Inhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds, slowly exhale for four seconds, pause again for four seconds… repeat… feel your heart rate slow and your mind relax… de-stress.
In your next workout – breathe out with each rep – deep belly breaths in, and full forceful breaths out with each rep to ensure that you are getting the air you need to keep moving. When you break up your reps, and take a precious break in a workout for time, count your breaths… maybe give your self one, two, or maybe three deep breaths before picking up the bar. By counting your breathes during a break, you can control the length of your break and maximize your time working.
It is amazing how simple breathing can be. If you control your breathing, you control everything. With each breath, we provide our bodies with oxygen – an essential ingredient to the Krebs cycle (the aerobic cycle that takes the oxygen and makes energy available to our working muscles). Actually, the Krebs cycle more specifically describes the process of cellular respiration – the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. It takes place in our mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products, and producing energy for our cells to do work.
The aerobic cycle is critical also in providing recovery during exercise. When we push harder in a workout, and feel the muscles begin to fatigue, it is our aerobic cycle that provides the recovery to the other energy systems in our body. Our breathing recovers the glycolytic (think lactic acid) and the phosphagen (think clean burning sprint-speed) energy pathways. If we push really hard in the first round (going “too hard out of the gate”) we will pay the price in the subsequent rounds as our aerobic system is trying to recover the spent glycolytic and phosphagen energy stores, while also trying to keep us alive and moving in the workout. There is a balance that can be reached in a workout where our aerobic conditioning provided enough oxygen to keep the pace in the workout while also restoring the other energy systems. This balance point is known as the LACTATE THRESHOLD. By training at this intensity – the sustainable pace that is comfortably uncomfortable – we can maximize our results. Go a little faster, and we will begin to fatigue and slow down (more so than if we settled into that steady sustainable pace. Go too slowly, and we are giving up precious seconds and minutes – we are working below our threshold. Without fancy lab equipment to measure your blood Ph and blood lactate, you can easily monitor your pacing in a workout. For example, in your next 5-round workout, keep track of the time that it takes you to complete each round. If your time steadily increases with each round, then you have over-reached and pushed the pace too fast. If your pace is steady through out and you feel spent after the last round – then you got it about right. If you finish and you feel like you could have moved faster, you likely were working below your threshold. Use your split-times to gauge your next workout to help maximize your results.
By training at your Lactate Threshold, you will train and improve your overall work capacity, maximize your results, and provide the most leverage towards improving your fitness.