One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” The beauty of having a mother who was a high school teacher is that you get to hear all kinds of cool things that you don’t appreciate until much later in your life (the list goes on I assure you). For myself I have come to learn that whenever we are in a period of our lives in which we are learning, training, or growing; more often than not it is the details that we are not focused on that make the largest impact. I believe that we can apply this to any area of our lives, but today we will focus on our training whether that be inside or outside of the gym.
In order to look objectively at our own physiology we have to start looking at the details, and consider the impact that they have on one another. Too often we become enamored with the end result and forget that the true key to success is consistency (I know that doesn't sound super exciting, but in many ways it’s the answer no-one wants to hear). So let’s look at interval work as it relates to our training (specifically rowing). Many times we find that athletes come to us with no real idea of how they should prepare or perform while completing intervals. The idea of a warm-up might be in the cards, but that generally involves some stretching, tying and re-tying of shoes, making sure they have a water bottle nearby, and a quick jog to the bathroom (if you don’t believe me just look around the next time you are in class). As a coach I would say that not having an effective warm-up of the muscle groups you are about to use in a workout will only delay or inhibit any kind of progress or adaptation you are hoping to get in training.
At Kingfield we always focus on warming up the muscle groups that are going to be used in a workout. In regards to rowing we want to spend time opening the hips to allow for full extension of the legs, we want to open the shoulders to allow for a strong and smooth pull, as well as your torso and diaphragm to allow for proper breathing mechanics. To quote Rob Wilson (@preparetoperform) from a few weeks ago:
“Breathing is the most fundamental aspect of our human physiology. It is the most direct contact that we have with our autonomic nervous system or what we tend to think about beyond our conscious control - heart rate or digestion. It is also the primary mode of chemical exchange in our bodies. About 70% of the toxins that we excrete out of the body are through our respiratory system, expelled through air or breath. That is important to note because as coaches we can infer that if you are training hard or if you are breathing heavy you are going to have some metabolic waste, thus increasing the importance of being in a position that allows you to respirate”(Wilson).
Understanding that when we train there is a fundamental exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide taking place inside of our bodies is paramount (also known as our pulmonary system). We must have sufficient oxygen to continue to move, however once that O2 is converted into CO2, we need to have an effective mechanism of quickly getting rid of the CO2 (respiration or exhalation). As athletes our performance is not limited by our ability to get O2 into our bodies, it is limited by our ability to buffer CO2 and continue to consume O2.
How can I improve my ability to exhale?
There are a few ways you can begin to train respiration. Our upcoming Art of Breath seminar will discuss a variety of ways to train respiration, but I will give you one exercise on Breathing and apnea that I learned from Brian Mackenzie (@imaunscared) and have been working on daily. It is a 1:4:2 apnea exercise that tells us your physiology on CO2 retention.
Here is how we get your sequence: take a moment and begin breathing calmly. Take a few deep inhales and a few deep exhales. Now grab your phone and open up your stopwatch. I want you to take a full inhale and time how long it takes for you to completely exhaust all the air in your lungs. Record your exhale time in seconds. Now divide that time by 7 and this is your first number. Multiply that number by 4 and that will be your second number. Then multiply first number by 2 and that is your third number. This is a 1 (inhale): 4 (hold your breath, Apnea): 2 (exhale) split for Apnea. This will help with lung capacity, CO2 retention, down regulation (calm) and it'll feel like a new engine after a few weeks. If you exhaled for > 1:00 you should work 5+ sets per day for a decent improvement. If you were <1:00, you should use 5-10 minutes per day for better improvements.
** Example: My current exhale is 70 seconds (as of Monday). So my splits are a :10 inhale, :40 breath hold, :20 exhale.
Take time this week to begin thinking about your breathing. Notice when your breathing patterns change and when you find yourself out of rhythm or uncomfortable. Use the above Apnea drills to see if you notice a difference in your workouts and be sure to sign up for the upcoming Art of Breath seminar with Brian Mackenzie and Rob Wilson on February 25th.