Mar 31st, 2020
Author: Leka Fineman
When you can’t work out, work in.
Right now, with the whole world on lockdown, the gyms closed, and being stuck at home, you may find yourself under a lot of stress, freaking out, and going stir crazy. Aside from worrying about COVID-19 and the future, you may be thinking, What if I can’t lift heavy for the next 3 weeks? Will all my gainz go down the drainz? How will I survive without getting to WOD with my friends? First of all, we have Zoom workout classes. Secondly, your friends and coaches will be happy to see you when we all get back. Third, you will not lose all of your fitness. But last, and best of all, you have been given a chance to develop a (or hone an existing) skill: your mindset and mental toughness, which could arguably be your greatest asset. It is important to remember: when we can’t do all the physical reps, we can still put in our mental reps and end up even stronger!
With the “Shelter In Place” mandate, we are all being forced to stop, slow down, and stay in. This is the perfect opportunity to spend some time with yourself and work on your mental game through meditation and breathing practice. A great place to start with breath work is one of my favorite go-to techniques: box breathing.
The box breathing method
Box breathing, also known as “square breathing” or “resetting your breath” is a powerful yet simple exercise. It can heighten performance and concentration, help to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus. It is easy to do, quick to learn, and can be a highly effective technique for people in stressful situations.
How to do it
To begin, find a quiet place, free from distractions. Sit comfortably with your spine tall. You can sit in a chair or with legs crossed on the floor. Sitting on a folded blanket or pillow under your hips will decompress your spine and make it more comfortable. You can put your hands on your lap or on your knees. Begin to pay attention to your breath.
Step 1: Slowly inhale
Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose counting to four slowly. Feel the air fill your lungs one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full and the air moves into your abdomen.
Step 2: Hold your breath
Hold your breath inside and count to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut.
Step 3 : Slowly exhale
Begin to slowly exhale, counting to four, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs and abdomen. Focus on this intention and be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.
Repeat steps 1-3 at least four times.
Tips for beginners
Box breathing may be difficult to get the hang of. Stay with it. You might get dizzy after a few rounds at first. This is normal. If you get dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing. As you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness.
The benefits of box breathing
There is a lot of scientific evidence proving that intentional deep breathing can actually reduce stress and improve your mood. This happens because it regulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. When we slowly hold our breath, it allows CO2 to build up which enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale, and stimulates your parasympathetic system which produces a calm and relaxed feeling in our mind and body.
Practicing breathing techniques like this when we have the time, will allow us to be able to use it in a pinch when we really need it. When you are about to give that big presentation at work, or right before you get on the competition floor, or when you have been cooped up inside for 13 days and your kids are screaming at each other. It’s times like these that put our mental toughness to the test, and all the reps you have put in will pay off.