Breathing a key performance factor.

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When we all first start CrossFit, the intense workouts leave us struggling to breathe. Combining calisthenics & weight lifting with a moderate pace will send your heart rate sky rocketing. Catching your breath becomes paramount which makes it difficult to remember the details of the lifts, what exercise is next and all the while trying to keep proper form. With time and practice we get better at managing all these elements.

Breathing properly will ensure that you can keep moving forward (try holding your breath and see how long you last). Shallow, unfocused breathing will leave you hunched over and gasping for air. Finding a pace and rhythm to your breath will help you keep your mind focused and will prevent you from stopping and wasting time. When running I always found it beneficial to count steps and breathing to ensure consistency (breathe in 1,2,3 breathe out 1,2,3.) If you watch any professional fighter’s corner during the rest round you will hear the coach reminding his fighter to breathe. Yes, it’s that important. It’s a simple thing but not always easy to maintain unless you consciously practice it. Control your breathing or it ends up controlling you. I choose the former.

First thing, a proper warm up should slowly raise your heart rate so the WOD is not a shock. Secondly, start the WOD just a little slower than you think you should. When you redline it from the start you only have one way to go, down. Starting at the proper pace will afford you to be able to increase your speed in the later rounds when it really counts. Third, slow down the tempo to allow yourself to keep moving without stopping. This method will allow you to accumulate more reps than going too fast and hitting the wall. When you’re standing around panting you’re just wasting your time. Resist panting, breathe in deeply through your nose then out through your mouth. Breathing in through your nose allows you to fill your lungs with more air which in turn lets you inhale more oxygen with each breath.

Before the workout try cycling through each movement. This will help you figure out how your transitions will feel while you figure out where and how you will breathe during the WOD. For example, during a thruster, I pause for a quick moment and breathe at the top then in the squat at the bottom I take another quick breath. Learn from elite athletes like Matt Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir. Watch their pacing strategies while moving through heavy cleans, for example. They know exactly how many breaths they will take before they pick up the bar again. Just like I mentioned with running, there is a rhythm (lift, inhale, exhale, lift, inhale, exhale). During workouts like EMOMs the rest isn’t rest it’s recovery. How fast can you recover before the next lift? When I think of resting I think of passively sitting doing nothing. Recovering means you are actively slowing your heart rate down. Lastly, move at a pace that you can think clearly at. Racing haphazardly through exercises that require you to stay focused and move deliberately will increase the chances of doing something stupid and potentially injuring yourself. We all have been in that state where you are so tired that you are not thinking clearly. I like to call that state “WOD fog”. There is nothing more frustrating than getting injured by making a mistake that could have been avoided if you were focused.

Spend time to learn your pacing, how and when to breathe efficiently, refine your tempo and you will get through those tough workouts better, minimize injuries  and increase the rate at which you improve overall. If you are not paying attention to how to breathe properly then you are overlooking a key performance factor.

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