Workout of the Day

Breathe Slower to Breathe Better


If you’ve ever felt like it doesn’t take much to get you winded, the problem may be your day-to-day breathing patterns.

Your breathing serves two main functions: 1) bring in oxygen as fuel, and 2) get rid of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of metabolism. Both of these are good things, but in a classic case of “too much of a good thing,” breathing beyond what is necessary can lead to a cascading series of problems, physical and otherwise.

When you breathe more than is physiologically necessary, your body gets rid of more carbon dioxide than it needs to, which has two main effects.

First, it changes your body’s tolerance to carbon dioxide. Think of it this way: when you live in Minnesota in the winter, you get used to a certain level of cold. A 55-degree day feels like paradise after a string of sub-zero days. We’ll call this a tolerance to cold. Now, if the same Minnesotan takes a two month vacation to sunny San Diego to enjoy endless days of 75 degrees and sunny, they will return to Minnesota to find a 55-degree day feeling a bit chilly, and a sub-zero day feeling downright bone chilling. The same happens when you overbreathe. Your tolerance to carbon dioxide drops, and eventually even a small change in your levels of carbon dioxide -- say, from a small increase in metabolism from walking up the stairs -- will set off the “we need air” alarms in your body, and the most innocuous activity will leave you out of breath, never mind intense exercise.

Second, breathing out too much carbon dioxide actually decreases your body’s available oxygen. This possibly counterintuitive phenomenon, called the Bohr effect, happens because oxygen is released from red blood cells and made available to muscles based on the amount of carbon dioxide present in the system. In other words, when you’re spending 24 hours of your days breathing out more carbon dioxide than you should, your body is left with less oxygen available to use. This phenomenon can have especially dramatic effects when it comes to exercise. While it may seem like breathing faster and harder will get you more of that good oxygen you so crave, the opposite can happen if you’re overbreathing.

To make a somewhat complex system more simple, the takeaway is this: in general, breathing less will get you more. Throughout your day, driving to work, walking up the stairs, or exercising in the gym, conditioning yourself to breathe less (only as much as is necessary) can make a world of difference in your health and performance. There is such a thing as too much breathing. Respect your breath!

- PS


  • 3 rounds for time:

    • 1k row

    • Rest 2 mins


  • Every 2 mins for 8 mins:

    • 100m KB farmer’s carry (AHAP)