By Terik Fehmi
The development of strength, kinesthetic awareness, and cardiorespiratory function should be the primary focus of any athlete looking to build a proper athletic base from which to work. (Please note that these factors alone do not indicate the health of an individual; however, they are a few of the markers of a person’s health.)
Despite the availability of powerful technologies and techniques designed to improve strength and coordination of an athlete, it is a shame to see that many of the techniques geared towards improving cardiorespiratory function are deficient and are typically unsuccessful in producing any carryover from workout to the competition itself. This phenomenon can be seen in many field athletes seeking to improve their endurance on the field.
More often than not, the vast majority athletes taught conventional protocols for improving cardiorespiratory capacity will lose a significant amount of strength and are unable to express their strength and skill to their full potential throughout the duration ofa competition.
In fact, many coaches and trainers hold the view that strength lost during an endurance training phase is an inevitable component of preparation for competition. If this is how they operate, why build strength in the first place if it cannot be maintained and used for extended periods of time?
To make matters worse, there is a compounding effect due to strength losses leaving athletes overtrained as a result of their efforts to increase endurance. So again I ask: what is the purpose of overtraining and weakening athletes in order to improve endurance. This type of stress is neither adaptive nor necessary. The autonomic nervous system suffers as a result.
Since Optimal Breathing™ is designed to shift the autonomic nervous towards a parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” state, pure strength or endurance athletes that require frequent practice and whose respective sports place a great demand on the entire nervous system can effectively balance their training efforts with an increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
What exactly does this mean to an athlete? Why should an athlete take interest in learning how to improve parasympathetic function? Some reasons are:
Shortened recovery time between bouts of exercise. Since the ANS is shifted towards parasympathetic tone, the body is in effect always in a resting and healing state and the way you breathe directly influences this.
The immune system functions more efficiently (ref), unbound/free cortisol levels may be lower (ref), and digestion is optimized. These factors all allow for faster recovery and leads to the next point.
Increased training frequency. Although rest is important for recovery, rest in and of itself does not provide the necessary stimulus for growth, improvement, and development.
Since recovery times are shortened with the use of Optimal Breathing™ techniques, more time can be spent in training without the signs and symptoms of overtraining. Therefore, detraining from undertraining because of extended rest periods and overtraining due to delayed recovery can be avoided.
Improved cardiorespiratory function. This is a no-brainer. If one breathes better with a strong and easy breathing reflex strengthened with Optimal Breathing™ principles, the cardiorespiratory system performs more efficiently.
This in turn improves the general physical preparedness that many athletes require. Improvement in breathing ease and volume will allow an athlete to use his strength more efficiently and for greater periods since the body is not expending as much energy during an inhalation nor does it require as much energy to exert its strength.
This saves many athletes who compete or train “on the nerve” a lot of hassle.
Increased relaxation and decreased occurrence of injury. Stiff and tight muscles are more prone to injury. If you’ve ever had “knotted” or tight muscles due to fascial adhesions and restrictions, you should understand that one of the primary causes of this problems is deficient blood flow, hence oxygenation, of the affected areas.
Optimal Breathing™ on the other hand augments physical and mental relaxation, allowing for less physical tension, improved blood flow throughout the muscles of the body, and a decreased likelihood of pulling or tearing muscles or connective tissue.
Optimal Breathing™ also aids in resetting muscle and connective tissue lengths. This is important to consider since many office workers and non-labourers are prone to chronic muscle and connective tissue tension and tightness. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to hop onto the soccer field without the need for an extensive warmup or stretch just because you breathe better?
Athletes and their trainers should take the time to study the breath and understand the importance of Optimal Breathing™ its impact on performance. It is unfortunate, however, that many athletes and coaches approach the topic of breath control and training the breath with a mocking attitude.
Frequently athletes and coaches will say, “But I know how to breathe” or “What do you mean, I was born breathing.” However, once they are put through the battery of breathing efficiency tests given through the Optimal Breathing™ curriculum, their eyes open after learning how poor their breathing truly was only to discovered how open their breath has become.