Breathing and training

When you’re running for your life from a dinosaur, the only thing that will determine whether you get to share the tale, at some point, with your grandchildren is whether you’re breathing hard or are really out of breath.

Yeah, consider how, for a moment, breathing is something we do from when we’re born. As a result we don’t think about it too deeply yet it’s nothing less than a miracle and when done properly it can help our physical performance as well as get us fitter, faster.

Breathing and training

In order to learn how to breathe better we really need to know how we breathe. There is no vacuum pump in our lungs scooping in air to give us oxygen and then throwing the used up remains, out. So, the reason we can breathe in and out at all, is down to something called volumetric pressure. Think of the lungs as a balloon that takes one breath to blow up to almost full size. When we breathe in the intercostal muscles between the ribs contract and raise our rib cage. This lifts the pressure off the lungs, creates more space in our chest cavity and our lungs expand further. Suddenly that one breath we started off with is no longer good enough to keep the balloon of our example inflated. The balloon goes a little flaccid and the air pressure inside it drops.

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When the pressure of the air inside our lungs is lower than the pressure of the air outside, air rushes in to make up the difference and we take a breath. Yep, breathing is actually a workout of the muscles and it burns up calories. This also helps explain why at high altitude where the air is thinner and the pressure of the air outside our lungs is lower, breathing is such hard work. The intercostal muscles need to work harder to lift the ribcage way higher to get the same effect and unless they’re accustomed to it, they get really tired (and start to hurt) and breathing becomes difficult as well as painful.

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