"Breathe properly, reduce stress through meditation, and gain kinesthetic and emotional self-awareness for optimal fitness and performance."
Do you need breathing lessons? This question might sound ridiculous, but if you want to skate long distances efficiently, you must be able to get all the oxygen your hard-working body needs.
Here is how to find out how you currently breathe: place your hands on your stomach below the belt line and take a very deep breath. Did your hands move in toward your spine? If yes, you have just filled only the top portion of your lungs. Your diaphragm stayed tight, blocking the path to a full intake of air. Fitness skaters need to make maximum use of their breathing power!
Because breathing habits are usually developed over a lifetime, learning proper breathing starts with awareness. Learning to watch and control your breathing offers other benefits, too. It takes your mind off external worries, helps you feel more in control, and slows the hectic pace of both your mind and body, all very healthy side effects!
You can incorporate the following "exercise" into the quiet moments of your daily life. When do you have private time? Driving your car. Before or after sleeping. At your desk. In these moments, start practicing full breathing with your undivided attention.
Here are two exercises to try. In both, breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Deep breathing: Take a deep inhalation that pushes your chest up and belly out, and then actively exhale until your navel contracts against your spine. Now release the muscles and allow your lungs to refill naturally as your diaphragm relaxes and expands. Repeat 3 three times.
- Four-count breaths: Inhale fully and slowly by counting slowly to four (at least 4 seconds). Exhale fully and slowly by counting four seconds. Continue breathing this way for at least a minute. Be very deliberate about equalizing the length of your inhalations and exhalations.
Imagine yourself at the starting line of your first marathon. The excitement seems overwhelming! But remember, you can calm your nerves and prime your oxygen processing capabilities at the same time by breathing deliberately: four seconds in, four seconds out; four seconds in, four seconds out.
There’s the starting gun — off you go, and good luck!Return to top
The four-second breathing method described above not only helps you train your diaphragm but also taps into the mind/body connection inherent in the act of breathing. Following are three ways to increase the benefits of proper breathing for your skate training as well as to other life activities.
- During your skate training, practice drawing your navel to your spine while skating in a tuck. Experiment with inhaling fully into your ribcage while your abdomen is compressed this way. If you frequently experience back pain while skating in a tuck, definitely try compressing your belly-which releases deep muscles in the lower back-to help relieve the ache.
- Use breathing to relax in tense situations. If drafting closely, skating fast in a crowd, or swift downhill tucks cause you anxiety, use four-count breathing to breathe fearlessly until the situation passes. Likewise, if somebody else's driving or flying in an airplane frightens you, use deliberate breathing to calm yourself.
- To program yourself for the most positive outcome in a long-distance skating effort such as a marathon, sit quietly and comfortably for ten minutes several times before the big day. Imagine your strength as you start; your strong, confident strides for mile after mile; and your exuberant, still-fresh finish. Breathe deeply and rhythmically as you embellish these scenes in great detail.
In literature, in conversation and on the Web, we are hearing more and more about the benefits of meditating, from simple stress relief to extending longevity. A 2003 study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that regular meditation can even build up your immune system.
Meditating is a way of taking a brief and refreshing vacation from your own ego, or at the very least, from the information overload that bombards our senses each day. When you can set aside your desires, anxieties, planning and rehashing for even 15 minutes, you are going to return to your life refreshed. A sense of calm is guaranteed after you spend a few minutes away from your "doing" self and concentrate all of your attention on simply "being" who you really are in the current moment. Not the past and not the future--not on what you believe or hope, but on what actually is.
Try to set aside 15 minutes for quiet meditation at least one time, if not more often. Find a comfortable position that supports your spine in its proper curves but allows you to stay awake. If you want, set a timer for 15 minutes. Then, simply witness all of your senses without letting their feedback distract you from the here and now. What do you hear? What do you see with your eyes open? Closed? What do you smell? How do your knees feel right now? Your neck, your hands, your belly? Every time a thought sneaks in, notice it but don't judge or punish yourself for drifting. Simply resume concentrating on total awareness. If that is too hard, follow the patterns of your breathing. The passage of the breath into and out of your body is a reminder of how intimately your physical form is connected with the fabric of the universe.
If you hold down a job and are raising a family while preparing for the upcoming marathon, it may seem impossible to fit even 15 minutes of meditation into your busy life. Examine how you spend your time each day to see where your flexibility is. Bedtime just before you go to sleep is an option for this type of "mindful" meditation if no other time is free.
A closing thought: In life as well as in training for a skate marathon, try hard to remember that it is the journey, not the destination that is most important. Enjoy your journeys.Return to top