In the past, we’ve all heard how it’s our VO2 max, our ability to take in oxygen that’s the limiting factor in our performance. But now that’s beginning to change. Researchers like Dr. Timothy Noakes, author of The Lore of Running are talking about the mind as being the limiting factor, or the “central governor” controlling our bodies.
Well, all debate aside, there is a simple way we can boost your performance, effectively increasing your VO2 max. That’s by increasing your efficiency. In other words, if you can’t take in more oxygen, but can use what you have more efficiently, the result is just the same.
There are many ways Mindful Movement and Mindful Running can help you improve your performance and dramatically boost your cardiovascular system and fitness levels. But one really simple way is to get your heart rate down.
The World’s Most Common Mistake While Working Out
You see, nearly all of us make the same world’s most common mistake when it comes to working out. We breath quickly in and out through the mouth. Watch yourself the next time you’re running, riding, or in the middle of a workout. You’re taking quick gulping breaths, or even shallow rapid breaths (what I call “rabbit breaths”) in and out through the mouth. Now it’s not only an inefficient way to breath–there’s a much bigger problem.
In nature, animals don’t breath through their mouths unless they’re being chased! With the exception of a dog or similar animal trying to cool itself, animals breath through their noses unless they’re in a moment of panic. And that’s what we trigger when we breath through our mouths. PANIC. Mouth-breathing triggers a fight-or-flight response, or the sympathetic nervous system to kick into high gear. This causes a) muscles to tighten, b) your heart rate to sky rocket, c) blood flow to be restricted and d) less blood flow to the brain.
Think about it–At the time you need to be the fleetest of foot, you’re unable to get the oxygen you need, your muscles are tightening up, and you can’t think straight. Sound familiar?
If we can instead get you out of the fight or flight response, which by the way, also produces GOBS of inflammation as well (greatly contributing to muscle soreness and injury) then we’re not wasting precious oxygen, having to push through tightened muscles, AND we can drop our heart rate as well. Sound better?
Get Started with Mindful Breathing
With mindful movement and mindful running there are many advanced techniques to do this. But the simplest way to get started is to work on mindful breathing is to breathe in through the nose. Ideally, we want you breathing in through the nose and out through the nose as well. But for now, just work on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. If you start to get winded, slow down the pace just a little bit, so that all the oxygen you need comes in through your nose.
If you find yourself just a bit short on breath, that’s ok, that’s your body learning to adapt. The best way to overcome this is to back down just a little bit more and to breathe more slowly, rather than faster. This is a common mistake we all do. We breathe quickly to get more air in. But it doesn’t work very well because the oxygen needs time to get through the lungs and into the bloodstream. Breath quickly and there’s no opportunity for the optimal gaseous exchange that naturally occurs at the bottom of your lungs. Just look at a diagram of the lungs, they’re like a pyramid or triangle, deepest at the bottom.
So work on mindful breathing in through that nose, and when in doubt, slow it down. You’ll quickly find yourself feeling better as you workout. You’ll find your heart-rate start to go down, and you’ll feel fresher too, as you’re not having to push through tight muscles.
And of course, you may find yourself running or moving faster and more efficiently as well.
This is just the start of things to come. With practice and more advanced mindful breathing work, you’ll likely find yourself in the elusive “zone” or flow state almost any time you want.
It all starts with the breath and breathing in through the nose. So have fun with this, practice well, breathe deep, and watch yourself fly!