Exercise-induced asthma, lack of sleep, anxiety as well as dysfunctional breathing patterns deprive athletes of their best performance possible.
Dysfunctional breathing is as simple as unconscious over-breathing manifesting itself in the following ways:
- Breathing through the mouth by day and night
- Upper chest movement
- Irregular breathing
Sleeping with an open mouth, causes the tongue to drop and block the airway. Whereas when the lips are closed, the tongue will find a natural resting position against the palette leaving the airway at the back of the throat open. A blocked airway will result in snoring or sleep apnoea disrupting sleep. Disrupted sleep negatively affects recovery from training or mental fatigue.
Respiration is controlled by receptors in the brain which monitor the concentration of Carbon Dioxide (CO²) along with the PH level and to a lesser extent Oxygen(O²) in the blood. Our sensitivity to CO² is believed to determine our respiratory rate rather than the lack of O². During physical activity, the concentration of CO² increases and our respiration rate increases.
Simply put, the more we can tolerate CO², the less we must breathe. Drawing a slow nasal breath deep into the lungs, improves oxygenation of the blood in the lungs and activates the diaphragm. By activating the diaphragm, we engage the intrinsic core muscles. Breathing should be light, effortless, and soft, through the nose, diaphragmatic and rhythmic bringing a feeling of relaxation to body and mind.
Diaphragmatic breathing generates intra-abdominal pressure for postural control and spinal stabilization. Athletes succumbing to anxiety and stress, which is a contributing factor to increased muscular tension and fatigue as well as decreased coordination and balance, are susceptible to injury. By addressing over-breathing many of these conditions can be prevented.
Functional movement is defined as the ability to produce and maintain sufficient mobility and stability along the kinetic chain while accurately and efficiently completing fundamental movement patterns.
The presence of dysfunctional breathing (DB) does not reflect an individual’s level of cardiovascular fitness. Sub-optimal breathing during rest also means sub-optimal breathing during exercise. Research has linked dysfunctional breathing to a host of health conditions, including lower back pain and neck pain. It has also been proven to adversely affect the musculoskeletal system. Breathing is one of the body’s most vital functions, so when breathing patterns become sub-optimal, other functions, such as core muscle function, will compensate to help maintain respiration.
The energy cost associated with breathing increases during exercise. The respiratory muscles are not strengthened during normal activity and therefore excessive use of the respiratory muscles will cause them to fatigue.
Strengthening the breathing muscles can be done naturally with breath hold exercises causing the breathing muscles and diaphragm to contract. Breathing resistance training devices such as Sportsmask or Aerofit can also be used to condition the respiratory muscles resulting in more efficient breathing.