One of the biggest exercise mistakes you may be making is not breathing properly
Here’s something you may not be aware you’re doing, especially if you’ve only recently started to exercise: You may not be breathing right.
I’ve been there and a lot of us have been there. You breathe in to brace yourself for a big lift—because to be fair, holding your breath does stabilize your core and give you that extra support you need—but then you forget to breathe out when you start exerting.
Once or twice this might be okay and doesn’t really affect your performance too much. At its extreme however, such as in a long set, it might make you feel dizzy, give you cramps or hernias, or worse, knock you right out.
That’s because of sports performance 101: You need oxygen to keep your muscles going. That means you need a steady supply of air coursing through your lungs and into the bloodstream. It’s easy to forget to breathe but also just as easy to train yourself and make it a habit in your workouts.
Here are a few tips to remember:
Inhale as you brace, exhale as you exert
The inhaling part isn’t really a problem for weightlifters—it’s the exhaling part that they usually forget. Make it a habit to exhale every time you push or pull; it helps in generating force, too. Grunt if you have to (any exclamation is an exhalation) or better yet, count the rep out loud.
If you’re holding a position, keep breathing
If you’re doing a plank or any isometric exercise where you have to hold a position and resist movement, you may forget to breathe out. Fortunately this is a bit more uncommon, but if you are one of these people, actively remind yourself to breathe. If you’re doing an iso exercise with a friend, you can talk to them, too.
Practice your breathing while stretching
Stretching, whether static or dynamic, is a good place to start practicing your breathing. Yoga is also mindful of breathing while holding a position, and doing an easy yoga session or two can teach you how to do it.
Remind yourself to breathe through the nose
If you’re doing a more intense workout, like HIIT or sprints, you may find yourself sucking wind through your mouth as your body tries to gulp in more air. That’s actually bad for you, as it decreases your body’s carbon dioxide levels, which are also important in releasing oxygen. Instead, train yourself to breathe deeply through the nose when your body wants to take it in through the mouth.
Breathe with your belly
When you’re out doing cardio like running or cycling, it’s better to breathe with your whole stomach, not just the top of your chest. Breathing with only your chest gives you shallow breaths and not a lot of oxygen. This is where the previous tip comes in—again, train yourself to breathe deeply through the nose, filling out the diaphragm and the stomach, and exhaling through the mouth.