Have you ever heard about respiratory training? Do you know what it is?
Well, if you are like most people you probably don’t have a clue about it. And that’s ok. Heck, I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over 10 years and I didn’t really know about it until a couple of years ago.
And ever since I discovered it I’ve been actively including it in my client’s workouts as well as in my own training routine.
It makes a ton of difference regardless of the sport you are in, but for it works even better aerobic type of physical activities such as running. It will simply boost your performance and endurance significantly.
So if you are looking to do just that, look no further. This article will go right down your alley. Before we dive right into it though, let’s start with the very basics?
What Is Respiratory Training?
It’s pretty self-explanatory – it is a way of training your whole respiratory system, and your lungs in particular. But, how can one train its lungs you may ask? Well, as you train any other muscle in your body – by applying some sort of resistance to it.
And it this particular case you will add some resistance to your breathing. You will make inhaling and exhaling more challenging. This can be done in a number of ways. The most popular and the most effective one is altitude training.
Another method which is becoming increasingly popular is using some sort of device that restricts air flow. Basically, these are masks that cover your mouth and nose, making breathing more difficult.
Obviously, this method is more convenient than going to 6,000+ feet to train, but not everybody agrees that it is as effective as the traditional way of doing it – through altitude training.
The Secrets Behind Respiratory Training
There’s a lot of confusion behind this way of training, so I would like to give you all a really short and over-simplified explanation on how it works. This is actually pure science, there’s no real secret. It’s just that so many people don’t know the mechanics behind it.
So like I mentioned above, respiratory training involves adding some type of resistance or overload to your breathing. When you do this long enough – and by long enough I mean at least 6 – 8 weeks on a regular basis - this will have three main effects on your body.
First and foremost, your lungs will become stronger, secondly, your body will use oxygen more efficiently and lastly but not least, you will develop a much stronger connection between your mind and your body.
Here’s what I mean, let’s take each of these 3 things separately.
1. Stronger Lungs
Even though this comes as a surprise to most people, your lungs are just like any other skeletal muscle. And they will act like one as well.
As a personal trainer, I come from a background of using resistance training and weight lifting a lot. And I came to realize that respiratory training works in the exact same way. By applying resistance to your respiration, your lungs will be forced to work harder for breathing in and breathing out.
If you do that repetitively long enough, they will become stronger. Moreover, if you gradually increase the difficulty of your hypoxic training (or the air flow restriction) your lungs will adapt to that.
The effect of your longs becoming stronger is pretty dramatic. Here’s why. When you perform your physical activity – whatever it may be – under normal conditions, without any kind of airflow or oxygen restriction, breathing in and out will feel much easier.
You will be able to take deeper and fuller breaths effortless. This means you will have more energy to put into your running, instead of wasting it on breathing rapidly in an uncontrolled manner.
When you are running at a high pace and you’re breathing heavily, up to 20% of your energy can be consumed by your breathing alone. Remember, your lungs are muscles that need the energy to work. The more you use them, the more energy you will waste.
So that alone will allow you to put more energy into the actual sport you are performing instead of into breathing in and out.
2. More Efficient Oxygen Use
At the very beginning of this article, I mentioned two ways of implementing respiratory training: by training at high altitude or by using a mask which reduces the air flow intake.
This particular benefit (more efficient oxygen use) of respiratory training is an outcome of training at a high altitude rather than using a mask.
As you may know from school, at high altitude the oxygen concentration is not as high as at sea level. The higher you go you will find less and less oxygen.
A mask can’t simulate that. It can restrict the air flow, but the oxygen concentration will be the same. That is why I was saying that these masks, even though they work, they are not as effective as training at high altitude.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s see what the deal with oxygen use is.
In order for our bodies to function properly, all the organs need to receive oxygen. For that, O2 molecules are carried by the bloodstream throughout the body so that O2 reaches all muscles and organs that need it.
When the O2 concentration of the air we breathe drops, our body picks up that signal and reacts. Basically, it learns how to use and carry oxygen molecules more efficiently throughout the body. It becomes a more efficient machine.
This has a direct impact on the VO2max threshold which helps improving stamina and endurance.
3. Better Mental Game
Lastly but not least, apart from all the undeniable physical benefits, respiratory or hypoxic training has amazing mental benefits.
It can really help you step up your mental game and get into the right mindset when you undergo intense physical activities such as running a marathon, for example.
When you are training at high altitude or when you use a device to help you restrict air intake, you learn how to focus more on your breathing. You learn how to listen to your body better and control your breathing better than ever before.
It’s like a different state of awareness that lets you set the right pace and just perform better than before. It helps you develop a thick connection between your brain, your lungs and all the other muscles in your body.
This might not sound like a big deal. But when you are competing against athletes that have trained just as hard as you, your mindset and your focus can make all the difference.
How To Add Respiratory Training To Your Workouts
The cool thing about respiratory training is that you can simply do it without changing up your normal training routine at all.
Regardless if you are doing sprint drills, you just jog or you run cross-country, you can continue to do that and just use an airflow resistance mask or to and train to the mountains.
Sure, you will be very likely to see a significant decrease in your performance at first. That is perfectly normal since your body and your lungs, in particular, are not used to this new environment.
All you need to do is work your way up and focus on increasing your performance to the point where it is as close as it can be to your normal running.
When you go back at sea level or shut down any air resistance you will see great improvements.
The thing about respiratory training though, is that you need to do it on a constant basis. All its benefits will start to fade away when you stop training for it. So if you’ve been training at altitude for 3 months and you go back at sea level, you will notice great performance improvements, but in 1 month or so you will see a decrease in the way you perform.
That’s because your body adapts to the new conditions again. That’s why top-tier athletes train at high altitude a few months before competing.
So with that being said, I hope I opened up your appetite for respiratory training. It’s really a unique way of stepping up your performance that has amazing benefits.
It is a bit difficult to accommodate with it at first, I’ll give you that, but once you are passed that phase you will fell in love with it, and the increase in performance is really mind-blowing.
Tyler has been working as a certified personal trainer for over 10 years specializing in weight loss and functional training with women between the ages of 30 - 65. He also enjoys helping others become industry leading personal trainers through his website PTPioneer.com and YouTube Channel.