Athletes Do Not Condition Inspired Air More Effectively than Non-athletes

There is a study that aims to assess athletes’ ability to warm and humidify inspired air. This study is published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It is called, Athletes do not condition inspired air more effectively than non-athletes during hyperpnea.

Endurance athletes’ inspired air

Airway disease is more prevalent in endurance athletes. This is possible because they need to adapt their breathing to cope with large volumes of inspired air. And they need to inspire large volumes of air because of the intense exercise they perform. But the environment they train in may also be relevant.

Study method

The study measures the difference between each athlete’s inhaled and exhaled air temperature. It did this during and after a Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperpnea test (EVH). This is the test that is used to diagnose exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm. It is a 6 minute test during which the athlete breathes a cold, dry gas at very high ventilation rates.

All 23 athletes in the study attend a laboratory on three occasions. Two of these occasions are for baseline measurements and information. The third is to perform a modified EVH test. This is to measure their inspired and expired air temperatures.

No evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air

The test results show no evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air. And by ‘conditioned’ air the study means the athlete’s ability to warm and humidify inspired air. If the study did find evidence, this could suggest an increased bronchial blood flow or another adaptive mechanism. Bronchial blood flow supplies nutrients and oxygen to the cells that constitute the lungs, as well as carrying waste products away from them. Therefore the absence of an adaptive mechanism could contribute to airway damage observed in endurance athletes. This may be that colder but mainly dryer air is penetrating deeper in the lung.

Strategies to reduce impact on airway injury

A pre-exercise warm-up is well known to reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchospasm and exercise-induced asthma. It is thought the reason for this is because of an increase in bronchial blood flow. A warm-up involves performing the athlete’s activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It gradually raises the body temperature. Furthermore it increases blood flow to the muscles.

An inspiratory warm-up

It is also beneficial to warm-up the breathing muscles. A scientifically proven way of doing this is with Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). POWERbreathe is an IMT device that is quick and easy to use. POWERbreathe IMT is performed as part of an athlete’s daily training. But research and trials have also shown it to be beneficial for an inspiratory warm-up. This means simply reducing the breathing load on the POWERbreathe IMT device to a lower setting. Better still the POWERbreathe K3, K4 and K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software feature an automatic warm-up mode. This automatically sets the optimal resistance for an inspiratory muscle warm-up.

Running improves with breathing control

This article in Women’s Running discusses ways of improving breathing control while running. Better breathing will help you run better and improve your performance.

Control your breathing to improve your running

Your breathing may feel laboured while running. However if you breathe correctly you will find running becomes easier. The article refers to four ways that will help.

Loosen up and check your posture

It suggests that the way you hold yourself could interfere with your breathing. Perhaps you are stiffening your rib cage as you run. If so, this will affect the way you breathe. You need to ‘free your rib cage’. Sean Carey, world-renowned practitioner in the Alexander Technique explains how to do this in the article.

Synchronise your breathing with your running

This is what Professor Alison McConnell suggests to make your breathing more comfortable while running. To achieve this start to inhale as your right foot strikes the ground. Continue to inhale as your left foot strikes. You should then start to exhale as your right foot strikes the ground for the second time.

Get in touch with your diaphragm

Another idea that is proposed is to ‘discover your diaphragm’ once again. As you get older, as a result of stress and poor posture, you start to develop poor breathing habits. This includes breathing from your chest. You should be breathing from your diaphragm, your main breathing muscle. Like any other muscle your diaphragm can suffer fatigue. This will result in laboured and uncomfortable breathing. It can also lead to intense breathlessness. Research has shown that exhausted breathing muscles will divert blood away from your legs, to help keep you breathing. This will result in the supply of oxygen to your legs being reduced. As a result your running performance will be impaired.

How POWERbreathe can help

POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training specifically targets your breathing muscles. It exercises them. You breathe in through the device against a ‘load’, or resistance. It’s this resistance that exercises your breathing muscles to become stronger. Stronger breathing muscles means more breathing stamina too and reduced fatigue. This in turn will improve your performance. You’ll be able to run for longer and with less effort.

Practice deep breathing

The final tip offered by Women’s Running is to practise pranayama, yogic breathing. But POWERbreathe IMT can also help you here. By using POWERbreathe IMT you are training yourself to take deep breaths. This will help you breathe to your full capacity. The article finishes by offering some good advice. That is to think about breathing from your diaphragm and deep breathing as you walk. As you become more confident and it becomes more natural, you can introduce it while running.

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Running performance improves with deeper breathing

An article in the October 2016 edition of Runner’s World UK says you can boost your running performance with each breath you take. But you have to choose the right type of training. And that is training that gets oxygen to where you need it.

Improving running performance starts with your breathing

Breathing training will help you with this. It helps you to get oxygen into your legs and will help avoid breathlessness from the start. In fact Dr John Dickinson recommends you pay attention to your breathing before you even start running. Dr Dickinson is Head of the Respiratory Clinic at the University of Kent.

Warm-up your breathing muscles

A research study(1) has found that a standard pre-exercise warm-up routine will fail to prepare the breathing muscles for the rigours of exercise. And not warming up the breathing muscles will lead to excessive breathlessness as you start running.

Improve the muscles that inflate your lungs

Strengthening your inspiratory muscles is something that is suggested in the article. Because it is not possible to train the lungs or grow more alveoli (where gas exchange takes place), this is the one thing you can do. By training the inspiratory muscles you’ll be able to get more air into your lungs.

POWERbreathe IMT recommended in article

One of the author’s of the article suggests practising more efficient diaphragmatic breathing through inspiratory muscle training. It mentions ‘the popular’ POWERbreathe. POWERbreathe is an Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device. The article goes on to say how in studies POWERbreathe improved inspiratory muscle strength by 31% and inspiratory muscle endurance by 27%. It also states how POWERbreathe also improved recovery during repeated sprints by 7%.

How breathing better improves running performance

Research and trials(2,3) suggest that during heavy exercise, blood flow (and therefore oxygen delivery) to your exercising muscles is inversely related to respiratory work. This means that your inspiratory muscles are capable of stealing blood from your other working muscles. This in turn will impair your performance. Other research on inspiratory muscle training (IMT) and exercise performance reveals a reduction in whole body effort sensation. This means that after 4-weeks of IMT, people didn’t feel they were exercising as hard and were therefore able to push themselves that bit further. Because of this they were increasing their training intensity and ultimately their performance.

POWERbreathe IMT improves running performance

When you use POWERbreathe IMT to subject your inspiratory muscles, mainly your diaphragm and intercostals to an appropriate training resistance, they will adapt. They will increase in strength, power and stamina. And although running will strengthen your diaphragm to a degree, “you don’t get the results you get with inspiratory training”, says Dr Graham Sharpe. ‘The most accessible method is a device such as POWERbreathe’, the article says. Dr Graham Sharpe is Principal Lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University.

Research

1 Specific respiratory warm-up improves rowing performance and exertional dyspnoea

2 The influence of inspiratory muscle work history and specific inspiratory muscle training upon human limb muscle fatigue

3 Effect of inspiratory muscle work on peripheral fatigue of locomotor muscles in healthy humans

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Non-Asthma Related Breathing Problems In Athletes

This BASES Expert Statement looks into exercise respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, tight chest, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing which are commonly reported by athletes.

These non-specific symptoms need to be assessed in order to confirm or eliminate the presence of cardio-pulmonary causes.

There is a high prevalence – 70% – of asthma and exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in sports with high breathing requirements, and it has been assumed that exercise-induced respiratory symptoms in these athletes is due to asthma or exercise-induced-asthma (EIA).

Symptoms however are misleading and this Expert Statement looks at these differential causes of exercise respiratory symptoms: Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO) and Dysfunctional Breathing.

Interventions are then discussed which include breathing pattern retraining and inspiratory muscle training and finally conclusions are made.

You can read the full Expert Statement here, Assessment and Management of Non-asthma Related Breathing Problems in Athletes.

Track running induces inspiratory muscle fatigue in trained runners

A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (September 26th 2015) tested the hypothesis that short-duration running exercise would induce Inspiratory Muscle Fatigue (IMF) which may limit performance. This follows studies that found IMF occurs after short-duration swimming exercise.

Eight female middle-distance runners were the subjects of this study which found that IMF does occur after short-duration running exercise.

Conclusion:

“Coaches could consider prescribing inspiratory muscle training or warm-up in an effort to reduce the inevitable IMF associated with maximal effort running.”

STUDY:

400-meter and 800-meter track running induces inspiratory muscle fatigue in trained female middle-distance runners.

Heartening Words From A POWERbreathe User

We’d like to thank Karl Coan for emailing us with this, his POWERbreathe story…

To whomever it may concern.

This may not be the correct way to contact you. I’m a 35year old man, who for all of my life has struggled with asthma. Bear with me, at school I could never run much further than 200m. I was put into a 400m race by an encouraging PE teacher, made it to the finishing line but collapsed.

I felt held back all my school life and this continued into my adult life. Although my asthma had faded in as far as how much it affected me as I got older, I still couldn’t do anything that involved anything too much in the way of cardiovascular activity. So I turned to weight training and lower cardio activities.

There have been many things I would have liked to have done in both my school and adult life, one thing I wanted to do was join the army. Asthma has stopped me from doing this. It embarrassed me if I’m honest.

Last year I hurt my back, injuring my L5. I had to take time off of work and felt useless. I read a book about a guy who climbed Kilimanjaro even though he was asthmatic and how great it was for him mentally. I thought it was great that he summited Kili, and have always thought even as a child how great it would be to climb a mountain. I decided it was something I needed to do.

I started researching asthma and breathing aids, this led me online to your company. I bought a POWERbreathe K3. I started using it and tried to start running. I ran 0.7mile to start, which I found hard; I spent the next few months slowly building my distances and by the end of last year was running up to 4miles! This meant a lot to me. I had also been walking/hiking in Wales.

I then decided 2015 would be my year, I took on a white collar boxing match in February, for this I had to train very hard cardiovascularly, I won my fight, though very hard. Next on the list was a half marathon which I completed, couldn’t believe I could run this far, dreamt as a child that one day I might be able to. Then I wanted to complete the Welsh 3000’s or 15 peaks challenge. I did this in June this year, all 15 3000ft peaks completed in 13hrs20mins, a very respectable time. All of this building fitness and strength for a mountain.

I didn’t want to do Kilimanjaro, but instead I wanted to climb Europe’s highest peak, the Elbrus in Russia. I said that if I managed to do it I would contact you. I did it!

Nothing that I have done has been easy and I’m not saying it was any harder for me than for anyone else, but it has been tough and being stubborn has helped no end.

I believe the POWERbreathe unit I used is the thing that made the difference and enabled me to complete my challenges; that and hard work. I’ve pushed my body to limits I thought I could never reach. I’m not stopping here. I want to reach my full potential. Next year I hope to head to the Himalayas to challenge myself with a tougher, larger mountain…. and who knows what else. I wish this product was available to me as a child, or that I had better guidance, maybe things would have been much different for me in terms of fitness and career.

Anyway to someone I feel I owe a huge thanks to, you opened up my world and are helping me reach my dreams.

Regards,

Karl Coan

Use POWERbreathe To Help Alleviate Side Stitch

A recent article in Triathlete Europe offered advice on how to avoid side stitch, citing diaphragm spasm as one of the most common causes, with spasm of the accessory muscles of breathing, the obliques, another cause.

Canadian Running also featured an article about side stitch explaining that as you take in air (while running) your diaphragm contracts, allowing your lungs to expand, and this, like any other muscle, can become overloaded during a run, straining it and causing it to spasm.

While there appears to be no definitive consensus on the causes of side stitch, many medical and sports professionals do believe it to be associated with the diaphragm, your main breathing muscle, and surrounding muscles.

An easy way to help prevent your diaphragm from feeling fatigued is to train your inspiratory muscles (mainly your diaphragm and intercostals) with POWERbreathe to become stronger. This will help improve your breathing stamina and enable you to run or swim for longer with less effort.

A pain in the side – why a stitch can turn a sporting demigod into a ‘DNF’ is a really informative article written by Sports Performance Bulletin which looks at strategies for coping with stitch and training techniques for its prevention, including POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training.

Proper Breathing – POWERbreathe Can Help

Your primary breathing muscle is your diaphragm; a dome shaped thin sheet of muscle separating your rib cage from your abdomen.

When you inhale this dome shape flattens out as your diaphragm contracts, pushing down on the contents of your abdomen (your gut) and increasing the space in your chest cavity.

Because your gut has to go somewhere as your diaphragm descends, it forces it down and out and your tummy expands. Because of this, this natural, healthy and proper way of breathing is often referred to as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.

If you do already have a good breathing technique it can often go awry when you start exercising as you demand more air and your breathing increases to compensate. This is when your breathing technique can change from good diaphragmatic breathing to reverse breathing i.e. pulling in your tummy as you breathe in and letting your tummy go as you breathe out.

Because your diaphragm is a muscle, you can train it like any other muscle to become stronger and helping you retain that good diaphragmatic breathing even when pushed to your limit. POWERbreathe targets your inspiratory muscles – not only your diaphragm but also your intercostal muscles, the tiny muscles in between your ribs, which are recruited during a slightly forced respiration.

You’ll notice when training with POWERbreathe that you have to work harder to breathe in. This is the effect of resistance training acting on your inspiratory muscles. When breathing out, POWERbreathe offers no resistance because when you exhale normally, your diaphragm and intercostals naturally relax and move back up, pushing the air from your lungs.

Strengthen your thoracic diaphragm to become a better runner

This informative article published in Trail Runner Magazine (the UK’s No.1 off-road running magazine) talks about The Forgotten Muscle, your thoracic diaphragm, and how important learning to use it properly can correlate to increased stamina, quicker recovery and even decreased chance of injury.

It talks about how, as a trail runner, you strengthen your muscles with squats, lunges, plyometrics and core work, but neglect the muscle that’s capable of improving your balance, stability, efficiency and oxygen economy – your thoracic diaphragm.

With improved balance and running efficiency being two of the greatest benefits of proper breathing for trail runners, you can understand why not neglecting this muscle counts.

The article explains how, “When we use our diaphragm to breathe properly, it makes it easier for our blood to pull oxygen out of the air we inhale, which translates into improved running economy and endurance. Of course, as you become fatigued, it’s often necessary to rely on secondary muscles of respiration as well—but, ideally, the diaphragm should be the primary muscle used.”

Read the article The Forgotten Muscle to discover a few ways to help you become a ‘breathing ninja’, however there is one training method that gets directly to the core of improved diaphragm breathing, and that is Inspiratory Muscle Training with POWERbreathe.

POWERbreathe IMT can help overcome two obstacles trail runners face:

1. In the case of breathing, fatigue occurs almost exclusively in the inspiratory muscles and results in laboured, uncomfortable breathing and intense breathlessness. POWERbreathe targets the inspiratory muscles, improving their strength and stamina and reducing fatigue.

2. Fatigue of the leg muscles can also be a result of fatigue of the breathing muscles, because research has shown that fatigue of the breathing muscles may result in diversion of blood away from the leg muscles. This means that the supply of oxygen to the legs is reduced and performance is impaired. POWERbreathe reduces fatigue of the breathing muscles by targeting them directly to improve breathing strength and stamina.

With disciplined POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training you’ll improve breathing comfort too during running because POWERbreathe specifically targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, helping to eliminate breathing fatigue and improve running performance.

Improving Breathing by Robin McNelis

PHOTO: Owen Gillott & Luke Williams from Hagens Berman U-23 Cycling Program

This is the final in a series of four articles published by Athletics Weekly and written by Robin McNelis. Robin is a chartered physiotherapist who specialises in cardiac and respiratory physiotherapy at Wellington Hospital in London. He’s also a qualified athletics coach running his own health, fitness and wellbeing consultancy, Run Robin Run.

In this, his fourth article, Robin looks at how to improve your breathing and ultimately your performance, listing nose breathing, nasal rinsing, POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training – and “one for the future”, but you’ll have to read his article to find out what this is.

Read Robin’s first article, Correct Breathing for Athletes >

Read Robin’s second article, Good and Bad Breathing in Athletics >

Read Robin’s third article, Breathing Patterns >

Read Robin’s fourth article, Improving Breathing by Robin McNelis >