Patrick McKeown, author of this book.
During my college years, I never exercised or played any sports. In part this arose from a fear of asthma attacks, in part from laziness and in part because I had other fish to fry. When I tried to commence breath retraining I was a disaster. I could only do short walks; initially my maximum while maintaining nasal breathing was about half a mile which, for a young man, was disgraceful. I had to walk at a slow pace and whenever I was unable to maintain nasal breathing, I slowed down and rested until I could breathe comfortably again.
However, I persisted and each morning I got up half an hour early to take a walk down a country road near where I was living. I particularly enjoyed the freshness of the morning, the birds singing and being close to nature. My walk was an excellent start to the day, which before this would involve rushing straight from bed to the breakfast table and to my place of work. Furthermore, it was beneficial in reducing my symptoms for the remainder of the day.
After a few months, as my fitness levels improved and my need for reliever medication had decreased, I progressed on to the next stage of increasing my fitness levels, which was to enrol at a gym.
My first fitness assessment at the gym was rather poor, as my only form of exercise up to that point had been walking. However, my blood pressure and pulse rate were excellent despite my relatively poor fitness. I attended the gym three times every week for about half an hour each time. At first, I would spend ten minutes cycling on an exercise bike in a relaxed manner with controlled nasal breathing. After my cycle, I would spend about twenty minutes lifting small weights. My warm down would be a short cycle of about five minutes.
Gradually over the following months I progressed from cycling to gentle jogging on a treadmill. For the first ten minutes I would warm up by walking at an easy pace no greater than five kilometres per hour. For the next twenty minutes, I would jog with continued nasal breathing at about nine kilometres per hour. This would then be followed by a warm down lasting about five minutes.
It was a step-by-step process but I was enjoying it, because I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and positive. I also knew that I was making very steady progress and that provided me with great motivation.
These days I jog about four miles three nights a week with nasal breathing. Nasal breathing during running can create a substantial air shortage and this can cause the mouth to open. If you find your mouth opening, raise your tongue to the roof of your mouth to help prevent the air escaping. This will often be an instinctive response to help maintain nasal breathing. While I’m exercising, I make sure that I don’t push myself too hard, which would cause discomfort and that I feel well throughout. After exercise, I have more energy, a reduced appetite and a feeling of well-being. I also have a better control pause which should be the norm for anyone after a good exercise session.
To this day I have maintained my love of exercise and expect to have it for the rest of my life. I have never felt better and will never revert to my previously poor lifestyle. Most people who apply themselves diligently to regular exercise will continue because they know how good life is with it. They have good energy levels, good health and they also feel calm and good about themselves. Other people know that they should be exercising but due to laziness, do not devote any time to it. They then wonder why they are fatigued, why they are putting on weight that is difficult to shift and why they are sick. It will continue to be a downward spiral unless they take the time out to reflect on the current state of affairs.
This is an interesting little reminder from Edward Stanley: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
Case Study Two
There is no better example of the advantages of breathing therapy in sports than Shane. Despite having asthma Shane holds a Fourth Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and won the world championship in Open Martial Arts at his weight in 2002.
Shane’s asthma, as is the case with very physically fit people, was only of a mild severity. His symptoms would be chest tightness experienced during training and matches. His medication intake was two or three puffs of Ventolin daily and this would increase during a competition. Although this amount of medication is quite small, it was something that Shane had needed for many years. In addition, like all sports people he was concerned with whether his asthma would get worse. He lived in the hope that his symptoms would reduce during the run up to a competitive match. In a way he was at the mercy of his asthma, and that was something he could have done without, especially during championship fights.
Shane attended a number of consultations and made good progress. He reduced his training for the first couple of weeks in order to become familiar with the concept of reduced breathing and applied the tape at night while focusing a lot of attention on his breathing during the day so that he would make the change quickly. Shane was a diligent and disciplined student who was always a pleasure to teach. After two weeks of practising reduced breathing, Shane received his due reward of having no need for reliever medication. It is now a year since Shane was taught this method and he has not used his medication since. His fitness level has now surpassed what it was before and the bonus is that he no longer requires any medication. He has also noticed an improvement in the fitness levels of his own students because he has incorporated many of the points into their regime.