Is Huffing and Puffing the Sign of a Great Workout? How Hard You Should Be Breathing and Why.

Are you supposed to be out of breath and gasping for air at the end of every workout?  Is working to the point of being out of breath the sign of a great workout or a sign you may be pushing too hard?  FitClub has 5 key facts you need to know about why we breathe hard when we exercise and what it means for your fitness gains.

  • Why it happens. As you move through your workout, everything inside you is working harder to compensate for the stress your body is enduring.  Your heart beats faster to move blood and oxygen to your muscles, your muscles use more oxygen more quickly to keep up with your movements, and your lungs work harder to move more oxygen in and push more carbon dioxide out.  Breathing quickly or feeling out of breath during your workout is the result of every muscle and your heart speeding up to meet your demands.
  • It’s normal to breathe heavier at the beginning of a hard workout. Huffing and puffing in the early minutes of your workout is normal.  Your lungs need to warm up just like your muscles and cardiovascular system.  As your body warms up, the lungs’ “accessory muscles” start to engage to assist your diaphragm and breathing may begin to feel easier.  If you find you’re breathing too hard in the early stages of an exercise to be able to stick with it for 30-60 minutes, try a more gradual warm up to allow your lungs to expand and the accessory muscles to engage before you go all out.
  • You can manage your breath, even when you’re working hard. While you exercise, you can check your posture to make sure your spine is straight and engage your diaphragm.  Attempting to breathe from your diaphragm, means taking a breath in that expands your belly, and not just your chest. Lifting your chin also allows more air to get into your airways more efficiently than staring at the ground.  Whether you’re running, lifting weights, or engaged in a yoga class, focusing on breaths that originate in your belly allows your lungs to take a more productive breath to fuel your muscles.
  • Keep at it. Some huffing and puffing is normal when you start a new exercise routine or start working harder than usual.  You can see this happening every time you try to add weight or speed to your workout. As your body grows fitter, your lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen during the same routine that once left you doubled over gasping for air.  Staying consistent and gradually increasing the time you spend exercising or the intensity you exercise, conditions your respiratory system just like your cardiovascular system.
  • When to see a medical professional. If breathing hard during your workout causes discomfort, pain in your chest, dizziness, or any other pain or stress, you should speak to a medical professional before continuing your exercise routine.  Certain medical conditions like “warm up angina” and asthma may be making you breathe harder than is safe when exercising.

Does huffing and puffing inspire you or exasperate you?


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