Breathing For Recovery With Perry Nickelston
Often our first instinct in the journey to becoming better at exercise and fitness is to push ourselves harder, faster, stronger, and longer. We want to go full throttle at maximum capacity to break through barriers and reach training goals. Pushing the outer limits to be a badass!
This frequently leads to a state of overtraining and progress stops cold because the body does not have an adequate amount of time to repair and regenerate. The little-known secret in the training world is that most improvement and growth is obtained outside of the gym with rest.
An easy and effective way to improve recovery time is to concentrate on abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle located between the chest and the abdomen.
When it contracts, it is forced downward, causing the abdomen to expand. This causes a negative pressure within the chest forcing more air into the lungs. That’s a good thing. The negative pressure pulls more oxygen into the body leading to improved stamina in training. The flow of lymphatic fluid rich in immune cells is also improved. More blood and lymphatic flow means faster regeneration and less fatigue. Breathing stimulates the relaxation response, resulting in less tension and a better sense of wellbeing. The diaphragm is part of your Intrinsic Core Stabilization system.
The intrinsic core is comprised of the transverse abdominis, lumbar (low back) multifidi, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. These inner-unit structures form a postural stabilization support cylinder via intra-abdominal pressure. Intra-abdominal pressure is the secret to a powerhouse output of force, strength, speed, and stamina.
Learning to harness the power of this pressure system is the easiest way you can accelerate training and recovery. During times of emotional stress and high-intensity training/competition, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated; your heart rate increases, you sweat, muscles tense, and breathing becomes rapid and shallow.
If this happens for too long, the sympathetic nervous system becomes hyper-stimulated leading to imbalances such as inflammation, high blood pressure, muscle pain, etc. Diaphragmatic breathing causes a direct stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in relaxation and a reversal of negative impacts seen with the over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
Daily Abdominal Breathing Exercises:
- Foam roll your thoracic spine for 2 minutes to loosen up your ribcage.
- Then lay on your back with feet flat against the wall. You should be in what’s called the ‘Triple Flexion’ position. It’s designed to relax tension in your body.
- Feet flat against the wall and ankles at 90 degrees.
- Scoot your hips underneath so your knees and hips are in line.
- Knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- Hips are at 90 degrees.
- Upper back and head are resting on the floor. If the head neck is uncomfortable, place a small pillow underneath your head. If you have too much of a curve in your upper back it can cause discomfort in the neck and a pillow is necessary.
- Close your eyes.
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen.
- Take a breath in through your nose to a count of four and expand your belly before the chest. The hand on your belly should move before the one on your chest.
- Envision inflating a balloon that expands 360 degrees. It’s not simply expanding the abdomen, but involving the entire rib cage. This is known as “360-degree breathing.”
- This is often the most difficult part of the movement to feel. Try to feel the hand on your belly move and the back of your ribcage on the floor to move as well, expanding through the sides.Exhale through your mouth for another count of four and repeat.
Continue to vary your workouts by changing exercises, intensity, and volume to make improvements, but now introduce abdominal breathing into your training program.This small addition to your training arsenal can make all the difference. Breathe to be a badass!