Breathing through the nose recruits the diaphragm more effectively.

The purpose of breathing is to bring oxygen into the body and release carbon dioxide. We call this respiration. When you participate in exercise, your need for respiration increases.

Hard breathing can be thought of an exercise in itself. As with other exercises, it can be done better or worse.

Rapid and efficient respiration is our goal when we are exercising. Deep breaths are much more effective in reaching our goal. Taking deep breaths requires us to have good function of our diaphragm; our main breathing muscle. Breathing through the nose is the ticket to recruiting the diaphragm.

How does it work?

The benefit of nasal breathing at first looks like a detriment. Here is why. When you breathe only through the nose, the air cannot flow in as quickly. This may seem like a step in the wrong direction. Air moving more slowly should slow respiration, right? Nope. When the air flows in a bit more slowly, you are able to more fully inflate the lungs and take a deeper breath. The bottom third of the lungs do more than their fair share of the work. Slowing the air flow leads to a deeper breath and more oxygen absorbed per breath.

What are the benefits?

Better respiration means we can do more work, at higher intensity before we have to slow down and catch our breath. That is the kind of thing that leads to PR’s on WODs. But there is more. A stronger diaphragm also means more bracing power can be applied to your strength lifts like deadlifts and squats. Proper, deep breaths indirectly lead to the stress relief that can be felt after exercise. Feeling anxious or stressed? Take a few breaths through your nose, and you just might feel better!

How to start?

Close your mouth! The first place to practice nasal breathing is your warm-up. As you are running a 400m or hopping on the Assault Bike, see how long you can go while breathing only through your nose. When the WOD starts, and its gets intense, hang in there and breathe through your nose. On interval training days, use nasal breathing during the rests to improve recovery for the next interval. It will take some practice, so try it for a few days.

Will this be challenging? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable? Possibly. Will you get used to it? Hopefully!

A common objection is “my nose is stuffed up due to allergies, a cold, etc.” In this case you have two good options. Option #1 is to try this nose breathing business on another day. Option #2 is to try it anyway, and it just might loosen up whatever is causing you trouble in the first place.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.