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Me, today. 6.4.12. Breathing Right

Today was a beautiful sunshine filled Monday morning where the air was warm and the breeze was cool. The kind of morning where you could roll down your windows on the drive to work, taping the steering wheel and bobbing your head to the music. I breathed in the sunshine filling down from my belly all the way up through my chest, holding and letting it all exhale.

I thought of the different times breadth is important and found this wonderful article on how to breathe during different activities. I’ve cut out a lot to give you a shorter article – enjoy and breathe happy my friends!

How to Breathe for Every Type of Exercise

by Jordan Shakeshaft · Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Breathe Easy — Your Action Plan

Whether it’s time to hit the turf, track, or squat rack, breathing isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind (not falling on your face tends to take priority). But smooth and efficient breathing is crucial for delivering the oxygen our body needs to perform its functions properly. Proper breathing can also help athletes exercise longer with less effort, nix side stitches, and even calm the mind. With a little extra awareness — and some practice — that A Game could be just a few breaths away. Here’s what to keep in mind:


How to do it right: While there’s no golden rule, many runners find it most comfortable to take one breath for every two foot strikes, says Alison McConnell, a breathing expert and author of Breathe Strong Perform Better. This means taking two steps (one left, one right) while breathing in, and two steps while breathing out — also known as the 2:2 rhythm[2][3].

Why it works: Because the diaphragm and surrounding organs are all subject to the forces of gravity, McConnell says, synchronizing the breath to running cadence will keep the organs from putting unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which can impede breathing (and make running more uncomfortable than it needs to be!).

The Nose vs. Mouth Debate: While there have been some studies comparing nasal and oral breathing during exercise, most have used small sample sizes with somewhat inconclusive results[4].

Strength Training

Aerobic activity isn’t the only exercise that can benefit from good breathing form. Anyone who hits the weights regularly has probably heard exhaling on the exertion (or effort phase of the exercise) is the way to go. It’s sound logic: Contracting the respiratory muscles will help brace the load during heavier lifts while maintaining lumbar stability[5].

How to do it right: Using the bench press as an example, exhale slowly and continuously while pressing the bar, then inhale at the top of the life or on the return.

When in doubt: Don’t forget to breathe out! Holding the breath increases pressure inside the chest (which is good for stability), but holding it too long can impede the return of blood to the heart and raise blood pressure (definitely not the goal here)[6].


How to do it right: For sama vritti, or “equal breathing,” match an equal length inhale to an equal length exhale. This fundamental style of breath is said to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress, says yoga instructor and Greatist Expert Rebecca Pacheco. To power through more rigorous types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga, many yogis rely on ujjayi breath, (aka “victorious breath”). Simply breathe in and out through the nose, maintaining a slight contraction in the back of the throat. If you sound a bit like Darth Vader, you’re doing it right, Pacheco insists.

What not to do: When it’s time for Warrior IIIs, wheelbarrows, and other holy-crap-this-is-hard poses, it’s common to hold your breath. Take that as a sign of overexertion, Pacheco says. Instead, take a break to refocus, breathe, and then hop back into the pose whenever you’re ready.

This article has been read and approved by Greatist Experts Dr. John Mandrola and Dan Trink.

Does breathing properly improve your athletic performance? Let us know how your lungs help you compete in the comments below.

Also check out Greatist’s other Fitness and Exercise Resources!

  1. Reconsidering the Effects of Respiratory Constraints on the Optimal Running Speed. Willcockson, M.A., Wall-Scheffler, C.M. Department of Biology, Seattle Pacific University, and Department of Anthropology, University of Washington. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2012 Jan 3. [Epub ahead of print] []
  2. Daniels, Jack. Daniels’ Running Formula, Second Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2005. 116. []
  3. McConnell, Alison. Breathe Strong, Perform Better. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2011. []
  4. Influence of nasal airflow temperature and pressure on alae nasi electrical activity. Wheatley, J.R., Amis, T.C., Engel, L.A. Thoracic Medicine Unit, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1991 Dec; 71(6):2283-91. []
  5. Breath control during manual free-style lifting of a maximally tolerated load. Lamberg, E.M., Hagins, M. Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Technology and Management, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Ergonomics,2010 Mar; 53(3):385-92. []
  6. Effect of breathing techniques on blood pressure response to resistance exercise. Linsenbardt, S.T., Thomas, T.R., Madsen, R.W. Hammons Heart Institute, Springfield, MO. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 1992 Jun; 26(2):97-100. []

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