Overview

Breathe correctly during sport – how it works

Sport becomes easier if we breathe properly during it. As our body consumes more oxygen during exertion, it is important that we purposefully support it in performing its various activities.

Generally speaking, we intuitively also breath correctly during sport: when we move more, our rate of breathing automatically increases. This means that more oxygen reaches our lungs. From here, it is transported to our organs and cells in the bloodstream: this in turn serves to boost our performance. Even though we generally breathe correctly when doing sport, there are certain activities during which we should consciously pay attention to breathing properly – during strength training or when running, for example. One rule, however, applies to all activities: never hold your breath!

Valsalva manoeuvre during strength training

When exerting ourselves, we often employ the so-called Valsalva manoeuvre without realising it: we breathe in deeply and then hold our breath instead of breathing out. During strength training, in particular, we should avoid this breathing technique under all circumstances, as it is unhealthy: our muscles become over-acidified, meaning our performance declines. Our blood pressure also increases quickly. Typical signs of this include short interruptions in breathing and a red face. Our jugular veins sometimes even protrude when our blood accumulates in them. In order to avoid employing the Valsalva manoeuvre during sport, you should make a conscious effort to breathe out during exertion – for example when lifting a weight – and breath in following exertion – or when lowering the weight. While breathing correctly is an important aspect of strength training, strength training is also important for breathing: it strengthens our all of our skeletal muscles. Our torso, shoulder girdle, diaphragm and abdominal muscles are especially important here. They support us in breathing.

Breathing correctly when running

Generally speaking, we can be confident that we will breathe correctly and sufficiently during running training. During endurance training, you should therefore not focus too much on breathing correctly otherwise you could easily suffer a stitch. The long-distance runner and coach Viktor Röthlin recommends that all of those who have difficulty in jogging in a relaxed manner and breathing regularly run with a small stone in their hand. They therefore focus on the stone instead of breathing. Breathing out is important, as those who breathe in too quickly and deeply when jogging run the risk of hyperventilating. Whether we breathe through our mouth or nose when training for sport differs from person to person. You quickly get a feel for what works better for you. Röthlin only advises breathing in through your nose when the temperature falls below freezing, as this warms and moistens the air.

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