Relearning to Breathe

As I noted in yesterday’s post about learning to breathe differently, I’m leaning into a different way of thinking about breathing and working on changing old habits to see how The Oxygen Advantage approach affects me.

This morning I went for my second nose-breathing run with a similar format like I tried yesterday. I started with a 15-minute walk (all nose breathing), and then I was able to run for 3 minutes with nose breathing before dropping back to walking for a few minutes. That’s longer than the 1:44 I did yesterday for the first round.

For the second round, I ran for 5 minutes before dropping back to walking.

And then for the third round, I ran 42:30 continuously. During this segment I also incorporated 10 breath holds with about 12 paces each time. For the last mile, I pushed myself to run a little faster. My pacing was still slower than I could do with mouth breathing, but I’m getting used to running while nose breathing.

After running for 30 minutes straight with nose breathing during the final segment of yesterday’s run, I thought that maybe I could do that right away upon starting today… like maybe my body just needed to learn the right breathing rhythm. Apparently there’s more to this though since it was still challenging starting out today, so that’s why I only made it 3 minutes the first round. It was better than yesterday at least.

Doing a 3-minute round followed by a 5-minute round worked well for starting. Nose breathing does seem easier and more natural when I’m very warmed up, but apparently even a 15-minute walk isn’t enough to warm me up fully for it.

Perhaps I’ll experiment with faster walking for the warmup to see if that makes a difference. It would be nice to run for an hour without needing to do a couple of intervals first. Maybe I just need more practice to retrain my body to get used to exercising with nose breathing.

I also wonder what would happen if I skipped or shortened the walking warmup (even though it’s recommended by the book) and just started with some short running/walking intervals to warm up to continuous running. Previously I would only walk about 2 minutes before I started running.

Walking Breath Holds

I’m also practicing walking breath holds as The Oxygen Advantage recommends. So while walking, I hold my breath from time to time and count how many paces I can go before feeling a strong urge to breathe again. These walking breath holds are done after an exhale, so the lungs are mostly empty.

After the hold I return to normal nose breathing. Usually the next breath or two is heavier, but my breathing calms and stabilizes within 2-3 breaths, which is how it’s expected to go. The purpose is to train the body to tolerate more CO2 in the blood.

Currently I’m averaging around 16 paces per walking hold. According to the book, the goal is to build up to 80 paces, and a good rate of improvement is to add 10 paces per week. So that means adding 1-2 extra paces per day, which seems doable. If I can do 16 steps per hold today, I can probably do 17-18 steps tomorrow.

It seems almost unfathomable to build the duration of these holds from 16 to 80 paces over several weeks of practice – a 5x increase. It would be an interesting result to walk 80 steps without breathing (maybe even by the end of the year) since that’s far from what I can do now. I’ll keep practicing and see if I can get there. Even doubling to 32 steps per hold would feel like an accomplishment.

Early Symptoms

Switching to full-time nose breathing (instead of part-time) while also making my breathing slower and shallower is definitely different. My nose feels clearer inside but also more sensitive, like there’s a mild stinging sensation. It’s similar to the feeling after eating a big dollop of wasabi paste – that hot mustard burning sensation that really opens up the sinuses.

I’ve felt sneezy now and then too. Sometimes it feels like there’s a sneeze stuck in my nose that won’t come out. This is only mildly uncomfortable though.

While my nose feels clearer and more sensitive inside, my throat has been a little more congested. One breathing pathway is getting used more, and the other is getting used less. So I imagine they’re both figuring out how to adjust to this change. The book mentioned that there may be some symptoms while fully adapting to nose breathing.

What I like about The Oxygen Advantage practices is that they’re easy to incorporate into my day. I can do them while sitting at my desk, walking, and running as I’d normally do. So other than reading the book, there isn’t a serious time investment to make. I’m always breathing, so now I just practice breathing differently and weave in a few simple exercises. I also like that the metrics are easy to measure.