I found an interesting article by Al Lee, co-author of Perfect Breathing (Sterling Publishing, 2009) which speaks about the importance for improved athletic performance if we paid a little more attention to our breath - something we take for granted most of the time! See what you think:
When noted Karate Sensei Keisuke Miyagi was training one of his students, he made it a point to teach this lesson: "Breathe in through nose. Out through mouth. Don't forget to breathe, very important." As it turns out, he was on to something when it comes to athletic training.
You work out to improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.
But have you forgotten to breathe?
“By learning to control your breathing, by understanding how the respiratory system is integrated with your body, by using conscious breathing in all your pursuits, you will improve nearly every aspect of your life,” explains Al Lee.
“Whether you’re a casual gym-goer, a mall walker, a mountain biker, an actor, singer or dancer, putting your breath at the core of your discipline will help you achieve far more than you ever thought.”
“During exercise, the body’s demand for oxygen increases and our breathing volume or ventilation must also rise,” explain Matthew Pine and Mark Watsford, both from the human performance laboratory at the University of Technology, Sydney.
“This requires numerous muscles surrounding the lungs to contract in a highly coordinated manner. As the intensity of exercise increases, these respiratory muscles must contract more forcefully and more rapidly to keep pace with the body’s substantial increase in metabolism.”
However, in the same way that a stronger heart can push out more blood with each pump and as a result doesn’t have to beat as often, a stronger diaphragm and intercostals mean you can slow your breathing rate down and even get more oxygen to your muscles.
“By increasing the strength and stamina of your respiratory system, your breathing becomes more efficient, requiring less energy—which leaves more energy for the motor muscles and whatever task or activity you’re involved in,” explains Lee. “Therefore, you can take slower, deeper breaths, getting more oxygen out of each breath; you don’t have to work as hard to get it, because you don’t have to breathe as many times to get the same amount of oxygen.”
As an example, Lee cites studies that he and co-author, Don Campbell, came across with competitive athletes that showed an efficiency improvement of about 10 percent with respiratory resistance training. That means that at the same level of performance, they were consuming 10 percent less oxygen. “There was also an associated performance improvement of about 5 to 8 percent,” says Lee, “which would shave about three to five minutes off the time of a runner in a 60-minute race.”
That performance improvement, he explains, may also be due in part to improved focus. “When you are focused on your breath, you become intimately in touch with your mind, body and emotions and very much in the moment, which improves performance.”
In a study performed at the State University of New York at Buffalo, subjects who followed breathing resistance training improved their snorkel surface swimming time by 33 percent and their underwater Scuba swimming time by 66 percent.
“This is in agreement with previous studies in cyclists, rowers and runners,” explains study author, Dr. Claes Lundgren. “It suggests that athletes in most sports could improve their performance by undergoing respiratory muscle training. It is also clear that the greater the stress on the respiratory system, the larger the improvement in performance.”
During high-intensity exercise, when the respiratory muscles become fatigued, the body switches to survival mode and “steals” blood flow and oxygen away from locomotor muscles. As a result, these locomotor muscles become fatigued and performance can suffer significantly. Increasing the strength of the muscles involved with breathing, say study authors, through breathing-resistance exercise, can prevent this fatigue during sustained exercise situations, resulting in better performance.
Lee goes on to explain that if the diaphragm and intercostals aren’t exercised, they atrophy—just like any other muscle in the body. “For most adults, their breathing has slowly moved higher and higher into their chests over the years, so they’re taking little sips of air into the tops of their lungs and are barely using the diaphragm. In fact, if you’re not actively exercising it, the older you get, the more difficult it is to get it unstuck.”
Picture attributed to PlusLexia.com.
Go visit them and see that their mission is to build the 'go to place' for young dyslexic for finding positive stories, about life with dyslexia, to motivate them to succeed in life.
For years now, I have observed many athletes who focus only on their fitness and technique to improve their performance. Unfortunately, they’re missing a critical piece. Improving fitness and technique works well at the lower and intermediate levels, but it’s clearly insufficient for high-performance. The greatest athletes in the world agree that “the mind is what separates the competition.” Obviously, athletes at every level need to take care of both the physical AND the mental. But how is an athlete supposed to DO mental training? It’s an important question.
Think about it for a second – what do you do to overcome issues like slumps, burnout, performance anxiety, nervousness, anger, choking and underperformance? As you will probably agree, the answer is not simple and the challenge is not minor. There are 10 “maxims” athletes can use to start overcoming these problems:
1. When you have a big enough “WHY” the “HOW” becomes easy. Do you know why you do what you do? Why do you practice so many hours? Conversely, why don’t you train as hard as you should?
2. If you do not know to which port you are sailing, no wind is favourable. (Seneca). You have got to have a clear path to reach your goal. I find most athletes do not know what they want or how to get there. They just hope that by setting off in any direction, they’ll somehow arrive in a favourable place. It doesn’t often happen that way. They end up making too many mistakes and are more likely to miss their opportunity to succeed. Worse, they copy other athletes – if you follow someone else’s dream you will only end up frustrated.
3. Process, Performance and Outcome goals are necessary parts of an effective Roadmap. Process goals are fully controllable actions you take daily that tend to cause you to perform in a way that increases the chance of attaining big outcomes. You need a combination of 3 types of goals – Process (highly controllable), Performance (moderately controllable) and Outcome (barely controllable). The Outcome goals can inspire you, the Performance goals can motivate you, and the Process goals can direct you.
4. Believe it to see it. It’s tough for most of us to believe something before we’ve seen it. Hundreds of runners had to watch Roger Bannister break the 4-minute mile, something thought to be impossible for over 2,000 years, before they could believe it was possible for them to do so as well. By the way, they all did it within 1 year after seeing it done. Bannister believed it BEFORE he saw it. Someone out there has to be the first believer – whether it’s in yourself or in a new goal, you have got to believe you can do. Confidence is the key to belief.
5. Visual imagery prepares your body to perform successfully. Every time you clearly imagine the action you intend to take, you increase the chances your body will successfully do it. Imagery is one of the most tested, reliable techniques to improve confidence and enhance performance.
6. Awareness is power. The only way you can change something for the better is to first become aware of the problem, and then become aware of the solution. Most athletes allow harmful thoughts (the crazy self talk) and images to stay in their mind because they don’t recognize them in the moment, or don’t know how to change them.
7. Recognize, Replace, Rehearse. We all have harmful thoughts and images that come into our mind at times. The key is to recognize the thought, know it’s not helping, replace it with a strong thought you’ve prepared prior, and then rehearse the process until it is a habit. It is what the best athletes in the world do – you can benefit from this 3-step process too!
8. Thoughts affect emotions that affect performance. Every athlete has an ideal emotional state that produces their best performance. The most reliable and effective way to create that emotional state is by learning to control thoughts. Use ideal thoughts to change your emotions so you perform better.
9. THE ZONE does not only come to athletes randomly. Athletes can enter the zone because of very specific reasons, and those reasons can be controlled. Athletes can be taught to apply mental skills that increase the chances of their Zone occurring. Bet you thought the ZONE was random??? Guess what, it’s not. Start by thinking back on the last time you were in the Zone. How did you prepare, what were you thinking about, what emotions do you remember? Use what worked before to build your own Roadmap to the Zone!
10. When describing how they feel when “in the zone”, athletes of all sports often use words like: carefree, effortless, automatic, powerful, energized and simple. If you HAVEN’T experienced the Zone recently, you can learn from those who have. Find ways to care less about the outcome while still trying your best. Keep things simple and let what you’ve practiced occur automatically in competitions.
And finally, guess what?
The best thing to read about right now is that in 2018, there is an innovative company coming to you that looks specifically at helping athletes master the mental approach. New ideas, state of the art technology and proven techniques will enhance every athlete and even business person’s ability to be truly ‘on top of their game’. That company will be the difference that makes a difference.
Keep tuned for more news!
Everyone would like to be a mentally strong person, but mental resilience can be extremely hard to achieve when life gets on top of you.
Help is at hand: experienced individuals have shared their tips on how to power through when times get tough, posting advice on answers website Quora.
In order to be mentally strong, you must prevent yourself from getting carried away by emotions to the point where you can’t see logic.
This involves dealing with difficult tasks one step at a time without getting overwhelmed, and also means balancing positive and negative thoughts in a way that advantages you – not getting carried away with one side or the other.
Mentally strong people will keep their eye on the prize, and won’t let their need for instant gratification or the approval of others get in the way of what they really want.
Find your motivation
“Viktor Frankl endured the terrors of the concentration camps in World War II, only to return home and find that he had lost his wife and family.
“During his time in the camps, he discovered that those who had a purpose to keep on going outlasted those who seemed to have given up. He himself kept a burning desire to see his wife and family again, and that kept him going.”
Balance positive and negative thinking
“Positive thinking is important because when you believe good things will happen, you tend to work towards making them happen, and you also notice good things happening.
“Negative thinking is also important, because it allows you to anticipate what could go wrong, and plan how to deal with them.”
Be kind and compassionate
“By being kinder to yourself and others, you reduce the number of negative emotions in your life. By reducing negative emotions, it opens up a space for positive emotions to flourish.”
Take things ‘one brick at a time’
“Mental toughness refers to people who have gone through tough times, and tough times can be overwhelming. How do those who have made it through do it? They take it one brick at a time
While keeping their eyes on the final goal, they break down this goal into smaller, achievable steps, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed.”
Take responsibility for things you can control, accept what you can’t
“It should come as no surprise that mentally strong people take responsibility for their lives, but they don’t take responsibility for everything. That would drive anyone crazy.
“Instead, they accept that there are things outside of their control. The weather, the market, other people. If they try to take responsibility for those it would just be futile.”
Stop taking everything personally
“Much of what happens in life is completely impersonal yet the need to reference oneself in nearly every situation is a deeply ingrained habit. If you step back and see that much of what goes on has nothing to do with you, it can free you from this trap of over-personalizing, which leads to suffering.”
Don’t ‘need’ – want
“We all want to be liked. We all want approval. Problems arise when we start needing it- when we cannot function without it.
“Mentally strong people want everything everyone else on this planet wants. They just don't need it.”
Ask for help when in need
“Being strong doesn't mean that you won't need help. It means when you do, you acknowledge it, and ask for help.”
Don’t succumb to self-pity
“Self-pity eats away mental energy and keeps you emotionally drained forever. It also adds to your current misery for something that happened in the past.”
See the past as valuable training and nothing more.
“Don't spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. Instead, write down what you’ve learned, objectives, and how to avoid pitfalls in the future. This usually works much better than wallowing. It is a great resilience tactic as well.”
Balance emotions with logic.
“Mentally strong people understand how their emotions can influence their thinking. In an effort to make the best decisions possible, they balance their emotions with logic.”
Article by Elsa Vulliamy 2015