Around February, a friend of mine asked me to do a triathlon with her in July. I wasn't so sure because the only thing I really had been doing was running. The extent of my swimming experience were my lessons taken while younger, and my biking was just riding around town. I said O.K., I'll do it. WHAT???????
After my few first times of going swimming, which ended up with me crying at home afterwards that I was going to drown, I decided to find an instructor. Best thing I ever did! My first lesson, I thought my form would be fixed or maybe we would work on a better kick; but I was wrong. The first and most important thing we worked on and continue to work on is breathing. Since that first day, every time I get in the pool I do 15 bobs for the breathing practice. It has helped me relax into swimming a bit more and swim much farther. I started out not being able to make it 25 meters, and just about a month ago finished my first sprint triathlon. (still training for the July triathlon and only sometimes cursing my friends name)
So let's talk about breathing.
Breathing is a natural function in our bodies. We do it every day without even thinking; but are we getting the most out of our breathing? Most of you have already heard this at one point, but think back to watching a baby or child breathe. They naturally breathe deeply, filling their entire abdomen and expanding the diaphragm. As we get older and start having more responsibilities, mental stresses, illnesses and experiences in our life, we tend to breathe more from our chest and we don't get enough air. What are the benefits of getting enough air ( other than we continue living, of course ) Let's make a list.
Reasons getting deeper breaths is good:
1. Increases our energy and circulation - getting more oxygen helps our muscles be able to do the work they need.
2. Decreases stress and anxiety - When we feel stressed, we tend to take short shallow breathes. By deeper breathing our heart rate slow and we can calm our emotions.
3. Helps with flexibility and muscle tension
4. Improves mental outlook - Taking deep breaths can release endorphins so we can feel calmer and more positive.
5. Helps detoxify the body - Toxins such as carbon dioxide and others build up in our bodies over time. Our lymphatic system depends breathing and movement to flush those toxins. One of the things I have been told in swimming is that when I am feeling out of breath, to breathe out real strong, a burst, to get that carbon dioxide out so I can oxygenate.
These are only a few benefits of practicing deeper more mindful breathing, but even though only a few, they can really benefit each and every one of us. Making a conscious effort each day to practice deep breathing, expanding our belly instead of our chest, will help us to eventually breathe more effectively naturally. Find a quiet place, and each day set aside some time to practice. Breathe in 5 counts and out 5 counts for 5 minutes. Or, find an app that helps you focus while you practice. My son has an app that goes off every so often to remind him to take a few deep breathes wherever he is during the day, and he has really liked it. Find what works best for you; but find it. Why pass up an easy way to increase our health and well being?
Enjoy your deep breathing moments!
Wife, mom and Health Coach. Lover of life and learning. (and my dog Steve)