Fitness Trail: Just breathe: How to do it properly |

Fitness Trail: Just breathe: How to do it properly

Jackie Wright
The Fitness Trail

One of the questions most frequently asked by clients is how to properly breathe during exercise. Of course, all of our clients are trained to perform proper breathing techniques with each type of exercise they perform; however, it may become somewhat confusing, when on their own, as each type of exercise may require a different breathing pattern or technique due to the specific demands of that exercise.

Before describing suggested breathing techniques for each type of exercise, it is important to remember that whether or not you master these techniques, the main objective is to just breathe! Holding your breath, or practicing the Valsalva maneuver which is used in power lifting, may be unsafe depriving the body of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation may lead to unsafe elevations in blood pressure, among many other negative bodily responses, including poor performance, and should be avoided.

-Breathing during cardiovascular exercise (running, fitness walking, cycling, swimming, etc.):

-During cardiovascular forms of exercise, inhale deeply through the nose if possible and exhale through the mouth. This brings oxygen into the body which is circulated throughout the body and encourages the exchange of gases at the capillary level. Focus upon rhythmic breathing which may help prevent hyperventilation and may provide the body continuously with the oxygen it requires to continue exercising effectively.

When performing high intensity interval training (HIIT) the goal is to become completely winded; therefore, when the exertion interval is completed, you may decrease the intensity enough to pay back the "oxygen-debt" and restore the body's oxygen, resuming rhythmic breathing so you are able to perform another high intensity interval.

-Breathing during muscular strength and endurance training exercise (bench presses or squats, etc.).

-During this type of exercise, proper breathing techniques help the body to stabilize and perform powerfully through engagement of the core muscles of the body and focuses the mind on the body part(s) that are engaged ensuring proper form and technique.

-Attempt to exhale during the exertion phase or hardest phase of the exercise and inhale upon the return phase or easiest phase of the exercise.

-An example would be during bicep curls to exhale as the lower arm curls toward the shoulder and inhale as the arm returns to the fully extended position. Another example would be during squats to inhale as the body lowers into the squat position and exhale as the body returns to the standing position.

-Breathing during relaxation, flexibility or cool down exercise

-Diaphragmatic breathing is often utilized during relaxation or cool down segments of the exercise program where slow, deep inhaling through the nose, inflating the lungs, and expanding the diaphragm is followed by slow exhaling through the mouth like you are blowing through a straw, which helps the body to relax after a taxing workout.

-During flexibility exercise, breathing encourages the muscles to relax enough so that stretching may safely and effectively occur.

-Slowly inhale as you flow into the stretch and exhale as you hold the stretch, then inhale as your body returns to the beginning position and finish the series with an exhale.

The primary goal when breathing during all forms of exercise is simply to breathe as your breath is life's force.

(There are dozens of effective breathing techniques utilized in yoga and Pilates disciplines as well).

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby. She may be reached at her website at, her email at and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.