Improving Breathing and Performance (Part 4): Breathing and Stress - How to Shut Down and Recover Your Nervous System
We've already discussed how to increase performance with breathing and bracing strategies during movements (I highly recommend checking out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to get the whole picture), but what about when the training, competition, mission, or workday is over? An inability to shut down, sleep, and recover is not only frustrating to that individual which further amplifies the stress, but is also untapped potential for performance gains. Recovery may be the most important part of your workout.
In normal diaphragmatic breathing, the heart rate accelerates when breathing in and decelerates when breathing out. This Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a glimpse into the balance of the nervous system. When athletes are in a constant state of sympathetic dominance, the heart beats like a drum and does not have a normal variability. This is exacerbated by heavy upper chest and neck breathing (discussed in detail in Part 1) and poor diaphragmatic activity resulting in chronic over-breathing. Loss of HRV is even found to be predictive of mortality in those with heart conditions.