Day: January 2, 2012

Swimmer’s basic guide to understanding and avoiding hyperventilation and panic

The most common problem I find with novice and intermediate swimmers is anxiety about breathing. Whether this anxiety is a defining issue based on fear of the water, or a condition triggered by specific situations, the resulting hyperventilation can be a serious issue. In the moment, our brain and body get tricked into believing we need more air when we actually need to exhale more air.

What is Hyperventilation? The condition—a chemical imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide—results from having too much oxygen in our system and not enough carbon dioxide (which is a crucial vasodilator, or blood vessel dilator). When we over-inhale, we limit or prohibit transportation of O2 to the soft tissues, causing a sensation of severe restriction through our lungs and muscles. This is when we can misinterpret the distress signals: We feel like we need to breathe in as much oxygen as possible but, since exactly the opposite is true, that only exacerbates the problem. Our body is really telling us to calm down and exhale. This conundrum is even more exaggerated in the water, a medium that is foreign to our body’s preferred land/air environments. It creates anxiety which can give way to panic. Panic and swimming do not mix!

Swimmers who have not mastered breathing throughout their swim cycle (including: distance, sprints, turns and push-offs) are vulnerable to hyperventilation. The signals are pretty clear:

  • A sense of needing more air
  • A sense of tightness or constriction in the chest, shoulders, arms and legs
  • Colors darkening

Here’s what to do if you experience the type of breathing distress described above:

  • Force yourself to exhale slowly and easily (stop swimming if you need to)
  • Coach yourself to inhale in a light effortless manner (like a musician does when taking a breath before playing or singing the next phrase) and exhale at least two beats longer than your inhale.

Finally, here are some suggestions on how to avoid hyperventilation:

  • Make it a habit to always exhale through your nose in a controlled manner while inhaling quickly and effortlessly through the mouth.
  • Make it habit that your inhale/exhale ratio is at 1:2 or better.
  • While breathing for freestyle:
    • Focus on rotating your face out of the water from the chin rather than the forehead
    • Look slightly behind you to keep your neck aligned correctly.
    • Only allow yourself time to inhale while your face is out of the water, all exhaling should happen in the water.
    • Practice alternate breathing patterns (every third, fifth or seventh stroke)

If you think that you may need some help with breathing in the pool or just want someone to take a look at your breathing mechanics please contact Personal Fitness Trainer and Swim Coach Nathan Palmer.

There is only one question… Are you just going to set the exact same goals in 2012 and hope they go better? That’s crazy talk!

A year ago you were dead set on trying to lose 20 lbs. You were dead set on going to spin class once a week. You were dead set on getting Michelle Obama arms. It’s been a whole year. You have lost no weight; perhaps maybe you have just put on a few pounds. You went to spinning one day a week for a month and then the schedule wasn’t perfect with work so you haven’t actually done any spinning in 6 months. Your arms look pretty much exactly the same as they did last year…ugh.

So you’ve decided this time to set real goals. To really put your mind and body to accomplishing something that you can see, feel, or at least check off on your calendar. Now the only question is are you just going to set the exact same goals and hope round two is your time? Are you just going to do the same workouts? Are you just going to hope that this year your body loves you and makes miracles happen? How is this time going to be different?

First let’s talk about setting the same goals. This is a sure fire way to fail. If you didn’t accomplish even one of the goals you set last year (or 6 months ago, or one month ago, or one week ago) what is the point of just saying let’s try it again? Why not try setting smaller goals, more specific goals, or completely new goals that you really truly care about. If you do a better job goal setting I can assure you that you will be much more likely to accomplish something this time around.

Are you going to do the same workouts and eat the same way? Doing the exact same thing (or close to it) and expecting a different result is just plain crazy talk. There is no way that you can hope to do the exact same things and expect a different outcome; it’s just not going to happen. So it’s up to you to make the change, this could mean everything from cutting out dairy from your diet to joining a swim conditioning class to swapping one day of long boring cardio for some higher intensity workouts. It could mean a complete overhaul of your program starting with talking to a trainer for ideas, program suggestions, or jumping into some personal training sessions. Let’s face it, you’ve tried it your way and it didn’t work, maybe now it’s time to get serious and talk to a professional. If you really want this it really could be yours!

Can you make miracles happen by just wishing for them to? I doubt it, but if you can please come talk to me and let me know your trick! You can’t just sit on the couch and hope that tomorrow your body turns up its metabolism and starts burning calories like crazy. You can’t hope that by cutting out one packet of sugar from your daily coffee that you’ll lose 10lbs (but cutting out one soda a day from your diet, regular or diet soda, will make you lose 10 lbs in a year). You can’t magically force your body to burn calories while you sit on a bench in between your whopping two sets of biceps curls and hope that this time your muscles are going to respond. It’s just not in the cards my friend. So do yourself a favor, visualize success all you want but you have to actually put in the work to make it a reality, those are the facts.

How is this time going to be different?
First set new, attainable, important goals. Real goals that you really want, that you are ready to work for; goals that you can share with other people and get some support. Goals that you have a clear road map as to how to achieve them.

Second, let go of the idea that wishing, wanting and think positive it is enough…it is a great start, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to put in the work. No magic, no excuses.

Third, try something new. Try a new class, add in a day of different styles of working out (instead of running you can row, instead of Body Pump you can try TRX, instead of ActivTrax you can get some training sessions and learn how to use kettlebells, etc), even changing the time/intensity/format of your workouts can be enough to make a difference. So if you aren’t ready to get nuts and try Power Bands you can at least stop riding the recumbent bike at a level 10 for an hour and get on an Arc Trainer for 30 minutes of high intensity intervals. It doesn’t have to be crazy Crossfit workouts but making changes not only to your general workouts but to your diet as well will help you move to the next level. Positive changes yield positive results plain and simple.

So let’s cut out all the crazy talk, lies, and get down to it; you are ready, you want to make the change, you want to see results, or you just don’t really care that much. These are your goals, not anyone else’s so if you don’t really care then that is your choice. But if leaning out is important to you, if getting off your high blood pressure medicine is important to you, if bettering your half marathon time is important to you, or if just feeling good about yourself and making positive changes to your every day life is important to you than it’s time to make a change. This really could be your year, really!