Here are a few training techniques related to nose breathing and pacing that can help you prepare for any athletic event or training plan. You’ll finally find ease in working out!
Douillard Family Triathlon Training
A few years ago, my 24-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son were going to join me for a sprint triathlon. As it turned out, my son injured his shoulder in a soccer tournament before the race, so just Devaki did it with me.
We put the workout principles detailed below to the test. And in a pretty intense way, since we only trained for two weeks for this short triathlon (a 525-yard swim, 10-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run).
The race sounded easy to us, but we should have been concerned by the name: The Lookout Mountain Triathlon.
Any triathlon with the word “mountain” in the title should tip you off to the fact that there would be elevation gains and steep downhill segments.
In the end, I did a lot more huffing and puffing than planned! But Devaki did fantastic, with a first-place finish in her age group. I took fourth place in mine.
The key exercise strategies we used included Nose Breathing, Fox Running, and Chasing the Rabbit.
Read on to learn more about each strategy in detail.
Exercise Strategy #1: Nose Breathing
Nose breathing drives air into the lower lobes of your lungs more efficiently. The lower lobes are rich is calming parasympathetic nerve receptors, while the upper lobes are rich in fight-or-flight stress receptors. The lower lobes are also more vascularized and move oxygen in and waste out more efficiently than the lessor-vascularized upper lobes of the lungs.
In the long-run, nose breathing makes exercise easier and healthier. It’s a more natural way to breathe, but requires practice to master.
The ancient Central American mail runners were said to run with rocks or water in their mouths, which forced them to breathe through their noses, which they recognized as more efficient. Try this and you’ll quickly see it’s impossible to do unless you breathe only through your nose.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, which triggers upper chest nerve receptors and a fight-or-flight response, is great for running away from a bear, but very stressful and degenerative over time. Being chased by a bear gets old!
Perhaps because of the excessive and chronic stress we live under, and because we aren’t trained from birth in most Western cultures to nose breath, we have become shallow upper-chest breathers.
Learning how to become a nasal breather during exercise will help train your body to handle a variety of life stressors, without triggering a degenerative, fat-storing, sugar-craving, anxiety-producing, sleep-preventing, exercise-hating emergency response!
Nose Breathing Practice Tip
Go for a walk and count how many steps you take during a complete nasal inhalation, then exhalation. Watch how, as you become an accomplished nasal breather, you will steadily increase the number of steps per breath.
The goal: 10 steps for the inhalation and 10 steps for the exhalation.
Exercise Strategy #2: Fox Running
Fox running is a term borrowed from the Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School, where he teaches Native American running and hunting techniques.
Fox Running is the forerunner for almost all barefoot and minimalist running techniques and products that we’ve seen flood the running community and market in the past few years.
Fox Running is a three-point foot strike:
- The outside of the ball of the foot makes contact with the ground first.
- Then, weight is delivered across the ball of the foot up to the big toe.
- Then, the rest of the body weight is placed with a heel and mid-foot strike.
It’s as if with the light touch of the outside of the foot, your body feels or tests the terrain, and then, if the terrain is even, the ball of the foot and the inside of the ball of the foot comes down, still testing the safety of the terrain.
Next, when the thousands of neuroreceptors in the feet send the okay to the brain, the body safely puts all its weight down for a full-foot strike.
This type of nervous system activation requires the small muscles of the feet and legs to be 100 percent responsive to the terrain. This keeps your legs, ankles, knees, and lower back extremely supple and functional, which is antithetical to the bio-mechanics of well-cushioned shoes.
Fox Running Practice Tip
Run as fast as you can on soft grass and watch how your feet naturally strike the ground. Then try Fox Running, which is how humans are bio-mechanically designed to run.
Exercise Strategy #3: Chasing the Rabbit
Chasing the Rabbit, which I developed based on how I imagine ancient hunters used to sprint, requires a series of sprints alternating with rest periods as hunters chased down a meal, such as a rabbit.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, exercise was never intended to be exhaustive, rather it was meant to be restorative. Employing nose breathing during both sprints and slower long-distance running will help. Plus, this technique was quieter than mouth breathing during hunting.
We now know that nose breathing activates a brain wave alpha state that creates the inner composure needed to be a successful hunter.
Studies on Chasing the Rabbit-like techniques show significant health benefits gleaned from these consecutive bouts of intense activity alternated with periods of rest. The sprint part is what modern adults have usually stopped practicing.
Ask a 12-year-old, “When was the last time you ran as fast as you can?” Then ask a 50-year-old the same question.
Kids regularly use their fast-twitch muscle fibers, which activate when you run, while modern adults rarely ever do.
New studies suggest that there are numerous health benefits related to the simple practice of sprinting, including the regulation of blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.
As a training toolkit, it has worked for me for years, because the rest periods mean the body doesn’t ever fully break down with the stress of strenuous exercise. It’s a great athletic practice for longevity for this reason, too!
In fact, this concept is the main theme of my book, Body, Mind, and Sport.
Chasing the Rabbit Practice Tip
Each morning, do four one-minute sets of jumping jacks as fast as you comfortably can with one minute of rest between each set. See how you feel after just a few days of this simple eight-minute workout.
You could also use popular workouts like CrossFit for the same effect, as long as you use nose breathing to help you identify when exercise is beneficial and when it’s potentially damaging.
Herbal Support for Athletic Training
Did you know that ashwagandha—Ayurveda’s prized adaptogen—is rejuvenative for muscles? Historically, it has been used successfully to support athletic performance, endurance, and exercise recovery.
Sometimes called the herb that delivers the strength of 10 horses, ashwagandha was the go-to supplement for endurance, strength, and recovery in ancient India, in addition to being used for deep sleep and rejuvenation.
Today, peer-reviewed studies support the ancient use of ashwagandha for optimal exercise training, efficiency, and recovery. Ashwagandha not only boosts aerobic capacity, but also muscle recovery, strength and building muscle mass. At the same time science supports ashwagandha for enhancing athletic performance, it also backs ashwagandha as a support for deeper sleep and less anxiety when you’re under stress.
If you’re just starting a new exercise routine, or trying to take your performance to a new level, supplemental ashwagandha is a safe and effective way to get the performance gains you seek.