Sport | Columnists
Sean Van Staden
Oxygen is necessary for every cell in your body, to improve muscle functioning and increase energy levels.
Air is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and then small amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium and hydrogen.
An average person breathes in 12 breaths of “air” per minute with an average tidal volume (amount of air intake) of 0.5 litres per breath, or six litres per minute.
When you are exercising, your breathing rate increases and is approximately 30 breaths – or 90 litres – per minute.
The oxygen is extracted from the air in your lungs and enters your bloodstream where it is transported around your body by a haemoglobin protein.
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Carbon dioxide is a by-product of all the cellular activity and moves out of the capillaries and back into the air sacs to be exhaled.
Elite athletes with superior genetics have been recorded to have lung capacities of between nine and 11 litres per minute, which increases the potential for more energy production and the ability to last longer.
Having a big V02 max doesn’t mean you are the best, or that you’re going to climb on a bicycle and win the Tour de France.
It simply means you have the capability or potential for more than the average person with just six litres.
Great lungs are only one part of the 500-piece puzzle.
Four steps to building and training lung capacity for wellness and sporting performance:
Become more efficient by exercising
Your lungs are muscles, and this means, like any other muscles in your body, you can train them to be more robust, more efficient and improve inhalation.
Athletes who train frequently have stronger lungs because bodies demand more oxygen during exercise, and their hearts and lungs work harder to supply their bodies.
When athletes are unfit, they breathe heavily and frequently stop to catch their breath.
Your body uses less oxygen when you are fitter because it is more efficient, but your lungs are stronger because of the training adaptation. This is a win-win situation.
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Learn to belly breathe
Due to stressful lifestyles, most people breathe incorrectly.
The more stress you have, the more you shallow breathe. This is when you take shorter breaths, and you can visibly see your upper chest and shoulders moving up and down.
To learn to belly breathe, you can lie flat, stand tall or be seated. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in through your nose, watching your hand on your stomach move upward or outwards, pause for two seconds and breathe out without your chest moving.
Practice 10 repetitions in the morning and evening for a week, and once this becomes easier, progress to breathing with your belly while exercising.
The next step after belly breathing is to train your lungs to be stronger and improve lung functioning.
Start by raising your chest tall and upright and breathe in through your nose quickly and forcefully, making sure you are belly breathing while you do this. It helps to close your eyes in order to focus better.
Hold for the count of seven seconds and then slowly breathe out for eight seconds.
Repeat this technique for 15 – 30 repetitions daily.
The above exercises will help teach you how to breathe while exercising and improve lung functioning.
Once you have added them to your daily routine, it is essential to use the latest technology or air-breathing devices.
Breathing devices with the aid of a bluetooth training app helps teach you to control your breathing. Learning to breathe properly adds increased functionality to your training, and to manage one’s breath is the difference between mere mortals and sporting legends.
By doing drills and exercises, and using technology in training, elite athletes have mastered the rhythm and art of breathing for performance.
One lucky reader stands a chance to WIN an AIROFIT Breathing Trainer valued over R6 000 courtesy of www.PerformBetter.co.za!
The Airofit is a wellness and elite sports performance lung training device.
To enter, SMS the word AIROFIT, plus your full name, date of birth, email address and suburb to 33521.
Competition closes Sunday, 25 July 2021 at midnight.
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