Article – Breathing – Your Key to Improved Health
Imagine growing up not being able to breathe well. You get winded and wheeze when running around outside with your friends. You struggle to take in full breaths at times. Yet, you strive on, insistent on doing whatever you want to do, until it happens. You experience your first, and thankfully only, asthma attack. Breathing in comes in gasps as you cannot breath out fully. You literally feel like a fish out of water.
That was me in grade school. I was diagnosed with having asthma and my breathing was a constant challenge growing up. However, I was able to overcome. From those early days I learned that I could push myself gradually further until I was able to find a “second wind”. Now, I love to challenge myself. Every time I do it’s a reminder of how much I’ve been able to overcome.
I shared this story with the folks who joined my October 27th for my talk titled, “Breathing: How To Use It As A Tool To Protect You When You Exercise”. That was the beginning of what proved to be a very fruitful discussion that I’d like to share with all of you now as well. Let’s get into it.
Breathing 101: Basics of Breathing
Let’s start first with an activity. Let all of your air out and then breathe in deeply. Take note of what your ribs do. Did they move upward toward your head or did they expand outward? Hopefully they expanded outward first. You may be wondering why. Let’s talk.
When we take in air our lungs need to fill. In order to make room for this to happen, a key muscle in support of our breathing, the diaphragm, must contract to increase space in our chest cavity. Unfortunately, other muscles found in the neck and shoulders will kick in to lift our ribs upward if the diaphragm is not contracting effectively. When this is so, headaches, muscle aches, and increased feelings of tension can result. If you noticed that when you did the inhale activity your shoulders rose rather than your abdomen you will want to correct that. Read on to discover why and how.
Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic Response and Breathing
Picture a time when you were suddenly startled. How did you respond? You and I would both probably agree that some kind of awkward sound or yelp escaped your mouth hastily. You may have even turned around with your hands clenched into fists ready to beat down whatever or whoever freaked you out. Now consider what impact that had on your breathing. The reaction you most likely had is a result of our body’s incredible ability to protect. We are being set up through a whole bunch of chemical responses to make a decision to run or fight. Most of you have heard the concept as “fight or flight”. When needed, this response is excellent. It keeps us from serious harm. However, we can create a similar experience that is not good for our body by how we breathe.
Remember earlier when I asked you to determine whether your inhale promoted upward movement of your ribs or not? Chronic shoulder breathing communicates a very similar message as that you experience when startled. The result is a body that feels like it’s constantly in need of defending itself. The results of this state are several, all of which are not supportive of healthy living. Outcomes like increased muscle tension, increased promotion and perpetuation of trigger points (nasty points of tenderness that develop in muscles and often refer pain to other parts of the body), increased muscle spasms, and an increased sensitivity overall to pain are the direct result of chronic chest breathing.
Set Up For Diaphragmatic Breathing
What I would encourage you to strive towards instead is healthy contraction of your diaphragm. When you learn how to control this key muscle you also create an environment within your body that is the opposite of that of being startled. Instead you will notice a promotion of total body calm. You can literally decrease blood pressure, reduce muscle spasms and muscle tension and reduce sensitivity to pain simply by breathing more purposefully. To do so, find a comfortable position. If you are someone who already experiences neck and shoulder tension, you’ll probably want to lie on your back with your knees bent. Optimum would be to place a stack of pillows under your lower legs so that your ankle, knee and hip form a right angle. Once positioned, place one hand on your chest and your other hand on your abdomen. Now comes the practice. Inhale slowly through your nose. Your goal is to feel gentle (not forced) movement of your abdomen while also noting expansion of your rib cage outward. You will note this by movement of the hand on your abdomen independent of any movement from your hand on your chest. Once you reach the comfortable end of your inhale, and key word is definitely comfortable, hold your breath momentarily. Finish by exhaling through pursed lips in order to slow down the speed of your breath out. Repeat this for up to 5 minutes in this manner or until you start to notice more ease with your ability to use your diaphragm. Signs that you are on the right track will be a reduction in any tension you may have, a feeling of calm even to the point of feeling sleepy, and even feelings of hunger if you haven’t eaten for a few hours but have been on the go.
I hope that after reading today’s article a few things happen. One, I hope you recognize how much impact something as simple as the way we breathe can have on our bodies. Two, I want you to walk away feeling empowered that you can do something about things like muscle tension, trigger points, muscle spasms and your own pain management. Last, I hope you now also feel confident enough in what you learned today that you can pay it forward to someone you care about. We can all use a little more tender loving care.
P.S. If you want an example of diaphragmatic breathing, check out our video in this month’s newsletter below.
1.What was the reason you decided to go to a trainer?
I wanted to get into better shape, but I did not want to repeat past mistakes. I had a history of trying to start workout routines on my own. Unfortunately, each instance was unsuccessful, or worse – ended in injury. I eventually had four orthopedic surgeries and was fearful that I would injure myself even further if I continued to work out without guidance. I realized that to be successful I needed help.
2. Did you consider or participate in any other form of treatment for your reason before seeking a trainer? Examples: physical therapist, acupuncturist, medication.
Surgery, physical therapy, and massage.
3. How did you hear about BodyBasics?
I found BodyBasics after extensive searching with Google. I monitored the website and read the newsletter for a full year before making the call to Chris. What I learned in that year was that BodyBasics was a very active and vibrant community of people. If I have a regret, it’s that I waited a year to pick up the phone.
4. Did you evaluate other gyms or trainers before deciding on coming to Us? If yes, what were other places missing that BodyBasics was able to provide?
I tried one local gym. Again I did this on my own without any positive result. Trainers were available, but I was hesitant to trust my health to just anyone. I seriously considered two other gyms that also advertised help for clients with some physical/orthopedic issues but, unlike BodyBasics, they did not seem to foster any sense of community or energy.
5. Ultimately, why did you choose BodyBasics over other options?
The sense of community and the ongoing outreach and special events (this newsletter for example). I watched the videos on the website and felt comfortable with what I saw there. I read the online bio’s for the staff and was impressed with their commitment to helping people through fitness.
6. What goals did you have when you started at BodyBasics?
My goals were to get some exercise without injury, to move better with less pain, and to become more active as a result.
7. How long have you been training at BodyBasics and what specifically have you achieved over that interval?
I have been training at BodyBasics for 14 months. During this time, I have achieved my original goals of moving better, having less pain, and becoming more active. My balance and stability have improved greatly, and now my strength is steadily improving as well. I’ve seen my body change significantly for the better and I feel stronger and more confident in daily life. Perhaps the greatest achievement is that I now enjoy working out, look forward to training, and for the first time consider myself someone who values fitness and makes it a priority in life.
8. What current goals are you pursuing with your trainers at BodyBasics?
My initial goals have certainly been met. I move better, have less pain, more energy, and have far more stability and confidence in what my body can do. Because I’ve been able to get some basics under my belt, my current goals are transitioning to more strength building, and I couldn’t be happier to have gotten to this point!
Welcome New and Returning Clients
The greatest compliment we can receive is a referral from one of our clients or allied health network!
Kristina Nanopoulos ~ found us online
Judith Walseth ~ referred to us by our wonderful client Juliana Osinchuk
Sylvia Fox ~ referred to us by our wonderful clients Holly Berryhill and Michael Cummins
Shout outs are about us voicing victories we witness you all having at BodyBasics. We’ll keep it to our top 5 each month.
Amy Maharry ~ for seeing her goal of competing in her first powerlifting competition become a reality!
Barbro Huth ~ for edging another several pounds closer to hip thrusting her bodyweight!
Don Pomeroy ~ for making a plank look so GOOD!
Burke Krueger ~ for demonstrating how much staying in shape improves recovery from major surgery. He was back to his training sessions less than 2 months after a total knee replacement!
Michael Cummins ~ for being an absolute warrior! Despite all sorts of physical challenges, one of which may stop someone in their tracks, he continues to pursue realizing the most out of his investment every single session!
Recipe -Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
This recipe has a very savory, yet subtle pumpkin flavor. The canned pumpkin really just adds a nice texture to your traditional chili, and is loaded with fiber.
I am a big fan of chili because it is so simple and in this recipe I used the slow cooker to make it even easier. Enjoy this one!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1lb ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 1/2- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 1 (15oz) can diced tomato
- 1 (15oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- In a medium pan, heat olive oil and add ground turkey, salt and pepper and brown until cooked through, drain any excess oil.
- Place cooked ground turkey into slow cooker with the rest of your ingredients.
- Add all your diced vegetables, spices and tomato products.
- Stir to combine.
- Set your slow cooker to low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours and let cook until your vegetables are tender.
- Add your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!
Recipe By: Ashley Munro, RD, CDE
Ashley is a Tucson native, and the owner of Ashley Munro Nutrition, LLC, were she offers virtual nutrition counseling and meal planning support. She is a trained chef, and certified Intuitive Eating counselor. Through delicious cooked meals and recipes, Ashley shares her passion for food freedom, cooking, and family on her blog. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys running and ice cream dates with her 4 year old.
Exercise Video of the Month – Diaphragmatic Breathing
November 17 ~ Next “Learn with Litten” from 1-2 pm. Topic is: Keep Back Pain at Bay! 3 Exercises Everyone Should Be Doing. This discussion will also have a hands on component so dress to exercise.
November 22 ~ Get Your Groove On Before You Get Your Grub On! Coach Chris will be providing a high energy group workout from 9-10 a.m. that promises to burn LOTS of calories pre-Thanksgiving. Sign ups are happening now with only 8 spots left!
November 19- December 8th ~ Toys For Tots Toy Drive
As many of you know, for the past several years we have partnered with ICS on their gifts of love program. This year we have decided to change things up and partner with Toys For Tots!
The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
We will also be hosting a Toys for Tots Event, more information on this event will be sent as soon as we confirm details.
For now Save The Date for Saturday December 1st, 9am to 12pm
For more information on Toys For Tots click here.
Chris, Kris, Kristian, Amanda, Dustin, Xavier and Chelsea