Hey CrossFit Recovery Warriors!

Last time I talked about those sweat angels us CrossFitters love to leave on the floor after a workout. In addition to that all important rehydration we talked about, what if there was a simple yet powerful thing you could do to kick start your body’s recovery engine WHILE laying right there on the floor?

Yes, harnessing the power of breathwork can be a game-changer for CrossFit athletes looking to optimize their recovery and unlock their full potential.

So, take a deep breath and join me as I explore the benefits of breathwork and how incorporating a daily practice can help you recover faster, perform better, and live healthier.

Recovery Breath: Finding Your “Rest and Digest” Zone

Even though you may be happy the WOD is done, you really don’t get into a recovery state right after a workout. Instead, your body stays in a sympathetic response (high stress or “fight or flight” zone). By focusing on slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing post-workout, you can down regulate your body out of a stressful state and create a parasympathetic response (low stress or “rest and digest” zone). Doing this triggers a multitude of physiological responses that promote relaxation, recovery, and repair.

After a tough WOD or any stressful situation, try to make a point to focus on your breathing. The best way to do focused breathwork after exercising is to sit upright or lay supine. This way your straight spine allows your lungs to fill more completely. If you’re still in the gym, try putting your feet up on a wall or box (knees at about 90-degree angle). Cover your eyes if you can and focus exclusively on nose breathing…because nobody likes a MOUTH BREATHER!

Seriously, aim to keep a 1:2 cadence, think something like a four second inhale followed by an eight second exhale. Count this cadence in your head and try to breathe this way for three-to-five minutes. This rhythmic breathing pattern helps lower heart rate, reduce cortisol levels, and promote optimal digestion and nutrient absorption – essential components of the recovery process for CrossFit athletes.

Pro Tip: Drive the breath with your belly, while keeping shoulders and chest relaxed. Fill your lungs from the bottom to the top, then empty the breath out during the eight-second exhale. Put your hands on your stomach and chest. Use the lower hand to ensure your lower belly expands; use your upper hand to make sure your chest isn’t doing the work.

Life Long Breath: Benefits of Daily Breathwork

Obviously, breathing is pretty important for life, so the benefits of focused breathwork extend far beyond the immediate post-workout recovery window. Incorporating a daily practice into your routine can have profound effects on your overall health, well-being, and longevity as an athlete.

  • Stress Reduction: Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can wreak havoc on your body, leading to inflammation, impaired immune function, and increased risk of injury. By practicing breathwork regularly, you can mitigate the harmful effects of stress, promoting a sense of calm, balance, and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.
  • Improved Recovery: Consistent breathwork promotes optimal recovery by enhancing circulation, oxygenating tissues, and facilitating the removal of metabolic waste products from muscles. This translates to faster recovery times, reduced muscle soreness, and improved performance in subsequent workouts.
  • Enhanced Mental Focus: Breathwork isn’t just about physical recovery – it’s also a powerful tool for sharpening mental focus and concentration. By training your mind to focus on the present moment and regulate your breath, you can cultivate a state of mindfulness and flow that carries over into every aspect of your life, both in and out of the gym.

Daily Breath: Incorporating Breathwork Into Your Routine

Here are some tips for incorporating breathwork into your daily routine:

  • Post-Workout Cool Down: Dedicate 3-5 minutes at the end of each workout to slow, deep breathing exercises to transition your body into a “rest and digest” state.
  • Morning Routine: Nothing too “woo-woo” about setting aside 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your day to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and set positive intentions for the day ahead.
  • Mid-Day Reset: Take a break from your busy schedule to pause, breathe, and recenter. Whether it’s a quick breathing exercise at your desk or a brief mindfulness meditation during your lunch break, find moments throughout the day to recharge and reset.

Breathwork can be a potent tool for CrossFit athletes looking to optimize their recovery, enhance their performance, and cultivate longevity in their athletic pursuits. By harnessing the power of breath, you can tap into your body’s innate ability to heal, regenerate, and thrive.

So take a long, deep breath and exhale slowly on your journey of harnessing the power of breathwork. Give it a try for the next week or so, both at the gym and outside of it, and let me know what new heights of strength, resilience, and vitality you unlock!