There are lots of ways outside of simply working out more or harder to getting better results in both performance and health. Most know the importance of diet, sleep and recovery days to help get the most out of your training sessions but what about the day to day stuff that gets taken for granted?
#1 WORK ON YOUR BREATHING
Most people who have gone through a high intensity workout know the feeling of breathlessness. Breathing is arguably the most important element in your fitness, as, well….it can kind of kill you the quickest. If you want to improve your snatch or squat do you go straight to a max effort? Chances are you probably break it down do some drills and work on the basics ,so you’re prepared for that one rep max attempt. When you go flat out in a WOD it’s like going for a 1RM….for your breathing. So why is it treated any differently?
Breathe control, holds, nasal vs mouth, lung capacity, strengthening respiratory muscles, there is a long list of ways to improve how efficiently you breathe. Want to perform better in a matter of weeks? Here’s a few of our favourite protocols.
The app can be found at
One of the greatest challenges faced during a workout is higher levels of CO2 (what you breathe out) along with a drop in oxygen. Naturally the brain sends you a signal to fix this situation quickly! So you hyperventilate, breathing in much more oxygen and breathing out way more CO2. But here’s the kicker….in order to absorb that oxygen into the bloodstream and muscles through a process known as Bohr Effect you need an equally balanced level of CO2. So hyperventilation is not you’re friend, and is inhibiting your performance. The Apnea trainer is a great tool that can even take the place of meditation by focusing you on a set inhale, a x4 hold, and a x2 exhale. Through this you learn to exhale with control, even though you’re brain is telling you to panic breathe.
Recommended dosage medium to challenging, time frame 5-10 mins each morning or before you’re class workout.
OXYGEN ADVANTAGE (BUTYEKO HOLDS)
If you’re interested in taking back control of your respiratory health check out this book by Patrick McKeown. The take home message is get used to higher levels of CO2 through nasal breathing and breathe holds (check out Nasal breathing below). A couple of drills you can practice from the book:
- Butyeko Breathes
Take a regular inhale and then exhale, after the exhale hold your breathe until you start to feel “air hungry”, not to maximum. Then inhale calmly with control and repeat every minute on the minute (as an example).
- Walking Breathe Holds
Same as above but this time count how many steps you can get on the exhale hold, repeat in laps 5-10 mins.
Any type that works for you is the best type. There are literally thousands of different styles, applications, courses and more the key here is set yourself a small goal of a little bit each day. Aside from the stress lowering benefits, it’s also a great way to get you connected with you’re breathing again and learning to use the full power of your diaphragm and respiratory muscles.
For an easy way to start meditating try this: Set yourself a timer, let’s say 5:00 and begin counting each and every breathe you take, being as present as possible of the air flowing in and out. Every time you forget what breathe count you’re on, go back to 1 and start over. Each session see what number you can get up to before you’re mind wanders and you forget. In an age of non stop distractions this is a great way to de-stress and re-train the mind too.
As discussed earlier keeping your O2 and CO2 levels in balance is an important skill to practice and requires some work outside of intensity to fully master. Nasal breathing adds some increased difficulty through a smaller breathe canal (as opposed to your mouth) and has the added benefit of creating nitric oxide (great for blood flow and much more) and naturally humidifying and filtering the air you breathe (super important if you have asthma). So although it feels “harder” and will have to be completed at a lower intensity it can be a great tool to be developed in warm ups and cool downs. Not to mention it activates your parasympathetic nervous system (restoration, relaxation and flow) over your sympathetic (fight or flight) which we can all do with more of!
#2 WORK ON YOUR MOVEMENT
I know what you’re thinking, I roll out, do some couch stretch and the class warm up, but that is not what I’m referring to. Improving you’re movement is a broad range topic but here’s a couple of things to consider.
Flexibility: You’re ability to lengthen a muscle. And strength your strength through that range of motion. Consider weighted stretches and tempo on full range of motion movements.
Mobility: Joint range of motion. How much control do you have over each individual joint’s movement?
Motor control: The interjection between you’re brain and ability to control and coordinate you’re muscles.
Movement Quality: How well you move, how balanced you are has a direct correlation between a) how well you execute a movement and b) how much pain you have when executing a movement. Although everything has base principles you’re movement pattern has to be specific to you and therefore takes practice and investigation.
Movement variety: One example would be your spine. Neutral back, flexed back, extended back they’re all important for overall spinal health and durability, work on them all.
Daily TLC: This is where you’d put things like you’re releases, rolling and stretching into action.
To investigate these further we highly recommend considering a personal training session to tailor work specific to you. There are some great companies out there with different programs specific to mobility, and rehabbing poor movement patterns. Here’s some we recommend:
ActiveLife Rx: https://performancecarerx.com/
FitnessHQ Mobility Course: https://fitnesshqcourses.thinkific.com/
#3 WARM UP BETTER
Most people go through the motions as the group warms up together, but what about the 10-15 mins you have before class? Most people will do some light rolling or stretching but not many see the warm up as a chance to get better. Here is an example using previously discussed breathing and mobility protocols to get better.
0-5 mins: Work on some breathe work.
5-10 mins: Mobility focused on one area (flexibility, mobility, single side work, movement pattern etc)
10-15 mins: Nasal breathing focused aerobic work. Use breathe holds, different movements as needed.
Class warm up and wod.
You can obviously adjust this based on how much time you have before hand, but I can guarantee you’ll have a much better session and be ready for whatever the workout brings. Not to mention getting that 1% better.
#4 COOL DOWN BETTER
What happens when you finish? Do you hit the deck and stay there? Hop straight in your car to home? Or do you take ownership on ensuring you are fully recovered and ready to go tomorrow?
Here’s some protocols you can use:
- What is your best recoverable pace?
If you can’t recover from it then it’s merely a flash in the pan effort. So practice…recovering! Once the wod’s completed instead of hitting the deck, get moving. Airbike, row, run, air squat or skip and find a recoverable pace that you can bounce back from within 2 mins. Look to increase this over the long term and you’re performances will increase with it.
Take the first 30-45 mins post workout to get in you’re fuel. Real food or supplement form? It doesn’t really matter but look at carb and protein intake as a priority, you’re doms will be considerably better. We also highly recommend a magnesium spray or supplement for bed time.
- Mobilize, Release and wind down.
Gently here is the key, you’re not looking at rolling a sore muscle for 1 hour, just enough to allow the muscle to relax, get some blood flow and flush it out. Again think of mobility drills and movements that work best for you or you need to work on and give it 5-10 mins at least. You’ll likely walk out feeling fresher than when you walked in!
- Regain you’re nasal breathing.
Working out is largely sympathetic dominant (fight or flight) so take the time to get back into your parasympathetic state (relaxation, restore and flow) as discussed above you can do this by regaining nasal breathing through some breathe control drills.
So there you have it! Small actions of an extra 10 or so minutes before and after you’re sessions and 5 mins morning and night can have a big impact on your fitness levels, recovery and health. Give them a go and let us know if you need any further guidance!