What is the most important aspect of sport and fitness? Is it fitness levels, strength, stamina or diet? Surprisingly, it is none of those things. Instead, the most important part of sports and fitness is breathing!
With the exception of pearl gatherers, breathing counts in all physically exerting activities. Dependent on efficiency, effort, timing and meteorological conditions, each sport has a different breathing style and technique. However, the importance of breathing well is something that is emphasized in each and every one.
Breathing techniques and their sports can be divided into two broad categories:
- The first technique is apparent in sports which use respiratory blocking or stopping. These sports include weight throwing, gymnastics and weightlifting. The technique itself is very simple, with the athlete imposing Apnea (the process of blocking the thorax and respiration), during the sport activity itself.
This leads to an increase in the movement of the diaphragm, strength and power, and aids the explosive force which is often required in these sort of extreme sports. The rise in speed and maximum force leads to increase in performance.
However, there are problems with this type of technique. The high pressure in the thorax, abdomen and skull can be problematic to health later on. As well as this, there is a high level of pressure within the blood vessels and low feed-back through the veins.
This can damage areas of the body such as the eyes, due to the pressure within the skull. Varicose veins can also become apparent due to the extreme pressure put on the valves. This can lead to rigidity in the blood vessels and muscles, and can prevent flexibility or natural movement over time.
- The second group relies on aerobic effort and natural breathing. These sports require frequent inhalations, in a controlled measure, such as running, swimming and cycling. These can span long distances and huge amounts of effort, which have their own problems to contend with.
While there is little to no respiratory stopping, the extreme stress on the cardiovascular system can lead to increased cardiac frequency and pulmonary ventilation. The stress on the valves and veins is less due to the decreases pressure.
- Originally we said that there are only two major categories, but technically there is a third category which is composed of mixed sports. These are sports that are both aerobic and anaerobic, and the two types of breathing techniques are combined.
These include: sports games, contact sports, rhythm breaking running and other fitness sports. Apnea is used without respiratory blockage, and cardiovascular effort is common. It is practice for athletes to breathe out during the most challenging part of the act while breathing in during the easier, or re-aligning phase, as well as effort without respiratory blockage, is used.
It is very important to note that the dilation of the thorax must be monitored. Breathing must be done in such a way which allows that thorax to expand during the intake of breathe, and contract during the release of air.
By breathing in through the nose, you allow for the air to be filtered and warm before it hits your lungs, while breathing out is done through the mouth, in order to be faster, stronger and more efficient.