Photo: Jason Kenworthy

Photo: Jason Kenworthy

Paddle Healthy: Breathing for SUP

Eat, breathe, sleep. That sums up life's basic needs. Seems fairly simple doesn’t it? Well, as we know it's not because we struggle with getting enough sleep and eating right. Then we ask ourselves: are we breathing correctly? The answer is "probably not." The first two basic human needs are very important topics in their own right, but for now let's talk about some easily applied concepts to help you breathe better.

The most common breathing question that we hear is, "Do you mouth breathe or nose breathe?" If you search the Internet to research which one is better, you'll get about a 50/50 split and each side has some very compelling arguments. But, rather than get down in the weeds with pros and cons, I'd like to shift the focus to the other components of breathing that are more important to life and SUP. You can figure out if you prefer mouth breathing or nose breathing on your own.

Let's talk about some very basic concepts of breathing, without getting into senior level medical school stuff! Your body needs certain things from the ambient air to survive: oxygen, nitrogen and a small portion of five other gases. Just as we use food as fuel, we use these gases as fuel, too. We need to be as efficient as possible with their uptake to maximize SUP performance, and how we function when we're off the water. So how do we go about doing that?

Developing proper breathing mechanics is first. I'm sure you've heard of the terms "stomach breathing" and "diaphragm breathing." You'd think with the continual flow of health magazine stories on this concept that it's a something new, but the opposite is true. Really, it's exactly how we were wired to breathe—just look at how any kid under the age of five inhales and exhales.

The trouble is that as we get older we train ourselves to abandon this natural breathing and start taking short, shallow breaths that supply us with minimum oxygen intake, limiting performance in SUP and every other area of our lives. This is partly because we're trying to live up to media-fueled expectations of thinness by sucking in our stomachs and are conforming to our largely desk-bound work lives by slouching. Another reason is that we haven't been taught how to breathe efficiently when we're under stress, whether from exercise or just the hustle and bustle of daily life. We've got to stop limiting our breathing capacity, folks!

Check out the video below, in which Slater Trout shows you an exercise for developing better stomach/diaphragm breathing mechanics. Get some practice in with these techniques and check back next week as we explore how to breathe right for better SUP performance. —Phil White

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