Monday, December 16, 2013

Restricted Breathging for Enhanced Endurance

Restricted breathing has become a new technique many endurance athletes are adopting to try and improve lung and breathing performance. So what is restricted breathing?  Have you ever tried to breathe through a small hose?  That is restricted breathing.  Go for a swim and take 6-8 strokes without taking a breath. That is another example of restricted breathing. Anything that limits the normal intake of air during rest or during training is restricted breathing.
Then there is hypoxic breathing which is much different than restricted breathing.  While restricted breathing limits the about of air and oxygen that enters your lungs, hypoxic training is where you actually pull in less oxygen into your body. Climbing to the top of a mountain where there is less air and oxygen available is an example of hypoxic breathing.
According to Ben Greenfield, restricted breathing enhances your endurance by strengthening your inspiratory and expiratory muscles, which increases your maximal ability to move gas in and out of your lungs.  Restricted breathing partially limits the amount of oxygen available to working muscles, while also slightly strengthening your respiratory muscles-making a hybrid of resisted breathing and hypoxic training.
One point of clarity: many restricted breathing devices are marketed as hypoxic training devices, but don’t stimulate altitude at all and do not result in any hypoxic adaptations.  Altitude training masks cannot change the atmospheric pressure you are training in.  For these masks to accomplish this effect, they would need to be equipped with a hypoxic air generator that regulates the O2 to simulate altitude.

Eestricted breathing masks, while they don’t provide hypoxic training via emulating higher elevations, they are effective for improving ventilator capacity though restricted breathing.  If a 14,000 foot mount peak is not in your back yard, congratulations, you are in the majority of people. Since altitude training is not an option for the majority of us endurance junkies, we are limited to resisted or restricted breathing techniques.  Restricted breathing can have substantial benefits on your training without the stress or expense of altitude training.
Here are some examples of restricted breathing techniques you can use in your daily training.
Instead of breathing every one or two strokes, try breathing every 6-8 strokes. As your endurance improves, you can extend your time between breaths until you are able to swim a 25 or 50 yard set without breathing. This oxygen debt will help improve your breathing technique.
Another tool is to get a front-mounted FINIS Swim Snorkel and add a FINIS Cardio Cap to restrict the amount of air you get through the snorkel.

Restricted Breathing Masks
You can wear a restricted breathing mask (remember they may be marketed as altitude masks but ONLY offer restricted breathing unless it is connected to a hypoxic air generator) during a run or cycling session.

Keep a PowerLung restricted breathing device handy and use it frequently throughout the week.

Good Old Fashioned Breathing
If you normally breathe through your mouth when running or cycling, try breathing only through your nose, breathing deep from your abdomen. This provides a natural restricted breathing opportunity and helps train your inspiratory and expiratory muscles.
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.