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Breathing essentials for athletes

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Ask yourself, how often do you focus on breathing or even train yourself to breathe better during a workout? Similar to your Freeletics training, breathing is an exercise. And if you don’t practice or do it correctly, your performance and recovery could end up suffering. Read on to find out the role breathing plays in exercise and how to get your technique on point.

Why breathe?

Breathing is what supplies your body and mind with the oxygen they need in order to function. If you don’t breathe correctly during a workout your muscles will not get sufficient oxygen. During exercise, we must adapt our breathing to the amount of oxygen our body needs in order to permanently supply the muscles with ideal oxygen levels for maximum performance.

Breathing as you workout

There are three types of contractions; concentric contractions where the muscle shortens (e.g. triceps during a pushup where you push yourself away from the ground), eccentric contractions where the muscle lengthens (e.g. the negative part of a pull up where you lower your body and your biceps lengthen), and Isometric contractions where the muscle remains the same length as you hold your body in a certain pose (such as your core in a plank).

When exercising, the best way to replenish your muscles with oxygen is to inhale during the eccentric part of the movements and exhale during the concentric, or contraction, of the muscles. For example, when performing an Assisted Leg Raise, you should inhale as the legs go down. In order to lift your legs into the air, your abdominal muscles contract. Throughout the contraction you should exhale.

Breathing during high intensity cardio

Repetitive and explosive movements make regular and conscious breathing extremely difficult. When performing sprint-style exercises, such as high knees or mountain climbers, you should allow the autonomic respiratory system to breathe however feels most natural - just remember that you should never hold your breath during sports. After the exercise you will be out of breath, we call this oxygen debt. This is the point where you should focus on proper breathing in order to replenish your body with the oxygen it needs. During the rest periods in your workouts - which are there to allow you to catch your breath before the next round - shift your attention towards your breathing, and focus on taking deep and restorative belly breaths, where you expand your diaphragm (stomach) in order to allow the lungs to properly stretch out and fill with air, slowly through the nose and out the mouth.

Let's recap:

It's the simplest thing in the world and we do it all day, every day, but breathing really is an exercise that you can practice and improve. Whether your focus is strength training, HIIT or endurance running, awareness and control of your breathing could be the performance booster you've been looking for.