The “Magic Exercise” Missing From Most People’s Workouts
Oct 23, 2014
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I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but in order for a workout to be any good these days, it has to be “intense.”
Or it has to “rock.”
But what if all this “intensity” isn’t necessarily the best thing for us?
What if it’s actually getting in your way, robbing you of the results you’re so desperately looking for?
One of my clients, “Mike,” is an entrepreneur. He runs multiple businesses. A couple of years ago now, he went through a year that could only be described as “hell on earth.” His wife almost died from alcoholism - literally. He said that her doctor said she was so anemic from not eating or drinking anything of substance, that she was literally days away from death. To compound matters, at the same time, in one of his businesses his partner emptied their bank account to the tune of six figures, skipped town, and left Mike holding all the business liabilities.
A lesser man would’ve crumbled. He didn’t. He kept his businesses open. He remained a father to his two young kids. And he visited his wife daily along with seeking counseling for himself.
To say that he was “stressed out” would be an understatement.
Here’s what else he did:
He still met with me 3 days a week.
Did we have “killer” workouts?
Because his body was already stressed out to the max.
So what’d we do?
Easy strength workouts. Workouts that didn’t overly tax him yet made him feel good physically and feel good about himself emotionally.
Lots of times we did the “Magic Exercise.”
I’d make him lie down on the floor and…
He’d diaphragmatically breathe.
I remember one session he came in and was really wound up. (Who wouldn’t be?) So I said, “Ok, Mike, here’s what we’re gonna do: I’m going to turn this light off and you’re going to lie right there on the floor with your feet up on this chair for as long as you need.”
That was the whole hour.
And you know what?
There was a sweat angel underneath him.
His body was so stressed out, that “all” he could do that day was breathe.
It was what he desperately needed. Both physically and psychologically.
Diaphragmatic breathing isn’t sexy. It’s not killer or hardcore or bada$$.
But it is a necessity for health and performance.
Think about it - breathing is literally the very first thing you do when you’re born and it’s the last thing you do before you die. It must be important. Really important.
Why's it so important?
Diaphragmatic breathing balances out your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, allowing your body to function more optimally. It helps reduce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which are more often than not elevated due to stress-filled work environments and a lack of sleep, so commonly associated with 21st century living.
Here are 8 other benefits reportedly linked to deep diaphragmatic breathing:
- Helps lower blood pressure, and therefore risk of heart disease
- Helps lower blood sugar, and therefore risk of diabetes
- Releases serotonin, which not only makes you feel good, but can reduce cravings for processed carbohydrates and other junk food
- Eliminates free radicals from the body, improving cellular function and lifespan
- Increases the secretion of growth hormone and slows the aging process
- Improves mental focus and clarity by increasing blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of your brain
- Improves sleep quality
- Facilitates weight loss by balancing stress hormones with anabolic hormones
As you can see, there are some important benefits to regularly practicing diaphragmatic breathing. And doing it is a great way to replace a workout on an overly stressed out day like Mike did or "just" finish off a workout.
When I owned my group kettlebell training facility, I would always finish my 545pm night classes with 5 to 10 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. It was the best part of the members’ night, by their own admission. They’d literally peel themselves off the floor and drag themselves out the door, (leaving sweat angels behind) and always saying to me, “You’re gonna be here Thursday night, right?”
When you’re done with your workout, do what I did with them:
Pick a comfortable position to lie down in - either on your stomach or on your back.
Close your eyes, think about your favorite vacation, and just breathe for the next 5 minutes or more.
You’ll be surprised not only how good you feel after you’ve done it, but how well you sleep that night, and how much more recovered you feel for your next workout.
Sure, diaphragmatic breathing may not be “killer,” but it might just be what you need to end a killer day.