with the the one we all care about
- Improved performance. A study at the University of Portsmouth showed that runners who performed inspiratory muscle warm-ups and training experienced a whopping 15% increase in performance after just 6 weeks.
Bringing a mindful focus to breath can also help improve energy. Individuals who practice deep breathing exercises report more energy, improved mental acuity, and getting a better night’s sleep.
An improvement in breath capacity will lead to a healthier digestive tract. The body has more energy to allocate towards digestion and is more efficient at eliminating toxins.
- Decrease Stress
Breathing techniques that are designed to bring increased awareness the breath can carry over to other areas of life. It trains the mind to be less emotionally reactive while simultaneously reducing cortisol levels.
- Heart Rate
Breathing practice has been shown to lower resting heart rate and blood pressure. Try deep belly breaths where the stomach fully expands and holding in at the full exhalation and inhalation points.
Many breathing techniques are geared towards unwinding, shutting down, and moving away from the flight or fight response we are used to feeling. Breath work also has many powerful applications to get us fired up and improve our u
When lifting heavy weights, a full belly breath can be held inside the abdomen throughout the lift. This Valsalva Maneuver provides internal pressure that supports the spine and braces the skeletal muscle throughout the lift. Limit this maneuver for maximal exertion efforts (eg. greater than 80% of your 1rm and 5 reps or less in your working set).
Breathing can also be used to prime your body into a peak state. Using rapid forced inhales and exhales through the nostrils will stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and leave you feeling alive, alert, and awake.
Now that you know a little about how breathing affects your daily life and the systems of your body what areas do you want to incorporate a breathing practice into? Whether its for our health, relaxation purposes, or to improve our athletic performance we could all benefit from taking a deep breath now and then!
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Debunking Dietary Supplements
The world of dietary supplement can be overwhelming at the very least and downright misleading at some times. Here are a few supplements that have have been put to the test through numerous studies to prove their safety and efficacy. After reading this you’ll have a better idea of the sports supplements that work, how to take the right dosage for your needs, and the populations that would benefit the most.
Overview: Creatine is perhaps the most commonly consumed supplement in the sports performance world and for good reason. It is has been proven to increase muscle mass, improve exercise performance, and even offers cognitive benefits.
Dosage: The benefits of creatine monohydrate can be obtained by orally consuming 3-5 grams per day. This amount has proven to be safe for long term consumption with no adverse effects.
Who can benefit: The wide ranging benefits of creatine make it an attractive supplement for a wide variety of individuals including athletes, vegans, and elderly populations. This could be a good choice for you if you’re interested in improving strength, gaining muscle, increasing energy, or improving brain functions.
Overview: Beta alanine is a non essential amino acid that is popular for improving athletic performance. It has been shown to improve time to exhaustion (TTE) and improved sports performance in tested cyclists and rowers. Beta Alanine acts by increasing Carnosine levels in the muscle. Carnosine helps buffer the acid that builds up in muscle during exercise allowing the muscle to perform at a higher capacity for longer.
Dosage: Subjects have shown benefits when consuming between 2-5 grams daily.
Who can benefit: Individuals who participate in high intensity exercise could experience performance benefits by supplementing with beta alanine.
Beta Vulgaris aka Beet Extract
Overview: Beet supplements have gained popularity recently as studies have shown them to be at the root of some major athletic achievements. Beets are a highly concentrated source of nitrates (NO3) that the body converts to nitric dioxide (NO2) a vasodilator. Vasodilators can improve athletic performance by increasing blood flow and allowing more oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Athletes who supplemented with Beet Juice showed significant improve when compared to athletes who consumed a placebo. These athletes showed an increase in time to exhaustion (TTE) tests.
Dosage: 400mg-500mg consumed 2-3 hours before the time of competition is recommended to ensure optimal effects of the beet juice. Some studies have shown that daily supplementation of beet juice starting 6 days before the competition could provide greater benefit than same day consumption only.
Who can benefit: Athletes who are looking to improve their performance in an event that tests their aerobic capacity may want to give this safe food supplement a try!
*Note: The effects of beet juice seem to have a negative correlation with caffeine so don’t mix your beets with coffee.
Overview: Huperzine is one of the popular new supplements in the category known as nootropics. Whenever our brain is focused on learning something we release neurotransmitters such as Acetylcholine that send out the signal These compounds prevents acetylcholineterase enzymes from picking up the neurotransmitters quickly after they have been released. This means that the mind is able to stay focused on tasks for longer and with greater intensity.
Dosage: It is recommended to begin with with 10mg of Huperzine per day to gauge tolerance.
Who can benefit: Individuals whose sport or activity requires high levels of focus to execute on. This could include weightlifters, powerlifters, golfers, and biathletes just to name a few. These supplements don’t have to be limited to sports performance. Try nootropics to learn a new skill at work and see if they work for you.
Overview: Most of us are no stranger to fish oil and may have taken it for one reason or another. Fish oil has been studied extensively and the benefits range from improved cognitive health, to reduced inflammation, heart health, upregulating anabolic pathways, and even boosting mood. The key desired ingredients are the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Top of the line supplements will have high levels of these fats and represent the quality of the product.
Dosage: Consumption levels of 1-5 grams daily are popular, speak with your doctor and discuss if a fish oil supplement is a good fit for your needs.
Who can benefit: Athletes, the elderly population, expecting mothers and children all can benefit from a fish oil supplement.
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