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Episode 212: Improve Endurance and Recovery

Video Highlights

- Benefits of calmness.
- Air hunger drills.
- Improve endurance and recovery.

Today, we’re going to be talking about respiratory control for recovery and increased endurance.

One very interesting topic that is emerging in endurance research is really how our internal perceptions of what is going on, particularly with our respiratory system, influences our willingness to push ourselves in exercise.

Now, with that little intro, here’s basically what I want you to think about.

In most cases whenever we’re pushing up against an endurance barrier … Now, right now I’m not talking about people who are ultra endurance athletes or world class endurance athletes, but I’m talking about the general people that we deal with on a regular basis who say, you know what? I want to increase my endurance capacity, and we’re new to the idea.

Maybe we’ve been a recreational jogger, or we’ve done some recreational sprinting, or whatever and we go, you know what I want to really improve my endurance. Well when you look at this, one of the things that really hinders endurance for a lot of people is actually in essence a panic response to not having sufficient air based off the way that you breathe.

One of our favorite approaches to use for quickly hacking, if you want to call it that, your endurance is to get your brain focused on how quickly you can recover from a bout of exercise.

Now the way that we do that in our training system, while there’s a lot of different approaches that we use, one of the favorites of most of our trainers is what’s called air hunger drills. Now an air hunger drill is a very simple idea in which you put you into air hunger as quickly as possible.

You take a breath in, you blow all of your air out, you do some kind of body weight exercise. As you feel like you must breathe, again you go as long as you can, and then when you feel like you need to breathe, your job is to regain control of your breathing within one to three breath.

It sounds pretty simple, but when you first start playing with it you’ll find it very challenging in many cases. Let me just give you an example.

Low angle shot of a runner silhouette at dusk with a sunset backlighting them.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to do this in a pushup. I’m going to go down on the ground, set up for the pushup. I’m going to take a deep breath in. I’m going to blow all my air out and at the end of that, as all my air is emptied I’m just going to start doing pushups. I’ll do as many as I can, and then at the end I’ll come back to my knees, and I’m going to try to regain control of my breathing within, again one to three breaths. Alright? In, blow all the air out, hold it out.

That’s one, and I’m pretty good.

Really what you’re going to figure out with this is how you know if you’ve regained control is if you feel the need to take a big gasping breath. The whole idea is we want to establish respiratory control as quickly as possible. So if I’ve been out sprinting, I run 400 meters, I’m probably going to be pretty out of breath, but again my goal is once again restoring control as quickly as possible.

When people first begin playing with air hunger drills what they often discover is that their need to pant, et cetera, is actually panic. It has nothing to do with what your real respiratory needs are. If you start reducing the threat of being out of breath, reduce the threat of feeling that air hunger, very often what we’ll see is a almost exponential increase in endurance with very, very little training, because a lot of what happens internally in the body is determined, or based on how much threat your brain feels like it is under, and a lack of air is one of our biggest ones.

This is a great little drill that you can start to work on. I recommend that you not stress yourself out. I did about 12 pushups, you can start off very easily and go, I think I could do 20. Well than do five, see if you can control your breath. Then do 10, see if you can control your breath.

It really is about the internal sensations that you’re experiencing, and your ability to calm yourself when you’re experiencing physical stress. It’s really the end game with these air hunger drills.

Give it a shot. If you have any questions about it let us know.

Otherwise I think you’ll find this a fantastic tool to add into your training throughout the week, throughout the year.

Really the calmness that comes from it is one of the most beneficial aspects, and how that translates then into increased exercise capacity.

Good luck and enjoy.

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