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breathing exercises for skiing

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

NPR's Only a Game just featured a story about Olympic skiers and boarders training underwater to hold their breath for up to 4 minutes.

This is a Red Bull sponsored training program held in Hawaii. 

https://onlyagame.wbur.org/2014/08/16/olympic-skiers-free-diving

 

Martial arts and combat training uses slow deep breathing exercises to help people remain calm and focused

during threatening situations (combat breathing, cycle breathing, tactical breathing).

 

How about people here on Epic?  What are your experiences with breathing exercises and their impact?

Do you do anything special with your breath when you stand at the top of something "notable?"  

Do you use breathing with your clients if you are an instructor?

post #2 of 20
I do not understand the underwater exercise unless it's intended to INCREASE lung capacity. Muscles don't work well without oxygen. Olympic ski events are held in areas with less oxygen in the air, so increased lung capacity might be helpful.

I suggest my clients tighten their lips and breath out through the mouth to create resistance in exhaling. This tightens the diaphragm and reduces the amount of old, deoxygenated, air left in the lungs. If you breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, you also moisten the throat.
post #3 of 20

  At the top of something "notable" like a back-country chute or an icy rutted course I always make sure I exhale completely, ie push all the air out before taking another controlled breath. Not sure why I do this but it may be helpful in regards to getting rid of as much CO2 as possible before exertion begins...it does also have a noticeable calming effect. I also lower my heart rate if needed. I think a general tendency is for people to hold their breath or to take shallow breaths when anxious which serves to only hamper performance both physically and mentally.

 

   zenny

post #4 of 20

It's a mental thing. I read another article about this somewhere else recently (PSIA site?). The basic idea is that training to override the body's automatic need to breath gives one a mental ability to develop calmness in stress situations which can improve performance. I had to do something similar for my (cough) "drownproofing" class at Georgia Tech. The practice for the minimum 50 second/100 yd underwater swim was similar but I got more "mental control" from swimming 20 minutes with my hands and feet tied (to simulate surviving with both arms and legs broken). This is one of those things that you can't believe until you do it and not everyone who does it becomes a "believer'.

post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 

The original article is in the Wall Street Journal.  I couldn't link it, though.

You can get to it from the NPR article.

I find it hard to envision holding my breath for 4 minutes.

post #6 of 20

 Yes, I agree it is a mental thing. The connection between mind and body is obviously very close--one affects the other. Which is why this is a somewhat interesting read: http://skiracing.com/stories/why-isnt-mental-training-treated-the-same/

 

  I'm not sure physchology per se falls within the realm of this discussion, but certainly developing an ability to learn how to foster and encourage meditative states might. One wonders how often this is overlooked...

 

   zenny

post #7 of 20

This thread is really interesting to me.  One of the things I worked on when I started taking trips west was remembering to breathe.  

When I participate in most activities - working out, technical biking, technical skiing, (etc)  I find myself pursing my lips and forgetting to breathe.  

The concept of practicing holding your breath seems counter to the things I tend to do so that I "don't forget to breathe" 

post #8 of 20

The ability to control your breathing is the key to unlocking your true potential in many sports. Calming the breath seems to take tension out of the muscles, make us more energy efficient, clarifies the mind and puts fear into perspective. It is a simple act with great benefits. It also allows us to focus the mind and allow peak performance without conscious interference.

 

I don't know how or why it works, just that it does. Eastern practices have known this for years with breathing control showing up in martial arts, yoga, meditation, prayer. The amazing feats of mind and body control we see from the East are all based on breathing control. For some reason this simple act seems to have drifted out of Western culture. Perhaps because of the "spiritual" connection? Now the West breaths weakly and shallowly. Poor for health and poor for sports.

 

Breathing well, deeply, controlled, rhythmically, completely and consciously is one of the most powerful thing we can do.

post #9 of 20

if you ski turning drills (meaning like 2short turns 1 long turn, or whatever turn cadence you want) and add in breathing and or shouts (hupping) to that drill, I could see that being useful.  The net result of the drill is you can feel confident and have breath timing and turns regardless of the snow that's underneath you.

 

Versus what MrGolfAnalogy says, I don't think it's mainly about "controlling" your breath or forcing it to be "calm" in a non-precision sport.  You just need to be aware of your breath and working with your breath to maximize your performance, but not necessarily fight it or force it to be calm.  

Those strongmen on Worlds Strongest men on TV today certainly did not use a "calm" breath. They were grunting and blowing like crazy.  But they were breathing

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by raytseng View Post

 

 

Versus what MrGolfAnalogy says, I don't think it's mainly about "controlling" your breath or forcing it to be "calm" in a non-precision sport.  You just need to be aware of your breath and working with your breath to maximize your performance, but not necessarily fight it or force it to be calm.  

Those strongmen on Worlds Strongest men on TV today certainly did not use a "calm" breath. They were grunting and blowing like crazy.  But they were breathing

 

Perhaps we are saying the same thing?

 

The concept is not just about controlling and calming your breath. The idea is to allow your breath to flow naturally for the given circumstances. Mainly that means not holding it when under stress. The body follows the breath and tension in the breathing will result in tension in the muscles. Most folks hold their breath when attempting a task instead of letting it flow. As a culture we tend to breath in a very shallow pattern in the upper chest. Top athletes learn to control and utilize their entire lungs for peak performance. It sounds simple, and perhaps for some it is, the rest of us need help remembering how to breath properly.

 

Any aspect of performance, mental or physical can be aided or hindered by your breathing, which you control.

post #11 of 20

I guess my point is it seems the focus is bringing up the image that you should be like the action movie shaolin monk or peaceful yogi where hiding/controlling your breath is being super cool and not showing anyone you are out of breathe or breathing faster to give off the impression of your endurance despite you being in that condition when you should be breathing harder and faster.

 

Whereas I'm saying, you can also "breathe" grunt and shout like women's pro tennis players if you want, which would be unbecoming for your shaolin monk or yogi

post #12 of 20

Mostly aerobic training, running, to keep up lung capacity, heart capacity, blood 02 carrying capacity, stamina and leg strength.  While skiing tends to be short anerobic bursts, when we stop, the aerobic kicks in on recovery to keep you skiing all day without tiring.


Edited by Eagles Pdx - 8/17/14 at 12:41pm
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 

No one has brought up dealing with fearful students who are hyperventilating yet. 

Any instructors out there?

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post
 

How about people here on Epic?  What are your experiences with breathing exercises and their impact?

 

 

I have something to toss out there from a different angle. It is not in any way whatsoever a unique angle in the world of sports, but it is not one that has been talked about much here, or one that comes to mind immediately for most alpine skiers.

 

As someone who does a fair amount of aerobic endurance sports (mountain biking, road cycling, nordic skiing, a little bit of trail running now and then), I have had to learn, over the years, how to maximize the amount of oxygen getting into my blood and to my muscles. One of the obvious ways I accomplish this is to breath in and out deeply, with the diaphragm, yes. But also there are many times - e.g., trying to beat a buddy or the clock over the top of a hard climb - when I have to do that deep breathing hard and fast, not slowly. Sure, there is a limit I can't exceed profitably, and I have to go to a bigger cog or put a lid on the cadence before I go seriously anaerobic and lose more time than I gain because I need an extended recovery. But my point is that "good" breathing does not always mean "easy" breathing or "slow" breathing or "calming" breathing, when the goal is to get the max from your body, athletically speaking. With this in mind, if I'm skiing a long bump run or a race course, I try to remember to breathe fully but in a fast-enough rhythm that I can really keep the O2 flowing. Often this is as fast as once every turn. Occasionally people will comment on this habit, but the last laugh may be on them, as I'm sometimes ready to go on to the next pitch while they are still panting, because they didn't really pull in enough air to support the level of skiing they were executing on the previous pitch.

 

Edit: This fits in with my frequent comment that a common problem I see with people's approaches to skiing is that they don't really quite register it as the athletic event that it is. Breathing is a part of that picture.

post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

No one has brought up dealing with fearful students who are hyperventilating yet. 
Any instructors out there?
Not an instructor, but I've had plenty of experience with panicked people.

So, here are two words: belly breathing. This is written about in so many places that it's taking too long to find the studies themselves, but just the mere act of breathing into and out of the belly triggers the relaxation response, the release of happy hormones, and a reduction in overproduction of stress hormones. Best of all, belly breathing has an immediate physical effect on the endocrine system and autonomic nerve system, so you don't even have to believe it's going to work. You just have to try it to feel the effects.

One poor 14 year old girl who'd had a pot of boiling water spilled in her lap comes to mind. She was freaked out and showing some signs of shock, so after dumping several loads of ice into her lap and getting her hysterical mother out of her hair I helped her breath while we waited for the boat to take her to the mainland. I had her focus on inhaling into her belly, and within a few minutes she'd stopped shaking and hyperventilating and her heart rate was slowing down. Soon she could talk calmly, take direction, and start to harass the sister who'd been horsing around and knocked over the camp stove, and if she tensed up as we transferred her to the boat I could just remind her to keep breathing and she'd regain her calm.. Because she was so panicky it helped to start out by asking her to focus on my face, which helped keep her from going off into her own head instead of listening to me.

Step one is to try to relax the shoulders and encourage the upper chest to relax downward, but if they can't do this it's not a big deal. Step two is more important, because the abdomen has to be open in order for this to work. I tell them to stand or sit upright--not in a military pose, but out of the typical collapsed spine to a relaxed stance that opens the abdomen, and to try to relax the abs (belly, to most people) while still supporting the torso. Then you start to breath, inhaling through the nose, and focus on filling the belly with air (not anatomically correct, but easy for a layperson to understand). Watch for chest breathing, which is counterproductive. As they calm down I'll have them try to make their inhalation match their exhalation by having them count to 4 slowly on each. Modeling good breathing is important, gives them something to focus on besides their own pain or fear, and it helps with your performance, too.
post #16 of 20

the respiratory diaphragm is a muscle, like any other muscle you would want to develop and control look at the mobility of its attachments, the ability to move it, and the ability to separate it's movement from the rest your movement patterns.

 

Our close friend just had a baby boy, it is wonderful to watch him and other newborns breath, the movement of the diaphragm generates mobility in the whole body, does your breathing do that?:)

post #17 of 20

as @litterbug  posted!  

 

Belly breathing is really good. If you focus or think about breathing in through the nose and letting your belly expand and exhaling through the mouth compressing your belly, it will allow you to take in more 02, while slowing and controling your breathing, It also helps to focus on the task at hand. I like to use it when climbing on my bike on tough sections. It really helps me mentally.  

post #18 of 20

I've been taking some Pilates instruction in an attempt to rehab a groin problem that arose last ski season.  It's been a journey of discovery for me as I find all sorts of parts of my body I didn't actually know about.  One of the key things I've been working on is the engagement of the deep abdominals that serve as a inner core of suspension.  What I'm taking away from this is that there is an inner cylinder of support (the deep abdominals ) and an external cylinder of support (the big muscles like quads, flutes, etc.).  If you support from the inner cylinder, you can free up the outer cylinder to absorb terrain.

 

What does this have to do with breathing?  One way to engage the inner core to focus on diaphragmatic breathing.  This engages the diaphragm and (interestingly) the pelvic floor.  It allows the inner cylinder to engage.

 

I've been primarily working on a machine called a Core Align.  It'll be interesting to see if any of this stuff really translates into skiing.

 

Mike

post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

I've been taking some Pilates instruction in an attempt to rehab a groin problem that arose last ski season.  It's been a journey of discovery for me as I find all sorts of parts of my body I didn't actually know about.  One of the key things I've been working on is the engagement of the deep abdominals that serve as a inner core of suspension.  What I'm taking away from this is that there is an inner cylinder of support (the deep abdominals ) and an external cylinder of support (the big muscles like quads, flutes, etc.).  If you support from the inner cylinder, you can free up the outer cylinder to absorb terrain.

 

What does this have to do with breathing?  One way to engage the inner core to focus on diaphragmatic breathing.  This engages the diaphragm and (interestingly) the pelvic floor.  It allows the inner cylinder to engage.

 

I've been primarily working on a machine called a Core Align.  It'll be interesting to see if any of this stuff really translates into skiing.

 

Mike

This testimony makes me think of Weems' talks about core.  Although he didn't get quite as deep as this.  Good stuff. 

post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post
 

Do you do anything special with your breath when you stand at the top of something "notable?"  

 

Before dropping in to any line that requires any real thought, I use the same breathing trick that I've been using in tennis for years.

 

When I've chosen my line and I'm ready to go, I'll breathe out slowly and thoroughly, a little bit like a sigh. This is basically a signal to myself that it's time to focus. Just before I set off, I'll take a good breath in, and then I'll exhale normally as I start to ski. That sets me up so that I get my rhythm breathing straight away.

 

Luckily for me, I've been doing this in tennis long enough that I don't have to really think about it in other situations, like skiing.

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