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Nose breathing to improve performance

 Take a deep breath. Go on. Big breath. There you go. Did you breathe through your mouth? Think about when you exercise or workout. Do you see yourself breathing through your mouth? Did you know that breathing through your nose is not only more effective but improves performance and wellbeing. Let’s talk about why….

The Myth

We’ve been sold a lie. Images of athletes working out in the gym, pushing harder and harder. Panting like Beethoven on a hot summers day. Breathing through our mouths.

But did you know that true functional breathing is done through the nose.

When Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2 hour record for the marathon, did you notice how he was breathing after he crossed the finish line?

If you didn’t, he was breathing through his nose. Now if you’re like everyone else you would expect to be drawing in air from every possible hole given to you, but he wasn’t. Having just put in a last bit of effort to fly over the finish line, he was breathing through his nose.

So seriously…

How has a guy just run a sub 2 hour marathon and not been breathing out his mouth?

Functional breathing that’s how…

 

Nose vs Mouth

Quite simply, noses are form breathing, mouths are for eating. The nose and the nasal cavity were designed for breathing, with hair cells that clean the air (removing particles), warm and moisten the air for entry into the lungs and releases Nitric Oxide (vasodilator) – which we’ll get on to.

The nose is ultimately built for the purpose of breathing, yet we go to mouth breathing far too early in our athletic work.

The Benefits of Nasal Breathing

Here we’ll look into the benefits of breathing through the nose compared to breathing through the mouth.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing through the nose firstly promotes diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits below the ribcage that is directly in charge of drawing air into the lungs. When it contracts, it flattens and increase the space in the lungs that draws air in, when it relaxs air is expelled from the lungs.

Nose breathing promotes the use of the the diaphragm. The more you breathe through your nose the more you strengthen the diaphragm. Compared to Mouth breathing which is associated with upper chest breathing (dysfunctional breathing).

Try it quick: Notice in your chest where you breathe from when only breathing through your nose. Do 3 breaths then switch o breathing through your mouth. Did you notice the difference?

50% harder

This might seem countintutive but the nose being a more restricted space compared than the mouth allows for an increase in resistance to breathing. Up to 50% harder to breath. But why is this a good thing? Because of the Bohr Effect.

Simply put, bringing in less oxygen, means higher carbon dioxide in the system, in return releasing more oxygen to the cells.

How you breathe is how you feel.

We’ve been sold a lie. Images of athletes working out in the gym, pushing harder and harder. Panting like Beethoven on a hot summers day. Breathing through our mouths.

But did you know that true functional breathing is done through the nose.

When Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2 hour record for the marathon, did you notice how he was breathing after he crossed the finish line?

If you didn’t, he was breathing through his nose. Now if you’re like the everyone else you would expect to be drawing in air from every possible hole given to you, but he wasn’t. Having just put in a last bit of effort to fly over the finish line, he was breathing through his nose.

So seriously…

How has a guy just run a sub 2 hour marathon and not been breathing out his mouth?

When Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2 hour record for the marathon, did you notice how he was breathing after he crossed the finish line?

If you didn’t, he was breathing through his nose. Now if you’re like the everyone else you would expect to be drawing in air from every possible hole given to you, but he wasn’t. Having just put in a last bit of effort to fly over the finish line, he was breathing through his nose.

So seriously…

How has a guy just run a sub 2 hour marathon and not been breathing out his mouth?

Now we’re not saying that Eliud’s years of insane training and hardwork hadn’t lead him to the point of this incredible feat. I’m highlighting that he was unlocking one of our lost biological norms to enhance every ounce of his performance, whether he had been training it or not I don’t know (I’d love to get him on the podcast), all I know is that he would have been accessing the benefits.

I totally get it if nasal breathing while running sounds like it’s the worst idea ever for your but you may want to hear the benefits of this simple switch that will boost performance in your sport.

Most sports, no, every sport, benefits from improved endurance. The ability to perform your skills for longer, especially under fatigue, is something we should all want. Whether it’s crossing the line at a marathon or throwing a decisive dart at the dart board. Fatigue can weigh you down not only physically but mentally. So gaining that edge could be the difference between 2h 01min or 1h 59min, a double 20 or double 1.

Let’s explore this phenomenom of nasal breathing.

It’s purpose built: Our nasal cavity is the only system that is designed purposfully for breathing, it cleans, warms and filters the air that we breathe. Mouth breathing does not.

It’s harder, 50% harder: Nasal breathing is 50% harder than mouth breathing, therefore reduces the amount of air coming in. Which sucks when you start, but does become easier with peristence.

It releases nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator that allows the blood vessel to dilate and imporve delivery of the blood to the cells.

Restriction of the amount of air (or fundamentally oxygen), increases our carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the body, which isn’t a bad thing. Let me explain. (or check out a more in depth post about CO2 tolerance)

At the base level, CO2 levels in the body dictate how much oxygen (O2) we release to the cells. Our haemoglobin within the red blood cells ‘hold onto’ the O2 molecule until their is a sufficent level of CO2 to release it.

So if we breathe through our mouths and bring in MORE O2 then we don’t allow that CO2 level to rise and we DON’T need to release more O2 to the cells. Thats reducing the amount of O2 we can deliver to the working cells that need it, and our performance level reduces.

Simply put, bringing less air in means you get more bang for your buck with each breath

It promotes diaphragmatic breathing: the functional way of breathing is using our diaphragm. It allows us to draw in air deep into the lungs that wouldn’t necessarily be use when associated with mouth breathing. Strengthen our ability to breathe is just like strengthening any other muscle in the body, the more you use it, the better it becomes at its job.

Without going on too much, lastly it triggers a parasympathetic response in the body. This state in the body is known as our rest and digest state. We are able to recover better but also make better decisions. You often would assoicate a lot of quick mouth breathing with a panic attack. So imagine if right when you need it most, in a competition you could be breathing calmly, do you think you’d make better decisions? I think you would.

So this is all I have for you right now on nasal breathing and how it will benefit you as an athlete. I’ve seen it help me personally in my training and my performance, as well as recovery too.

I’ll leave you with a few great resources to check out more on breathing

Patrick Mckeown – Oxygen Advantage

James Nestor – Breath, available on Audible and Amazon, you could also check his Joe Rogan podcast episode too.

Or if you’d like to get started with some sessions yourself, then head over to the Sport Yogi app!

Lewis introduced simple warm-ups and recovery followed by breathing exercises for recovery, focus and nerves.