• Rob Olson

Improve Your Breathing

^ Above, CFS member Laura is focused on her breathing. Nice!

What comes first:

The mindset to control your breathing during your workout


Developing the "fitness" so you can do workouts more efficiently and not have to worry about breathing as much?

I've been doing CrossFit for 10+ years, along with many endurance sports, and I can tell you the single most important aspect to fitness is the ability to breathe well.

For many, right before a workout, their stress goes up, their anxiety goes up, and when the workout starts and they begin exercising, they are in a "fight or flight" mode and this results in shallow, shorts breaths. This is the opposite of what we need.

If you have ever watched the CrossFit Games, or any professional sport (NFL, NHL, etc) ... they look "relaxed", and "in the zone". Their breathing is methodical, and they remain in control of it the entire time.

I am not a Games athlete by any stretch, but the main thing I think about when I'm working out is breathing. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Literally. It's the #1 thing on my mind. If it is not, then my body reverts back to short, shallow breaths. When I'm focused on breathing, I can better execute the workout, which results in better times, which results in more intensity, which results in improved fitness! Breathing is where it all starts!

How do you improve your breathing? Here's a few ideas to try out:

1. 4-4-4-4 Drill

This was a drill we did in Navy SEAL training. It is designed to teach you to control your breathing. Here's how to do it: Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. See how long you can do this for. Make sure you are relaxed! Doing this before doing underwater training enabled me to lower my heart rate and hold my breath for over 3 minutes. If this is too much, try starting off with 2-2-2-2 or 3-3-3-3. As you get better you can even increase it to 5-5-5-5. See if you can do it for two minutes.

2. Practice before working out

This is where most get lost. They workout and just expect the deep breaths to happen, but never make time to practice. Hop on an assault bike, and ride for 5 minutes. The ONLY thing I want you to think about is your breathing. Deep breath IN, deep breath out. Don't worry about your pace or any specific output. The goal is to move your body, but remain focused on your breath.

3. Scale down

If you pick a workout variation on the "very challenging" level for you, the likelihood of controlling your breathing will be very low. Pick lighter weights, easier moves, and focus on the breath. Slowly increase the weights over time, and your speed, but remain focused on breathing. It is almost like re-learning to workout, but this time focused on breathing, instead of doing the exercises.

Breathing is a skill, and that means it takes practice. I promise you the time you put into this will be worth it! Bonus - the ability to control your breathing also makes for great stress relief. Next time you are really feeling the stress, close your eyes, and do the 4-4-4-4 drill for 2 minutes - you will feel so much better!

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