I remember a time when I just started working out using CrossFit; it was a thruster/row WOD. My lung capacity was decent, or so I thought. Then “3-2-1 GO” came and hit me like a ton of bricks. As I got off the rower to approach my bar again, my coach said “give me three BIG exhales. Exhale everything out”. All of a sudden my heart slowed down just a bit, my breath was no longer shallow and I felt a slight calmness.
Proper breathing (or breathing in general) is a huge part of any exercise. Without getting too nerdy and scientific, if you hold your breath while you are exercising, this will result in suffocation of your muscles and organs, well because you are cutting off your oxygen supply. Makes sense right? Of course it does, but for some reason, most athletes when starting a workout will hold their breaths. We end up with shallow, panting breaths where we can’t seem to really ever “catch” our breaths, and sometimes even a sense of dizziness or lightheadedness.
The body is smarter than we give it credit for. When we exhale, our bodies will naturally inhale the oxygen it requires to keep our organs and muscles functioning (and as morbid as it is, that is why people drown - your body wants to find oxygen and inhale).
Exhale is the key to all workouts, whether it is cardio or weightlifting. We always want to exhale on exertion. For example, when you are pushing a bench press off your chest, you exhale on the push and inhale as you bring it slowly to your chest. When you are doing a pullup, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down.
So just remember, BREATHE.