Effective Breathing

My Observations - Bob McCauley


Breathing In Other Sports

The martial artists call it "chi."  Long distance runners call it "endurance." Tennis pros just call it "oomph."  Transcendental meditation aficionados call it "enlightenment."  But the effect is the same -- it's a feeling of power, endurance, invincibility.   A common denominator of the effects mentioned above, is breathing. 

One would think that since breathing is so natural, experienced from birth without being taught, that there is nothing to be gained with the study of breathing.  That's what I thought until I accidentally discovered the effect of hyper-breathing during a Mission Bay Marathon in San Diego many years back.  I was running a series of marathons that year, with each one becoming surprisingly difficult effort past the 19 mile point.  In terms of the marathoner, I hit the wall.  On this particular marathon, I had the occasion of being left behind by a running companion who had paced me to the 19-mile mark. Since we had traveled together to San Diego from Central California and my friend had the keys to the car and there were about 15 thousand people running the marathon, anxiety set upon me when I saw my friend sprinting ahead of me.  I began to yell instructions as to how we might meet at the finish line.  When he didn't respond, but kept running, I started to run faster and yell louder. While the yelling didn't stop my friend getting lost in the mass of humanity that warm morning in San Diego, I did experience an exercise breakthrough in that my yelling gave me a boost of energy such that I was able to finish the marathon in a personal record (PR) time.  I subsequently deduced that the  hyper breathing induced by the yelling pushed me past the "wall."  In subsequent marathons that year, I used a similar yelling technique at the 19-mile marks and was able to reduce my PR time for the 26.2 mile distance to 3 hours and 35 minutes.

Concurrent with these marathoning efforts, I became very active in Japanese hard style karate.  One of the techniques used by the Japanese practitioners was to yell or "kaia" when executing punches or kicks.  What I noticed about this, was that the more often and louder one kaia'd during workout, the more energy was seemingly available the participants.  By the end of classes, the karataka, rather than being tired, were psyched, and spring loaded for more exercises.   

A few years later now in my late 40s I spent a summer participating in races up Pike's Peak.  The term races, in this case, is probably a misnomer, since by the time I got to 13,000 feet, I found myself forced to take rest intervals every few feet. - three steps interleaved with rest, in a more or less synchronous pattern.  During one of these races, I was caught in a lightening storm.  Finding myself in a potentially life threatening situation, controlled fear became a motivating factor.  I needed all the energy at my disposal, and I needed it quickly, if I was to extricate myself from these hazardous conditions.   Recalling the yelling in the marathons and the kaia'ing in karate, I decided to use that same technique.  Thankfully it worked, and as I yelled, I found I could continue in my movement, even in the thin air.  The only problem was that the other racers looked at me like I was crazy.


Breathing And Spinning®

Now what does this have to do with spinning®? After a few weeks in spinning®, I found myself out of breath during the fast sprints that were called by the instructors.  I decided to call upon my old friend of hyper-breathing to see if it helped and, sure enough, it worked.  Every time I found myself going anaerobic, I would hyper-breathe and my heart rate would go down. Whenever possible (when others in the class made sounds), I would verbally make sounds.  When the other people were quiet, I would just do forced breathing, pursing my lips and breathing out against my diaphragm.  When I started to get winded, going into a anaerobic state, I would do these long, forced breathing activities and my pulse would slow down.  My theory is that what I was doing was basically over oxygenating.  By breathing more than I needed to, I was keeping out of the oxygen-deprivation state.

Later, when I started teaching spinning®, I added the technique of kaia'ing to some of the songs.  While it was embarrassing for most people to yell during a song, those that did reported that their heart rate was reduced when they did. These tests involved taking a heart beat test before a fast song, kaia'ing during the song and then doing the heart beat test after the song.  It always surprised people to reduce their heart rate during a fast song.

If you want to try this, simply breath with the beat of the songs.  This is usually faster than one normally breathes and the effect is to over-oxygenate the body.  This causes the heart to slow down (my humble opinion) and gives the participant the ability to go longer, easier. Note that these are observations only and are not backed by clinical studies.











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