If you’ve been following the Innate Strength Socials, you may have noticed that I undertook a 30-day Oxygen Advantage Breath Training Challenge. The reason I took on the challenge was to take my performance to the next level. I set out with the intention of improving my fitness levels, my ability to think clearly under pressure, and to improve resilience in mind and body. Although my progress was stalled due to sickness, there were a whole host of valuable insights gained within the 30 days. 
The benefits of breath training are many, both for general health, and in performance. The reason being that breathing affects every physiological process in the human body. So, when we restore our breathing, we unlock a whole host of benefits such as: 
 
Improved cardiovascular function & fitness 
Remain calm under pressure 
Better focus and mental clarity 
Improved resilience in mind & body 
Improved recovery 
 
As I’ve done a fair amount of this training in the past, I have witnessed these benefits. Now, I was looking to take it to the next level as I still hadn’t really tapped into the elite level of training. And to an extent, I re-captured many of these benefits within my first week of training. The training helped me bounce back from a very fatigued state to feeling the best I’ve ever felt on match day, all within the space of a week. I received benefits in my ability to relax and focus which manifests as my senses feeling sharper and allowing me to play with more flow and instinct. 
 
The beauty of breath training is that it is very simple, it requires no equipment, and almost anyone can do it. To give a quick explanation, oxygen advantage training techniques involve systematically performing breath holds to build up a tolerance to carbon dioxide over time. This allows us to breathe slower and breathe lower volumes. Or to use the Oxygen Advantage slogan ‘Breathe light to breathe right’. So, it involved me performing 2-3 sessions daily of holding my breath. It involves counting your paces as you pinch your nose and walking until you feel a strong air hunger. You stop for one minute which you count using a stopwatch, and you repeat, this time extending your steps by 5 paces. This is performed for 4 – 10 repetitions. After each breath holding session, we encourage that you follow up with a breath calming exercise which aids in resetting your breathing pattern. Each session takes approximately 20 minutes, depending on how many reps you perform. This can be progressed to walking with active recovery (walking during your recovery time), jogging with breath holds, and eventually sprinting with breath holds. Although it is not necessary, I used a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygenation levels for my own education more than anything else. Our blood oxygenation levels drop with each breath hold which is why this form of training is comparative with altitude training. 
 
My progress was stalled from either picking up a cold during my training, or from something called ‘the sanogenesis effect’ which Leo gave insight into on our socials. However, I still picked up some valuable insights from my training which I kept up throughout this period. 

#1: The Value of Accountability 

Frequency of training is the gold currency when it comes to breath training. That is why we perform it 2-3 times daily. And there are many, many times when life gets in the way which can lead to missed sessions, missed days etc. As I had committed to this challenge publicly, it was non-negotiable that I kept my discipline and performed my minimum threshold of sessions at the very least. There were many times when I didn’t feel like performing my training throughout the month, or when it was late at night, I was travelling etc. The difference was that I made an excuse to get it done this time, rather than the other way around. 

#2: The Importance of Routine 

This is a vital component of breath training. There are many factors to consider such as time available to you, commitments, energy levels, stress levels etc. etc. I may have been a bit naïve undertaking this challenge in the thick of my season while still processing grief in my personal life, but it was a valuable experience, nonetheless. Planning your day is something all of us could benefit from but it is particularly important when doing breath training. A sleep in can lead to a missed session or your day schedule getting knocked further back than you’d like. I witnessed this when I was sleeping longer when fighting off my cold, the downside was I found the day getting away from me slightly at times. Training is to be done on an empty stomach too which can be awkward when things begin to slip. 

#3: Listen to your Body 

This is one of the most valuable aspects that breath training can teach you. And it’s an on-going learning process as I re-learned this time (and will probably have to re-learn in the future!). In my case, I took a chance and progressed to the elite level of breath training while I was dealing with my cold. This was on top of heavy training that I was doing with my own sports team. Ultimately, I paid the price in not listening to my body as the cold dragged on for almost two weeks. I was impatient to move forward, yet this decision ended up stalling my progress completely and the challenge fizzled out towards the end as my motivation dwindled. The smart thing to do would have been to drop my intensity for a couple of days and stick to walking breath holds and progress to the elite level of training once fully recovered. 

#4: Breathe to Perform 

Did I achieve the individual objectives I set out to achieve? Although subjective, the results are murky on that one. However, overall, while I was still healthy in the first week, the breath training benefited my performance. There was one moment where I did an instinctive piece of skill to get away from my marker in my match and took my score in style. If I was to think about it, I could never have done it. It was a moment in flow state where my subconscious took over. It is in areas like that where I get most of my benefits whereas improvements in my cardiovascular fitness are more subtle. Overall, it was my best performance in a few years which is no coincidence. 

#5: A Hangover Cure 

This was an unexpected discovery. When people ask me about breath training, I advise them to choose a period in their life when they can be disciplined and cut out disruptions like nights out on the beer. And my intentions were that I would refrain from drinking throughout this block, but that is easier said than done when all your teammates are heading out after a big win. But I think I learned and benefited more from doing this challenge with some nights out than I would have without (although my immune system might disagree!). I still performed my training while hungover and surprisingly, it’s not as bad as you might expect, and it also cleared the head extremely well. Best of all, by performing this healthy habit, you automatically follow up with other healthy habits, and you keep your life on track. Up until now I was a sucker for putting the feet up, throwing on Netflix, and digging into a takeaway and staying up late on the very day I should be heading to bed early. This would have a knock-on effect on the rest of my week – whereas now I feel my relationship with hangovers has improved from this insight. It’s something I’ll keep up after drinking from now on, even if I’m not in the middle of a block of training. 
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my insights into Breath Training the OA way. If it inspires you to start your own journey, then reach out to Leo and start the Breath Coaching for Health Coaching with him. It's OA and so much more & It's well worth the investment.  
 
Marcus 
 
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