nasal breathing

08 Jan 2019 - Your Daily Breath Practice

We have discussed the importance of nasal breathing in various blogs (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and Coach Phil's Programming Talk (The Main Show, The Summary), so we won't flog a dead horse….but it is important, so if you haven’t read these blogs, or watched the programming talk, make sure you do so!

For many of us, mouth breathing is a habit, caused by factors such as poor posture, and high (chronic) stress work and life environments.

To begin to reverse this and to take full advantage of our current (and future) training cycles, we recommend a daily breathing practice.

What a formal breath practice or protocol looks like (out of the many, many options) doesn’t matter. What matters is that you put something in place that you can do daily, and slowly turn into a habit. Whether it is morning or evening, before or after training, between the office and home, doesn’t matter.

It matters that you do it.

Your daily breath practice doesn’t have to be complex or long, just do something. This will give you insight and awareness into how practices or protocols affect you, and also begin to develop your breathing capacity to aid in your overall health and your performance in training.

We recommend 5-10 minutes of breathing practice, 1-3 times everyday.

Our first step should be to bring awareness to how we are breathing. Are we breathing through the mouth or the nose, are we chest breathing or using our diaphragm, do we have short, shallow breaths or a long slow respiration rate? Most importantly, how does how we breathe (and how we change our breathing mechanics) influence our state and how we feel? As we know, how you breathe has a huge influence on our central nervous system.

Below are three examples of daily breathing practice you can implement, starting with the most basic and easiest to implement, as well as some more advanced methods.

Remember, what is important in the beginning is that you bring awareness to how you are breathing, how that makes you feels and how it affects your state.

Awareness Breathing

When you wake up, take 5-10 minutes to sit and focus on your breath. Make a mental note of:

How are you feeling physically today?

How are you feeling mentally?

Are you feeling stressed or at ease, tense or relaxed?

Are you taking short, shallow breaths or long slow breaths?

Don't worry about what is 'right' and 'wrong', just be aware of your present state.

During this time, focus on having a slow rate of respiration (think 4-5 seconds inhale, 4-5 second exhale), long slow breaths in through the nose and long slow breaths out through the nose. During the 5-10 minutes of awareness breathing, how do your answers to the questions above change, if at all?

Cadence Breathing (1121)

This is very much like tempo training, with a prescribed time (in seconds) for each stage of your breathing (inhale, hold, exhale, hold). This particular cadence is a good “warm-up” for the respiratory system and can be mildly up-regulating and mentally stimulating, a great method for morning practice!

In the 1121 cadence, the numbers given are the multipliers. For example, if I was using 5 seconds, my cadence would be 5-5-10-5. If I was using 10 seconds, my cadence would be 10-10-20-10.

A good starting point is 5 seconds: 5 second inhale + 5 second hold + 10 second exhale + 5 second hold

Repeat this breathing cadence for 5-10 minutes, 1-3 times every day. Once this becomes comfortable increase your multiplier to 6 seconds (6-6-12-6), and continue in this fashion as your breathing mechanics improve.

Box Breathing Protocol

This is a technique that takes a method called superventilation (see here) and mixes it with taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.

Perform 3-5 total rounds, where one round is:

5 x

Inhale for X seconds

Exhale for X seconds

….into…

20 Super ventilation breaths (full nasal inhale, partial nasal exhale)

After the last breath, perform a full exhale and hold for as long as possible

* In round 2, increase your inhale and exhale by 1 second (and increase again in round 3)
*Perform 25 Superventilation breaths (30 breaths in round 3)
*Try to increase your exhale breath hold each round

For example, one total session may be:

5 x 5 seconds inhale + 5 second exhale

….into…

20 Super ventilation breaths + max exhale breath hold

5 x 6 seconds inhale + 6 second exhale

….into…

25 Super ventilation breaths + max exhale breath hold

5 x 7 seconds inhale + 7 second exhale

….into…

30 Super ventilation breaths + max exhale breath hold

If you finish the whole breathing practice with no real issues, the next time you practice this, add 1 second to your starting inhale/exhale time.

A daily breath practice is a must for anyone seeking to improve their overall health and those wanting to maximise their performance.

When you first begin your journey into the art of breath, do not worry about what method you should be using, it's more important to become aware of how your breath affects your state and to build the habit of a daily breathing practice.

You wanted it, you got it!

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

A) Conditioning

”CrossFit Open 16.4 - RX”
As many reps as possible in 13 mins of:
55 Deadlifts (102.5/70 kg)
55 Wall balls (9/6 kg)
55 Calorie row
55 Handstand Push-ups

“CrossFit Open 16.4 - Scaled”
55 Deadlifts (60 / 42.5 kg)
55 Wall balls (9/6 kg)
55 Calorie row
55 Hand Release Push-ups

29 Nov 2018 - The Importance of Nasal Breathing, Pt. 3

The brain has an area dedicated solely for monitoring of the respiratory responses. This area has many connections to stress sensors in the body as well as modulators of behaviour. The feedback loops that control our response to the environmental stimuli are vast. In essence, breathing patterns control much of the physiological responses in the body.

In our prior blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2) we discussed how we should be breathing, the Bohr Effect and carbon dioxide tolerance.

A quick re-cap:

How you breathe can impact health and performance.

The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating.

A certain level of carbon dioxide is required in the blood to facilitate oxygen transfer (Bohr Effect).

Those who breathe through the mouth (the majority of us) "over breathe" and expel too much carbon dioxide.

As a result receptors in our brain have a lower tolerance to carbon dioxide (not good!).

To truly develop our aerobic system’s efficiency, we need to increase our tolerance to carbon dioxide and use breathing mechanics appropriately for our specific level of intensity.

We also suggested you try the following test (all you need is yourself and a stop watch!):

Find a comfortable sitting position

Take 3 normal* breaths in and out through the nose

After the 4th inhale (through the nose), start the timer and begin to exhale** (again through the nose) as slowly as you can.

When you stop exhaling or need to take a breath in, stop the timer

*Normal = Do not take large, deep breathes. Just whatever is normal and natural.

** This is a timed continuous exhale, as soon as you pause or need to breathe in, you stop the timer

What we would like to see is 40+ seconds, if you are getting over 1 minute, then that is a strong score! Anything under 20 seconds is, well, not so good…

This test gives us some insight into how your body and your brain react as carbon dioxide begins to build up in the blood. Receptors in the brain are what monitor levels of carbon dioxide and they trigger your respiratory muscles to breathe.

Research has shown that those who over-breathe actually expel too much carbon dioxide (as discussed in Parts 1 and 2), which has been linked to a number of health issues including heat diseases, sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism, stress & anxiety disorders and asthma and, of course it leads to a decrease in performance, training and competition.

So, how do we improve our breathing?


In Part 1, we gave our first tip: breathe through your nose during normal everyday activities, unless you are talking or about to put food in your mouth, keep it closed.


If you want to take it a step further you can spend 5-10 minutes, a few times a day working on your breathing (all nasal breathing of course!).


A simple method is to take the time from your timed exhale from the Carbon Dioxide Tolerance test and divide it by six, this will form the rate (in seconds) of your inhale and exhale. For example if you scored 30 seconds on the carbon dioxide test you would divide this by 6, which is 5 seconds, you could then practice the following:


5 second inhale + 5 second exhale.


Once comfortable with this, you can add in a hold after the inhale:


5 second inhale + 5 second hold + 5 second exhale.


Again, once comfortable, you can add in a hold after the inhale AND the exhale:


5 second inhale + 5 second hold + 5 second exhale + 5 second hold.


As you progress, you can begin to increase the times of your breathing and your holds.


This is just scratching the surface of developing your breathing for performance. In order to understand how we can train our breathing and develop our energy systems, we need to use an analogy…


Think of the different stages of breathing during exercise as 'gears' (like on a bike or a car), as we require more from our engine and we put our foot on the gas pedal, we need to move up through the gears.


Whilst we all have these gears, they are not all the same. Imagine a banged up old car, in first gear this can maybe hit 15-20 mph before you have to change up to gear 2. Now imagine a Porsche, this can probably hit 50-60+ mph in first gear.


If we want to perform at our best we have to be able to optimise our output at each 'gear', with gear 1 being completely aerobic (nasal in, nasal out) and gear 5 (our top gear) as fully anaerobic (mouth in, mouth out). Of course, there are gears in-between and it's not as clear cut as we have made it sound…but it's a pretty nice analogy!


When we learn about and develop our gears, we can control the energy systems we use in a workout. We can push hard when we need to and tap into our anaerobic systems at the appropriate times, we can hold back at other times and rely on aerobic systems, and we can use our breathing to actually recover and bring our heart rate down whilst still working.


This is where the 'go so hard' mentality starts to break down. It will develop us to a certain point, but there is a ceiling we will hit when progress at certain levels of intensity stalls. Whilst we can control intensity by controlling how hard we push, if we are not breathing correctly for the intensity we are at, we are leaving a lot of potential progress behind.


What these gears are, how we breathe to access each gear and optimally use our energy systems, and the methods we use to develop these could run on for many more blog posts. So if you want to get into details and explore this yourself, you just have to wait until Cycle 6+7 of our training program, beginning in January!


THE FOURTH CHRISTMAS CRACKER

“CrossFit Open 14.5 / 16.5”
21-18-15-12-9-6-3
Thruster (42.5/30 kg)
Bar facing burpee

22 Nov 2018 - The Importance of Nasal Breathing, Pt. 2

So, how can you tell if you have a problem with carbon dioxide tolerance? Read on to learn more and find out how you can test yourself!

In Part 1 (which you can find here) we discussed why the nose is so important in breathing and what the benefits are to nasal breathing.

In order to understand the relationship between oxygen and carbon dioxide, we need to understand the Bohr Effect, which describes how the pH of the blood impacts the affinity of oxygen to haemoglobin.

Let’s do a quick biology recap of what happens when we inhale:

Step 1: Air enters the lungs

Step 2: Oxygen passes into the blood stream via the alveoli

Step 3: Oxygen binds to haemoglobin (red blood cells) and is transported around the body

Step 4: Oxygen is released from haemoglobin where it is required at the cells

Back to the Bohr Effect…

When the pH of the blood drops (it becomes more acidic), oxygen is more readily released by haemoglobin (so our cells can use it). Conversely, as the pH rises (becomes more alkaline), haemoglobin will hold onto oxygen (so our cells cannot use it). Carbon dioxide is one such gas that makes the blood more acidic. The key point to take away here is that the more carbon dioxide there is in the blood, the more readily oxygen is released from haemoglobin for our cells to use.

The rate and volume of breathing is determined by receptors in the brain that are sensitive to levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and blood pH level. When carbon dioxide rises and blood pH falls, we are stimulated to increase our rate of respiration to expel the carbon dioxide. Crucially, some carbon dioxide is retained in the body and correct breathing patterns rely on this.

Those who over-breathe (mouth breathers) have a habit of breathing more air than is required and importantly, too much carbon dioxide is expelled. When this habit lasts for weeks, months or years, it results in the body having chronically lowered levels of carbon dioxide. Due to this, the receptors in our brains develop an increased sensitivity to lower levels of carbon dioxide.

With this lowered limit of Carbon dioxide tolerance we are more regularly stimulated to increases in breathing rates (even though it is not required), and this is where it's impact on performance comes into focus.

Carbon dioxide is a by-product of metabolism; as our activity levels increase, so does the production of carbon dioxide. if we have a lower sensitivity to this, it means that lower levels of intensity will cause us to breathe heavily, pant, or struggle to breathe and ultimately "gas out" much earlier than we should.

You may be thinking that breathing more heavily gets us more oxygen, but this is not quite the case. Blood oxygen saturation is the percentage of oxygen-saturated haemoglobin relative to total haemoglobin in the blood. In normal folks, it sits between 95-99%. This normally stays the same at rest or at exercise - it is very carefully regulated. What this means is that even under increasing levels of intensity our blood does not carry more oxygen.

However if we have decreased sensitivity to carbon Dioxide (because we mouth breathe), haemoglobin has a harder time releasing oxygen for us to use.

To truly develop our aerobic system’s efficiency, we need to increase our tolerance to carbon dioxide and use breathing mechanics appropriate for the level of intensity. Unfortunately, just going HAM on any given workout is not going to fit the bill in these cases!

Whilst we will discuss breathing mechanics during exercise more in our next blog post, it is worth noting that breathing through the mouth is appropriate at certain times, but to be able to control our use of our energy systems, we need to learn to control our breathing.

So, how can you tell if you have a problem with carbon dioxide tolerance? You can perform the following test below, all you need is yourself and a stop watch…

Find a comfortable sitting position

Take 3 normal breaths in and out through the nose

After the 4th inhale (through the nose), start the timer and begin to exhale (again through the nose) as slowly as you can.

When you stop exhaling or need to take a breath in, stop the timer

Post your times to the comments section, and in the next blog post I will reveal what your score tells you about your carbon dioxide tolerance!


WORKOUT OF THE DAY

A) Gymnastics Tests

A1) L-Sit (or L-Tuck) hold: For max time

A2) Forearm plank hold: For max time

B) Conditioning
3 rounds for time:
25 Toes to bar (or Ab-mat sit-ups)
50 ft Double kettlebell overhead carry
50 ft Double kettlebell overhead walking lunge

17 Nov 2018 – WOD

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

CrossFit

A) Conditioning

For time:
20 Back squats (100/70 kg)
2 mile run
20 Back squats (100/70 kg)

* This is a BtWB Endurance test, courtesy of CrossFit Linchpin
* Time cap: 30 minutes

Competition Class

A) Nasal Breathing Warm-Up

Walk at a slow pace for 10 minutes (nasal breathing), every minute perform an exhale breath hold until you feel a moderate / strong desire to breath. You should be able to resume nasal breathing after the hold (if not you held for too long)

Immediately into 5 minutes of run/row/bike, nasal breathing only

Want to know why we’re practicing nasal breathing? Check out Coach Phil’s blog.

B) Gymnastics: Mounting (Raising) ring muscle-ups

Every minute for 8 minutes, alternate between:
10 second false grip hang
3 Cast swings

Followed by. . .
Snap pulls: 3-5 x 6-10 reps, for quality
Snap Pulls + mall backswing: Practice for quality
Pop swings: Practice for quality

Mounting (Raising) ring muscle-ups: Have some practice!

C) Conditioning

Australian Championships: Qualifier 1

12 minute AMRAP:
30 Double unders
3, 5, 9, 12.... Power Clean (50 kg/35 kg)

03 Nov 2018 – WOD

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

CrossFit

A) Conditioning

With a partner, alternate complete rounds for 30 minutes:
8 Toes to bar
10 Dumbbell hang clean + jerk, alternating arms
14 Calorie row

Competition Class

A) Breathing Tests

B) Warm-up

*Nasal Breathing Only (closed mouth!)
With a partner alternate after every run, for 10 minutes:
Row
200m Run

C) Gymnastics: Ring muscle-ups

C1) Every minute, on the minute, for 3 minutes of:
7-10 Arch to hollow ring swings, with false grip

C2) Every minute, on the minute, for 3 minutes of:
3-5 Peekaboo swings

C3) Every minute, on the minute, for 3 minutes of:
3-5 Transition drill

C4) In 10 minutes:
Muscle-ups
200m Recovery run
* When you come off the rings for a run
* This is not a max set each round, focus on technique and stop before failure


D) Conditioning

This was a recent European Championships Qualifier, below are both Rx and Scaled divisions, as well as the scores needed to be in the top 75 (qualifying) places.


12 minute AMRAP:
12 Cleans (50 / 30 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
10 Cleans (60 / 37.5 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
8 Cleans (70 / 45 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
6 Cleans (80 / 52.5 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
4 Cleans (90 / 60 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
2 Cleans (100 / 67.5 kg)
7 Over the bar burpee
AMRAP Cleans (110 / 75 kg)

Male top 75 score = 107 reps
Female top 75 score = 103 reps


* Scaled loading

30 / 20 KG
35 / 25 KG
40 / 30 KG
45 / 32.5 KG
50 / 35 KG
55 / 37.5 KG
60 / 40 KG

Male top 75 score = 137 reps
Female top 75 score = 133 reps