How Breathing Can Elevate Your Training and Optimize Performance

Sponsored by our partner, Airofit
Presented by Spartan Training®

Proper breathing is essential. Not only does it make you perform better, but it also makes you feel better. It makes you happier, decreases stress levels, increases your heart rate variability, improves the quality of your sleep, and aids in your recovery.

And while proper breathing sounds simple, the truth is that it’s not. Most people learn how to breathe incorrectly early on and form bad habits, and that can create many problems that affect both the body and mind negatively in a multitude of ways.

Airofit, a respiratory training system that improves your physical performance, was created to help you breathe the right way. Regardless if you’re an elite OCR competitor, are currently suffering from health issues, or just want to improve the quality of your life, Airofit’s resistance training will make your breathing muscles faster, stronger, and more efficient. On the Spartan course, the benefits include increased pace and greater endurance. Off the course, you’ll build up your immunity and improve your mental performance.

A Masterclass in Respiratory Muscular Training

There’s an incredible wealth of science and data that goes into respiratory muscular training (RMT), and what makes Airofit so effective. In order to effectively explain the how and the why, we scheduled a webinar with some of the most brilliant minds in coaching, obstacle racing, and breath performance. Moderated by DEKA Program Director Yancy Culp, the webinar featured elite Spartan racer Veejay Jones and Airofit Performance Breath Coach Sean Coakley. 

Among many other topics, the trio broke down how RMT can increase your energy during key moments, help you recover better so you’re fit and ready for your next race, and uplevel your performance, regardless of your athleticism, age, or skill level.

Coakley also explained, in great detail, how to use the Airofit if you've never trained your respiratory system before. Think of Airofit training as a 5-to-10 minute daily meditation, done in addition to your normal training regimen. You simply pair it with the app, breathe as instructed, and follow along with the program, picking up improvements along the way. In time, you will break old habits and create new ones, allowing you to breathe more efficiently. And yes, it’s absolutely a form of exercise, especially for those who are elderly or spend much of their time in a sedentary position. It gets the heart rate up and, from a mental standpoint, delivers more oxygen to the brain and wakes your mind up (which is especially beneficial if you’re working remotely and sitting inside all day).

Over time, as you continue to progress and it gets your blood flowing, it becomes a full-fledged workout.

“It brings a great general awareness to your breath because you're seeing your breath expressed on a screen,” Coakley says. “You're following a little red ball across the screen, and you're directly connected to that.

“...It allows people who have not learned the benefit of connecting with their breath the ability to get rid of distraction and to hone in on what's really important, the core of who we are, because breathing is the strongest urge we have.”

The Airofit training system is evidence-based, going back centuries, with techniques and learnings from a wide range of disciplines.

"Most people do not learn now to breathe properly,” Coakley says, “and the intelligence that's inside of this device, inside of the app, is based on science. It's based on hundreds and thousands of years of yoga-style breathing, scientific-style breathing, of a myriad of different breath coaching styles. It's all inside the app, and it's all laid out very easily for everybody to use.”

The Correlation Between Proper Breathing and Confidence

Though he’s only 23 years old, Jones has already established himself as one of the greatest Spartan racers of all time. (He is No. 1 in our latest Power Rankings, and came in at No. 11 on our list of the greatest Spartan racers ever, published earlier this year.) 

The reigning United States National Series champion began using Airofit consistently back in the summer of 2019, a couple of months prior to the North American OCR Championships. For much of the past three years, Airofit has played an integral role in Jones’ training, and his resume over that period is nothing short of brilliant. He’s reached 26 podiums — the most in the U.S., and the third-most worldwide — since 2019, including seven in 2021 (six of which were victories).

In addition to the physical benefits that he’s reaped from Airofit, Jones is quick to point out that the respiratory training has also increased his confidence at the start line, and during the more physically demanding portions of races. During the 2019 North American OCR Championships, Jones pushed his body to the limit for 18 minutes. He recalls going up and down mountains as his body was getting jolted and descending at 20 percent grade as fast as possible. And yet, despite the high-octane nature of the race, he was still able to confidently move air through his lungs. He ended up winning the 3K race — which included more than 15 obstacles and ungodly elevation gain — topping such superstars as Ryan Atkins, Aaron Newell, and Ryan Woods.

“It was amazing,” Jones says. “I think this is going to be a huge part of training in the next few years, especially in endurance sports."

For recreational racers, as well, Coakley can’t emphasize enough the correlation between proper breathing and confidence.

"When you get to the starting line, you know that you have this lighter feeling,” he says. “You don't feel like you have a weight on your chest. You can breathe at ease, at capacity. I equate that to confidence and feeling good about your ability to compete at your highest level. Nothing feels better than the sensation of not feeling out of breath when you're working at your hardest. 

“That's really what the limiting factors are. If you can go into a competition — whether it's your first Spartan race or you're reaching at the highest levels like Veejay — if you can approach it knowing that you don't feel out of breath, and you know that ahead of time going in, your level of confidence and engagement is through the roof because that limiting factor goes away."

Watch the webinar in its entirety above.