Thursday, March 29, 2012

For Long You Live and High You Fly

My hyacinth - complete with garden bugs on it.

When Coadster was very young, she used to get upset and I'd work with her on her breathing to help calm her down. "Okay. Let's try it. Take long, deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth."

Because Coadster is about the most stubborn person I've ever met, she eventually told me, "No! I won't breathe and you can't make me!" I would try really hard not to laugh, while in my head thinking,

"Okay, then. You stop breathing and let me know how that works out for you..."

I'm sure you like looking at photos of my bleeding heart(s).

No one ever learns how to breathe, they just get a slap on the ass, and on they go...Breathing. But like everything, there are ways to screw it up...And if there's a way to screw something up, chances are, I'm really, really good at it.

When I was a patient advocate at the clinic, I helped people breathe their way through uncomfortable procedures. The correct technique can calm a person down and help them manage their pain. The wrong kind of breathing can do just the opposite.

I'm fine if I'm doing moderate exercise at a decent speed, but when I try to keep up with the faster kids and start to push my limits, my breaths become faster and more shallow to match my leg speed. What that does, is keep me from getting the good red blood cells from the bottom of my lungs to my muscles, my legs start to fatigue, I don't get enough carbon dioxide out, it makes me panicky and eventually will cause me to cry and slow WAY down. Once, when Coadster and I were in an accident and I had a severe concussion, I hyperventilated so badly, that it seemed as though I was having a seizure, and the nurse literally made me breathe into a paper bag.

Now that I'm taking myself completely out of my comfort zone for speed in running and biking, I've become all too aware of how badly I breathe during a hard effort. So, now I'm trying to teach myself to breathe better. I am working on taking long, slow breaths that come from the diaphragm and are exhaled completely. I am finally following my own advice. I have no idea how well I'll do during races, when I'm exhausted and not thinking straight and can't remember my own name, let alone how to practice "low" breathing, but I'm going to try. A long, deep breath. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. It seems like such a simple thing...


silly rabbit said...

If I am anxious... I can get frightened that I am not getting enough air...which causes me to screw up my breathing pattern and I have to force myself to calm down. Deep cleansing breaths. All the while I am telling myself that its silly to forget how to breathe! But I do forget how.
Do you have asthma? Sometimes I think its from having asthma as a child, when an attack felt like suffocation. Once the fear of not being able to get enough air was in my head, it was hard not to fear not breathing right.

Johnny Yen said...

I still remember a lot of the funny things my son said when he was little. One of the funniest was "I'm angry! I'm A WHOLE LOT OF ANGRY!" He was furious, but I was having trouble keeping from cracking up, which would have made him even angrier.

I was always good at breathing when I was running and bicycling. I wonder how much of it had to do with the fact that I had undiagnosed asthma most of my life? Looking back, I realize I was intuitively doing the "pursed lip breathing" that we teach asthma patients to do.

rel said...

It's the same no matter the goal, failure is a given. Success comes with retrying and retrying the new behavior 'til it over rides the old. But you knew that.

rel said...
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laura b. said...

Interesting. Breathing is just one of those things you do!

What this makes me think of is when my kids were know how if they get hurt or even really angry they do that sort of silent shriek and their face turns red...I remember saying "breathe....breathe..." and eventually they would and you'd get the non-silent scream :)

Your idea for focusing on breathing techniques for speed and endurance sounds like a really, really useful idea.

NoRegrets said...

Practice it enough and it becomes second nature.