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Restore Your Breathing and Improve Your Conditioning

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After getting winded walking up a steep hill in my town, I knew it was time to get serious about my conditioning and work capacity. And, since I just returned from the Art of Breath (AoB) seminar with Brian MacKenzie and Rob Wilson, I knew it was the perfect time to develop deeper breath work to facilitate and accelerate better conditioning.

Now, at our CPPS certification, I talk about breathing mechanics, breathing resets, position, and even throw in some box breathing and Wim Hof breathing – but this only the surface.

After coming back from the AoB seminar, I dove deeper in Buteyko, nasal breathing, and CO2 tolerance.

So, back to the hill. For me, it’s a challenge hill that goes one mile straight up.

The first week was just walking up the hill – which left me feeling so out of shape. The second week was adding a weight vest. The third week I added three weight vests and ankle weights. This week was the 95lb old school EliteFTS safety squat bar (SSB).

The hill itself has three main inclines with slight stretches of the road leveling off.

My goal was to stop as few times as possible and be able to regulate my breathing. I had to take the bar off my back around four times, but that was over the one mile trek.

Breathing Protocol: Weeks 1-3

My breathing patterns were different for uphill and for the downhill. For the uphill, it was all about regulating my breathing and trying not to default to mouth breathing (dumping CO2). For the downhill, it was all about pushing my limits with breath holding and really focusing on my control of breathing and how it affected my heart rate.

Uphill Protocol: (High Intensity)
5 Breaths = Nasal/Nasal
5 Breaths = Nasal/Mouth
5 Breaths = Mouth/Mouth

Down the Hill: (Recovery)
5 Breaths – Nasal/Nasal
20-30 Steps Holding Breath (CO2 Tolerance)
Repeat

I was able to regulate my breathing both ways and my heart rate dropped with the recovery breathing protocol where I was able to comfortably hit 20-30 steps while holding my breath.

I felt amazing when I was done and could immediately feel how my body responded to the controlled breath work protocols. Even when the intensity of the training was high, if you were focusing on a specific breathing protocol, it kept your mind calm and out of panic mode.

Breathing Protocol: Weeks 4-6

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Same hill, different conditioning.

The graphic image above is comparing my heart rate during the first 3 weeks of hitting the hill vs. my heart rate during weeks 4-6. As you can see, the results are very different. The scale for heart rate is light gray->dark gray->blue->green->yellow->red (with red being the highest HR). Also, look to the graph where the highest heart rate drops off immediately, that is when I turn around at the top of the hill and start going back down.

While I understand that there are many contributing factors that play into each sessions state of readiness – as far a recovery from previous training sessions, amount of sleep, current nutrition, hydration, etc. – You can clearly recognize the result of the breath work I’ve been doing.

My breath control is much better, even when the intensity is high, and I’m able to stay in the green longer during weeks 4-6. In fact, the majority of yellow has turned to green and there is only a little yellow at the steepest incline of the hill (at the top).

Uphill Protocol: (High Intensity)
All Nasal/Nasal (Nasal Only) Breathing

Down the Hill: (Recovery)
3 Breaths – Right Nostril Only (Long Inhale/Long Exhale)
3 Breaths – Left Nostril Only (Long Inhale/Long Exhale)
3 Breaths – Both Nostrils / Nasal Only (Long Inhale/Long Exhale)
30 Steps Holding Breath (CO2 Tolerance)
Repeat

The other major difference in weeks 4-6 was that I was able to make it all the way up with nasal-only breathing AND I didn’t miss any of the 30 step breath holds on the way down after the 3/3/3 nasal-only protocol!

This was a HUGE improvement in my ability to control my breathing while stressed and hold my breath for longer and longer periods of time.

These simple protocols provide a step-wise introduction to controlled breath work and deeper breathing patterns. Start playing around with your breath work simply by keeping your mouth shut during your warm-ups or while you’re doing your low intensity, long duration conditioning – and see where you’re currently at with your aerobic capacity. Then you can begin to make breathing a priority to bring up your baseline.

By on September 11th, 2017

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