Take a Deep Breath

I was diagnosed with asthma 22 years ago; that means I have had a very long time to deal with breathing problems. When I crashed on my bike in 2009 and sustained numerous rib injuries, my breathing issues became worse because asthma is characterized by difficulty exhaling, while rib injuries affect the ability to inhale. I was a complete breathing catastrophe. I couldn’t effectively breathe in or out. I was only able to take short, shallow breaths from my chest, under-utilizing my diaphragm, the major muscle used for breathing leading to a constant feeling of discomfort. Since my surgery in August, I have been able to “relearn” how to breathe properly. It sounds crazy; learning how to do something that is primarily involuntary, but my rib cage, diaphragm, rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus had to be retrained. These muscles, like other muscles in the body, can get stronger. Eventually I was able to breathe from my belly rather than my chest. What a revelation! Now, I no longer feel like a pack a day smoker while running uphill and I am running times during workouts that I have not achieved since before my accident.

Due to my own breathing problems, I have become attuned to the way people are breathing and I have seen that it is almost the norm for people to chest breathe rather than breathe from their belly. This is a distinct disadvantage for athletes. I know we have all experienced shallow breathing, whether in a race or at the end of a hard workout. Learning how to control your breathing will enable you to go faster and harder. We put together this series of exercises to help you learn to breathe properly. Practice it. It will pay off.
First, here is a very cool video showing the action of the diaphragm and the rib cage.


And, here are our exercises.
 Thanks to Roman Mica of EverymanTri for filming, Brandon Del Campo for being a great sport, and Robin Galaskewicz for helping us put together the exercises.

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