Workout of the Day

Getting Nosey


I wrote last week (LINK) about the very real (though perhaps counter-intuitive) problem of overbreathing. In short, when we breathe too much (i.e., more than is needed for our level of activity or rest), we disrupt our physiology and homeostasis, and this can have both chronic and acute negative side effects. One way that I noted we can take control of our breathing -- and therefore our physiology -- is by prioritizing nose breathing.

Breathing through your nose provides a host of benefits, both in training and at rest.

1 - Volume control.

Piggy-backing on last week’s topic, breathing through your nose helps to control the volume of air that moves in and out of the lungs, and aids in slowing down your respiration rate. Apply this to exercise, and you will find that when you breathe through your nose only you are forced to take long, slow breaths rather than hurried partial breaths. On top of controlling volume of air inspiration and expiration, breathing through your nose encourages diaphragmatic breathing and helps to detrain the all-too-common chest and shoulder breathing pattern.

2 - Prepare your air.

Physiologically, the nose is designed to breathe. The hairs and mucus in the nose warm and moisten the air as well as filter out particles, and the presence of nitric oxide in the paranasal sinuses acts to sterilize the air you breathe in through your nose. Consider your nose as your built-in air purifier.

3 - Better oxygenation. That gas that I mentioned above, nitric oxide, is quite the multi-trick pony. Produced in the paranasal sinuses, you draw in a significant concentration of nitric oxide when you breathe in through your nose. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, and acts to improve the ventilation-perfusion ratio (better gas transfer between lungs and blood), as well as significantly increase oxygen saturation in the blood. Think of this as a fuel additive that better pumps the fuel (oxygen) to your engine (muscles), and makes the fuel higher octane as well.

4 - Tune your nervous system.

Slow, deep breathing through your nose has also been shown to upregulate parasympathetic function, which is the “rest and digest” mode of your autonomic nervous system. Practically, this means better mental state, lower stress, better recovery, better sleep, etc. Feeling stressed or anxious? Shutting your mouth and letting your nose do its job might do the trick.

This only scratches the surface, but it's safe to say that there are some good reasons to let your nose do the lion’s share of your breathing. This means at work, in the car, while you sleep, and even while you train. A note on nasal breathing in training: because of the limits on ventilation capacity with nasal breathing, it can be challenging to maintain nasal-only breathing as intensity increases. This can, however, be trained and adapted like anything else. Start with your warm-up, trying to maintain nasal breathing as much as possible, and gradually work it into your training, starting with rest periods and longer duration low-moderate intensity efforts. Your breath is your gateway to your state and your physiology. Breathe better!

P.S. Coach Preston will be starting research soon on nasal breathing and performance in high intensity exercise, and will need participants for a study. If you’re interested in being a participant, or are just curious about the research, let him know!

- PS


  • Yoke carry - 50’ max


  • 4 rounds for time:

    • 600m run

    • Rest 1 min