Book Tracking 6
Breathing for Warriors
By Dr. Belisa Vranich and Brian Sabin
Being that it’s crunch time where I need to search the depths of anything and everything that can make me a better all around athlete in my pursuit of excellence manifesting in making it to Tokyo this year, I’ve been diving into areas of athletics that I’ve previously not really payed much attention to but knew were important. I’ve always felt that there’s a process in becoming an elite athlete. You need to learn your sport, then find ways to manage the physical stresses, then you look to improve yourself. Underlying all of this is developing a love and passion for continual improvement. One area that always has been at the back of my mind has been breathing. I can’t see something externally to focus on, I can’t see myself working on technique in a mirror. Quite often I’ve lost my breath overthinking and stressing about messing up or panicking. On the other hand I’ve often cringed when I hear athletes, coaches and sport psychologists talk about “Mindfullness,” and training between the ears is more important than anything. I get frustrated at people who are at the competitive level I am talk about how winning doesn’t mean as much to them. For some select few that have been in competitive sport for so long this is true. I envy those individuals.
To be a high level competitive athlete is so much more than speaking to yourself positively, trying to find some spiritual connection, or just going as hard and fast as possible. Being an athlete at the highest level possible involves a super deep dive into exploring yourself from a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual standpoint. However, to comprehend this is overwhelming to most. It’s overwhelming to me at times. So I seek to improve on every aspect of being an athlete. And one of those areas that is so simple we often overlook it is how we breathe.
For me, breathing is so critical. I’ve found myself the past few years finding myself defaulting to certain breathing patterns while swimming, cycling, running and lifting. About 10 years ago I took a continuing education course for my Spin Instructor Certification that talked about yoga breathing techniques for indoor cycling. Around the same time when I was obtaining a personal training certification the instructor asked us what the one thing we couldn’t survive without was. A few people threw out, water, nutrition, mindset… Then he said “Hold your breath.” The point was clear, oxygen was our biggest necessity. All of this floated around in the back of my mind and in recent months I’ve finally dedicated a bit of time to exploring breathing further.
I started with Wim Hof, and this book “Breathing for Warriors” was a recommended read on Audible once I finished Wim Hod’s book. So I dove right in. I’m not one to say that one thing is the key to success. Breathe properly and you become superhuman with no ailments and with the ability to conquer anything. Not so much. Breathing is a tool in the toolbox, just like proper stroke technique in swimming, pedaling and run mechanics in cycling and running, and proper form in lifting. Throw in how to use positive self talk, negative self talk, hope and anger, now you begin to get the picture.
What interested me most about Breathing for Warriors was the actual mechanics of breathing. What are the best methods to breath for recovery, swimming, cycling, running, lifting? How can I work on breathing diaphragmatically rather than with muscles that fatigue quickly. In short, I want practicality. And for the most part I found that in this book. Actual practical breathing exercises that target primary breathing muscles. The idea is that if we can breath with our diaphragm, abs, obliques, and intercostals, then we will become more efficient at using oxygen and be able to perform at a higher level in our chosen sport. I learned how to engage and strengthen my pelvic floor and incorporate those muscles into breathing. I learned various ways to breathe into my belly, sides and back so that I can perform at a higher level while swimming, cycling and running. One of the most valuable tips I picked up in one of the chapters on breathing for endurance athletes was breathing patterns for running.
A friend who is also a triathlon coach had mentioned to me how elite runners breathe in every two steps and out every two steps. I implemented some of this over the last couple years regulating my effort based on my breathing. I knew that if I could breathe in every four steps and out every four steps that was a marathon or half marathon effort. Three steps, 10K effort and two steps was a 5K effort. I still struggled though and found myself breathing shallowly more often that not. Since beginning to implement Wim Hof breathing techniques back around Christmas and then adding in some belly, side and back breathing exercises over the course of reading this book I’ve seen rapid changes in my breathing patterns while running. And during my runs the last couple of weeks I’ve tried an offset breathing pattern—breathing in for one more step than I exhale. For example, I breathe in for 4 steps and out for 3 steps. This keeps my mind engaged and forces me to forcefully breathe deeply and forcefully exhale while making it appear effortless. Confusing?…Yeah it is to me too, but it seems to be working. Ultimately it’s just a tool in my toolbox that I can reach for at certain times in training and racing. Much like how when I was wrestling I learned as many moves as possible so that I could reach into the toolbox for the right move at the right time. I’m now learning to do the same with triathlon. Swimming especially has been a focus for me when it comes to breathing. Calm, focused breathing enhances my ability to swim fast and fatigue slower.
I know this review didn’t really talk much about the actual structure of the book, that’s because it’s really a pretty straight forward book. Learn the mechanics of breathing, then begin to practice and learn how to apply them to a variety of situations and sports. I definitely recommend anyone who wants to add another toll to the toolbox to read this book. Sure, sometimes I found myself glazing over thinking this book could’ve definitely been shorter and a little more to the point, but overall it’s a solid read and one I’ll probably read parts of again multiple times.
Book Tracker: 6/20