Breathing is an unconscious and necessary function of the body. It is also one of the few automatic processes that can be consciously controlled.
And when controlled, it has the ability to improve cardiovascular fitness and mental focus, as well as aid in reducing physical and mental stress. These are all aspects of athletic performance that are important for every athlete.
Benefits of Mastering Your Breath
It's important to understand the benefits of controlling your breath because, for athletes, it can mean the difference between a PR, a podium finish or bonking. And for those athletes looking to improve their recovery on rest days, breathing is a critical component to training.
1. Energy Control
During a race or high-intensity training effort, it is easy to push too hard, too fast—which means we can hit the wall sooner than expected. By controlling our breath, we become more aware of our pacing and can learn to conserve our energy for that last push or sprint finish.
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2. Increase Lung Capacity
When we learn to breath more fully, we are able to access the space within the thoracic cavity. This allows us to breath deeper and enables us to pull more oxygen into our lungs. When we take in more oxygen, our body has more fuel to convert to energy—which can help us run or ride longer.
3. Mental Clarity
Breathing is reliable and rhythmic. Because it is consistent, we can use the rhythm of the breath as a focal point when practicing staying mentally clear and present. The more we practice, the easier it is to find mental clarity during training or on rest days.
4. Stress Relief
Studies have shown that simple, focused breathing elicits a calming response in the body. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and your muscles relax. And with the stress of everyday life and training, mastering the art of breathing can be a simple step towards combating physical and mental stress.