Exhale and Let Go
In July, Caleb and I spent a couple of days hiking in the glorious Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, after attending StrongFirst’s Strong Endurance training in Denver. As part of the course we discussed training protocols and techniques to improve breath control, one of the simplest being to focus on the exhalation as a means of flushing out the carbon dioxide and waste products to make room for new oxygen to flow in on the inhale. We got a chance to put this into practice immediately following the seminar, as we took a quick hike from the Alpine Visitors Center up to an elevation of over 12,000 feet! At that altitude you can truly feel that no amount of gasping in for air will help – your only hope is to focus on exhaling fully so that you have the space for new oxygen as you breath in.
As I am putting the finishing touches on our Stress Less Seminar, I realized that this idea of fully exhaling and releasing the “old” in order to make space for the “new” sums up pretty much, well, EVERYTHING! And I got so excited that I had to send out my FitKit a day early with this little spoiler – It’s all about the exhale and learning to let go.
In looking at stress-reduction there are three key areas to focus on: muscle relaxation, breathing, and meditation. Learning to let go of muscle tension helps restore the muscles so that they can rebuild, repair and get stronger. Tension and relaxation are opposite sides of the athletic coin – you need to be able to do both. So learning how to release tension will also help you understand how to generate it when you want it in an athletic activity.
In terms of breathing, I’ve already mentioned that in order to be able to get enough oxygen in, you need to be able to fully breathe out. Our bodies are designed to release toxins by exhaling, so practicing deep breathing techniques helps your body regenerate on a cellular level. From an athletic standpoint, better breath capacity and control will help prevent you from gassing out and sucking wind just minutes into a training session or competition, as well as keep the muscles oxygenated. Being able to breathe deeply can help keep your heart, lungs, nervous system, immune system, and digestive system healthy.
Meditation is also a method for letting go and creating space – this time in the mind. If you are anything like me, you probably have experienced times when you had a mind racing with too many thoughts to be able to focus… Or times when you’ve had thoughts of self doubt or negativity that have either prevented you from doing your best at something, or maybe even from trying it at all. Meditation can help us to free our minds from latching onto negative or distracting thoughts, so that we can allow ourselves the possibility of change and newness, as well as the ability to focus on and enjoy the present moment. I got a chance to put this into practice at the recent Tactical Strength Challenge (a moment captured in photo thanks to my kettlebell snatch test partner Angela) as right before the 5 minute kettlebell snatch test I started to get nervous and began having negative thoughts pop into my head. I took a few minutes to focus on breathing and quiet my mind to allow those thoughts to come and go without holding on to them, so that I could allow my mind to be focused, calm and ready for the task at hand.
It really is as simple as that – exhale and let go of the old to make way for the new. But like any skill it does take practice. I hope you will join me tomorrow 11/18 at 10:30am to learn some easy techniques you can practice in just minutes a day to feel more relaxed, stronger, more positive and ready for just about anything! Whether you need to recharge from a high stress lifestyle, are an athlete looking to reduce performance anxiety, or just want a nice way to relax on a Saturday, I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Strength & love,