Respiratory training is something that you don’t see that often being brought up when it comes to workout routines or fitness in general. Not even among runners. And that is complete nonsense because any type of aerobic (and even some of the anaerobic) activities will rely heavily on the way you breathe and how efficient your body is at breathing.
Breathing will have a tremendous impact on your performance and stamina. So if you are an endurance runner who is looking to step it up a little bit more, this article will go right down your track. We are going to discuss a little bit about respiratory training, what it is, how it can help you and how you can actually implement it in your workouts.
So let’s get to it.
What is respiratory training?
Before we dive into it, let’s start with the beginning, shall we? So what exactly is respiratory training? It may sound intimidating at first, but it is quite a simple concept actually.
Respiratory training, often referred to as hypoxic training, is a way of strengthening and conditioning your respiratory system by restricting the amount of oxygen you take it with each breath. By doing repeatedly, two main things will happen to your body… and this leads us to the next section.
How does respiratory training work?
First and foremost, respiratory training will force your lungs to become stronger. They will work harder trying to supply the same level of oxygen, so they will develop their strength. Lungs are just like a skeletal muscle from this point of view.
And breathing under resistance is like using a dumbbell to train your bicep. The more resistance you add the stronger the muscle becomes, by adapting to that stimulus.
The second thing that will happen to your body, which is really fascinating if you ask me, is that it will become more efficient at utilizing the oxygen. We know that oxygen is carried by the bloodstream through the body to all the organs and cells that need it.
When there’s a shortage of oxygen the body picks up that signal and uses it more efficiently. Over time you will be able to perform the same or even better by using less oxygen.
So when you remove the air or oxygen restriction, any kind of physical activity will feel much easier and you will be able to perform better.
How can you implement it?
The most common way of integrating respiratory training in your workouts is to train at a higher altitude, where there is less oxygen. This means that you will actually need to go in the mountains at 4,000-5,000 feet above sea level or more and train over there.
The benefits are obvious. The oxygen concentration is lower at high altitudes, so your body will have to adapt to that. Once you go back to sea level you will be able to run faster, for a longer period of time while maintaining a lower heart rate.
You will probably need to train at high altitude for at least 4-6 months in order to make your body adapt and see an improvement in performance when you go back at sea level.
That’s why training at high altitude might not be a viable option for most people. Since the vast majority of the population is living at sea level, that would be a big inconvenience. So the closest thing you can do to simulate the high altitude effect at sea level is to use an elevation training mask.
An elevation mask is a small and relatively inexpensive piece of equipment which covers your nose and mouth, making it harder for you to breath. There are a number of brands and models out there, but all have the same working principle.
They are using a valve system which restricts the air flow intake, so it makes it harder for you to breathe. Sure, the oxygen concentration of the air you breathe in will be the same, there’s nothing you can do to change that, but because you will be taking in less air, you will be inhaling less oxygen as well.
People have found it to be an effective alternative to altitude training in many sports ranging from basketball, football, running and even CrossFit. So it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
Over to you
Regardless of which of the two methods you chose – going to the mountain or use a gear which simulates the high altitude, you need to progressively incorporate it into your workouts.
Start off with a lower intensity run until you get used to the restricted air/oxygen intake and build your way up gradually over time. I’ve talked to so many people who tried air resistance training and didn’t go through with it simply because they went all in right from the start and it just felt too difficult.
So definitely start slow and progressively make your workouts longer and more intense.
Tyler has been working as a certified personal trainer for over 10 years specializing in weight loss and functional training with women between the ages of 30 – 65. He also enjoys helping others become industry leading personal trainers through his website PTPioneer.com and YouTube Channel.
33% Off Training Peaks Discount Code
Signup to receive an ALL-INCLUSIVE 33% off discount code for any Endurance Hour training program purchase on Training Peaks. Enter your email address below and we'll show you the code right now! Happy training, racing or recovery!