Breathing Exercises for Athletes

Have you ever wondered how elite athletes make everything look so effortless and never seem out of breath?

Many of them have learned over the years to control their breathing and to relax in tough mental and physical situations.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes who learn how to regulate their breathing to reduce stress, have less injuries and hold their confidence through the battle of competition.

These top stars also cope with stress and loss much easier than those who do not know how to relax. Proper breathing also helps to control heart rate and blood pressure and increases endurance.

Athletes who practice breathing exercises benefit as much from deep breathing as they do from physical training.

Video – SEALFIT and Mike Bledsoe Box Breathing

Sit in a room with no distractions or noises. Take slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. If you are lying down you will feel your belly rising and falling.

This will help to reduce your heart rate and calm your brain waves. If needed, stop whatever training your involved in when you feel the need to center yourself and breathe deep.

Video – Wim Hof breathing techniques

Find a quiet place in your house that is peaceful. Turn off your cell phone. Sit in a comfortable position with a pillow if needed.  Straighten your back and keep your head erect. Breathe in deep through your nose. Hold your breath for one full second.  Slowly release through your mouth.  If you are ok with this and no dizziness progress to two long seconds.  Progress up to a full long count of eight. while you count to six. Hold your breath for a count of eight and then slowly release the air while counting to eight.

Breath counting is an ancient Zen practice. Sit down and breath naturally. Count 1 as you exhale.. then 2 as you exhale again… work your way up to 5. Then back down to 1. This will keep your mind focusing on the count only and your breath. It is said that the mind is like a puppy dog and must follow the breathing. By counting your are focusing this effort even more. Do this for 10 minutes as part of your daily meditation.

TIP #4
Try to practice this exercise at a time when you are already relaxed. This will make it easier to take deeper breaths. Find a sunny park or a side room in a building with a view. I like to sit in a room overlooking my backyard that is frequented by birds. Each athlete will have a different spot but the point is to get off the busy street and relax. Then you can start your breathing techniques.

Video – Athletes #1 Breathing method to help with recovery

TIP #5
Practice low breathing techniques to completely fill your diaphragm while you are in training so that it becomes second-nature. Low, full breathing helps to oxygenate the blood more efficiently than high chest breathing. While warming up, consciously take deep breaths and watch your diaphragm expand. Take the breaths in and out through your nose to reduce the amount of pollution and air impurities into your lungs.

Video – Breathing to Prevent Asthma

If you are trying to hit a personal record on an Olympic weight lifting set (1 rep max). Before a big lift use this breathing technique. Breathe in and out quickly and forcefully. This is called “bellows breathing”. It is an ancient yogic breathing technique. Make sure you try this before lifting so that your lunges and body will be prepared for it. You can do this without lifting heavy – This is just when I personally like to use it. This method will increase blood flow and mental alertness and is a great method to use before you go under a heavy barbell.

Video – Deep Breathing Techniques from Dr. Will

EXERCISE #7 (for runners)
When running – use this tip for breathing. On the inhale (up breath) take in two relaxed draws (breathe through mouth). On the exhale – puff out two relaxed breathes. In for 2 – out for 2. It takes a little while to get used to but once you do you can get in a rhythm and increase your breathing ability.

Video – Abdominal Breathing

Breathing to improve lungs and decrease asthma. A technique that I used to decrease asthma is to practice breath holding underwater. Never practice this alone – only with another alert swimmer and lifeguard. Hold your breath underwater to get used to this effect. Hold for 15 seconds – then 30 seconds. When you are ready go for a swim without pushing off the side of the pool. Swim for a short distance. Surface. Record your distance. Over the next few weeks work to increase your breath holding in a stationary position and also as you swim underwater. The more that I practiced these methods I saw a decrease in my asthma attacks and breathing problems.

Questions from athletes in our gym.

Question: What are breathing exercises used by Navy SEALs in stressed situations?”. The best and easiest is to forcefully breathe deep and slow. The mind is like a puppy dog and has to follow the breathing. I personally had to use that method repeatedly when I served as a Navy SEAL. When I was diving underwater and training – you would want to breathe slow and methodically. If you breathed too fast – you would use up all of your air in the tank.

About the Author:
bradBrad McLeod knows first hand about mental toughness after being kicked out of a top tier Spec Ops training unit. He failed out of BUD/S the first time after failing a math test (made it through Hell Week and Dive Pool Comp). He came back a year later and graduated and served as an operator on the Navy SEAL Teams.

Check out SEALgrinderPT Coaching to help you step up and take hold of your dreams and realize your goals.

Questions from our readers online.

Question: Can you use chi breathing for endurance athletes ? Yes; chi (or Tai Chi) breathing can be used by anyone as a moving meditation.

Related Articles:
5k Running Tips
Trail Running Tips
C2 Rowing Tips
Tips to Decrease Asthma

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