Breathing for Sports Performance

22nd July 2022

Hello, my name is Alexia Clonda.

I am a Breathing, Mindset and Spiritual Coach, Buteyko Breathing Technique Teacher, ThetaHealing Teacher and High-Performance Consultant Squash Coach.

I have been a champion squash player; junior world no 1 and world no 5, and have represented my country, Australia, at both junior and senior levels.

My first coach, at 13, said to me, if you live, breathe and eat squash, I will make you a world champion. From that day, I dreamed of being a world champion and world no 1. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that my body and health had other ideas.

I developed asthma when I was just 10 months old, and since the age of 18, my doctors told me to give up squash, “you are not healthy; you are really sick; asthma could kill you.”

Throughout my professional squash career, I had chronic, life-threatening Asthma. I depended on a machine and a ton of medications to keep me alive, let alone play squash and compete. I struggled every day with my health, it hurt to train, but I did because I was determined to be the best I could be, and nothing was going to stop me.

A month's supply of my medications in 1990

In 1996 at my absolute worst, the asthma was uncontrollable, and even increased doses of medications were not working; for the first time, I thought I would die.

Luckily, I came across a Breathing Technique from Russia; it had just arrived in Australia after the iron curtain had fallen. I was very skeptical at first, it couldn’t be this simple, and it turned out to be my lifesaver from the life-threatening asthma, a complete life changer.

A decade after this, and now retired from professional squash, in 2007 at 46 years of age, I played in the Australian Closed, I beat 3 of the top 20 players in Australia, all half my age, and reached the quarterfinals.

This is testament to the breathing and mindset techniques I have learned and now teach, enabling me to train and play smarter and still be alive today.

After a lifetime of health issues, my medical records read like an encyclopedia; sharing my knowledge and experience with you to help improve your squash and health with a better understanding of how to work with your body, mind, and spirit in achieving and reaching your goals and having a good quality of life.

Breathing for Sport Performance, Better Health and Life

The COVID pandemic has highlighted more than ever that breathing and mindset are keys to better health, improving quality of life, and so much more.

The number of articles in the media over the past three years on these two subjects alone has increased 10-fold, along with more scientific studies on the hows and whys of their importance to health and quality of life. Science-based benefits of breathing


Recently, researchers at Stanford University concluded:

“Breathing fuels the brain, and every other part of the body. And so by extension, it has a direct and profound impact on the mind and our basic psychological experience. We’re learning there’s more to the story than simply that we breathe; in terms of psychological effects, how we breathe is just as important. Notably, the yoga, religious and philosophical traditions always include some form of controlled, intentional breathing practices as part of meditation, incantations, and prayer.


The pattern and depth of breathing alter the physiological impact on oxygenation level, heart rate, ventilation, and blood pressure. These come with health implications. Patients with hypertension will see a decrease in blood pressure from slow breathing compared with high frequency breathing counts. For cognition, attention, and learning, we’ve begun to understand there are differences between nasal breathing and mouth breathing. Nasal breathing alters activation patterns in the brain’s amygdala and hippocampus, while mouth breathing does not.

It’s clear that the way in which we breathe matters a great deal.” Stanford study

So, ask yourself, is your breathing and mindset hindering or helping you?

Breath is Life

Our breath is the central key to life and energy.

Breathing, we just do it, right? Without even thinking about it. So much so that we take it for granted that we are doing it properly, because we don’t learn it and are not taught it.

Most people assume their breathing must be ok because they are alive. Wrong! This is a myth!

After years of research, science now tells us that correct breathing is vital for normal body functioning, and there is such a thing as dysfunctional breathing.

Breathing is the link between mind and body, spirit and matter, and the conscious and subconscious mind. Breath is a force and a tool.

Every psychological, emotional and physiological state has an associated or corresponding breathing pattern. How we breathe when we are peaceful, calm and happy is different from how we breathe when we are sad, angry or upset. When your state of being changes, your breathing pattern changes. It’s a two-way street: when you change your breathing pattern, you change your state! We can use the breath to hack and connect into our nervous system, our brain, and even our immune system. We can use our breath to change and choose our state of being at any particular point in time. Breathing is key, along with mindset. How does breathing affect your brain?

When we can control our breathing, we can control our awareness, our focus, our energy, and our life force. Breathing is a behavior. Breath control is self-control. Breath awareness is self-awareness. When the breath flows fully and freely, our innate and natural creative and healing energies also flow fully and freely.

Breathing – We just do it !

Breathing – it’s the first thing we do when we are born – the breath of life – and we keep on doing it until we take that last breath out when we die.

An average adult living to the age of 70 will breathe roughly 20,000 times daily; that’s over 7 million times per year and around 511 million in that lifetime. That’s a lot of breathing!

The quality of those breaths is key to your health, your body, your mind, and your fitness and sports performance. Breathing occurs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Breathing is an ongoing, habitual cycle, a continuum in and for our life.


How are you breathing right now? Is it easy or hard? Are you taking deep or shallow breaths? Are your chest and shoulders moving? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth?

In what part of your body are you breathing into?

People breathe in either of two ways; through their nose or their mouth. Normal and correct breathing, in and out, is through the nose into your belly. This is called functional breathing. The nose is made for breathing and smelling. Mouth breathing into your chest is called dysfunctional breathing. The mouth is made for eating and speaking.

You often hear someone saying to another take a deep breath, and that someone then sucking in as much air as they can through their mouth into their chest.

This is a common thing to do because when we think about breathing, we tend to imagine our chest is filling up with air because our lungs live in the chest, inside the ribcage, so breathing into the chest makes sense. Right? Wrong! This is a myth and incorrect.

Air is coming in, but it’s coming into the top part of our lungs, not into the bottom where it needs to go for proper oxygenation to occur so the oxygen can be utilized by the body correctly and efficiently for correct body functioning.

To breathe the air in properly and correctly, it must be done through the nose, breathing into the belly; this way the diaphragm is used, which is the major breathing muscle. By not using the breathing muscle, it atrophies, just like any other muscle of the body. And as the saying goes, don’t use it – lose it, and it stops functioning as it is meant to.

Hidden Over-Breathing

Over-breathing is breathing in excess of what the body needs. This over-breathing is called hyperventilation. It can be seen (when someone has a panic attack) or unseen (when someone constantly breathes through their mouth over long periods of time) This is called hidden hyperventilation, and we don’t even know we are doing it!

Many scientific studies on hyperventilation and hyperventilation syndrome have reported the dangers of mouth deep breathing. This type of breathing decreases the levels of CARBON DIOXIDE in the blood, causing an imbalance. Carbon Dioxide is needed in the body to be and stay alive and is essential for maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is the appropriate balanced and stable conditions inside the body that are necessary to support life and maintain a healthy body. These studies have also shown that many illnesses and diseases can arise from over-breathing over long periods of time. Dysfunctional breathing

It’s estimated that a large number of the population today are not aware they have a breathing dysfunction, such as chest breathing, mouth breathing and over-breathing. This breathing brings a lot of air in, but that air is not being utilized by the body and limits the oxygen going into the cells and tissues, reducing blood oxygen levels in the body, and opening the door to health issues.

Most of these people believe they have normal or even good breathing. People think mouth breathing is normal and ok because they have been doing it this way for a long time.

“More breathing in through the mouth means less oxygen in the body’s cells.” Imagine those hundreds of trillions of cells in your body not getting enough oxygen to do their job properly.

Mouth breathing is the hidden villain. Why? Because it’s causing OVER-BREATHING – taking too much air in.  This is Dysfunctional Breathing – Hyperventilation in its hidden form.

You’ve heard people say, “Take a deep breath in”. This is actually NOT helping you at all; it’s just reinforcing a bad pattern, a bad habit. In fact, it contributes to and could cause the problem! The scientific data shows that the body cannot efficiently utilize the volume of air coming in and proper oxygenation cannot occur. Hence less oxygen to the cells, tissues, organs, and the brain.

The body’s main breathing muscle is the diaphragm, which sits just above the belly and below the lungs. This muscle is supposed to draw the air into your lungs. When you are breathing with your diaphragm, the air is drawn into and reaches into the lower half of the lungs where oxygenation actually occurs, not in the chest, where most people think it happens.

When you breathe through the nose, it’s easier to bring the air right down into the diaphragm, remembering that the nose, not the mouth, is the body’s natural instrument to bring air into the body.

The diaphragm is a muscle, and like any muscle in the body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. The way to keep that muscle active is to breathe into it. Simple. Breathing into the belly using your nose. Likewise, with the nose, don’t use it, lose it, it gets blocked up, more and more, and you can’t breathe through your nose.

The nose is part of the respiratory system, while the mouth is part of the digestive system.

Breathing is an unusual and unique body function because it’s an involuntary and voluntary function, we do it automatically, but we can control it.

Other automatic and involuntary functions are heartbeat and digestion. These functions occur without conscious mind influence, and being involuntary, they are managed in the vast processing system of the subconscious mind.

But breathing can be managed voluntarily, in the conscious mind, meaning that we can take control and deliberately change the way we breathe.

We can make our breathing fast or slow, shallow or deep, or we can even choose to stop breathing altogether.

Since we’re breathing all the time, we take for granted we can control our breathing. Because we can control it, we can change it. We can change how we breathe therefore we can change how breathing affects our bodies.

Conscious control of the breath is a practice that is thousands of years old. Most forms of mindfulness and meditation will have you focus on your breath as a way of keeping you centred and calm. Breath meditation to relieve stress.

Try this simple exercise to become aware of how you are breathing right now.     

Have you noticed how you have been breathing whilst reading this article?

Just sit back in a chair and become aware of your breathing. Breathe just as you would normally, in and out, in and out, for about 30 seconds.

What did you notice? Are you breathing through your mouth or nose? Is your chest moving? Are your shoulders moving? Is your belly moving? What parts of your body are moving?

When you know how you are doing something, you have control over it, but the first thing you need to do is become aware of it. By becoming aware of your breathing, you can now focus on improving and bettering it.

We all have a Breathing Rate

Both breathing and ventilation rates are important measurements to understand how well or not well your body is functioning.

The breathing rate is the number of breaths taken in one minute.

Recent studies suggest that an accurate recording of breathing rate is very important in predicting medical and health issues. Studies also suggest that measurements of breathing rate are not done as often as they should be, so it’s been called the “ignored vital sign”.

At rest, normal breathing should be rhythmic and flowing, neither seen, heard, or laboured. A breathing rate of around 6-10 breaths per minute is the optimal breathing rate for normal body functioning.

If you are breathing more or less than this, your breathing could be an issue and needs correction. There could also be known and unknown health issues.

A low or high breathing rate is a message from your body that something is wrong. Studies in the 2000s have linked a number of illnesses and health issues directly to breathing rates.

The ventilation rate is the volume of air, measured in litres per minute you are breathing in.

At rest, breathing in around six litres per minute is considered optimal for good health and normal body functioning.

If you have dysfunctional breathing, both your breathing and ventilation measurements will be out of the normal range: Respiration rate + 6-10 breaths per minute and ventilation 6 litres per minute.

Think about this. Breathing is cyclery, rhythmic and flowing; it’s a pattern that occurs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter what we are doing. We breathe 24 hours a day for life.

Please note: When we are active, our breathing rate goes up proportionately, for whatever we are doing at that time, to meet the body’s needs over that period of time; that’s normal.

But if your breathing and ventilation rates at rest are not within their normal range, it’s possible that you are over-breathing and taking in way too much air when you are at rest and when active. When active, the activity will also have a breathing and ventilation rate range.

Your Breathing Rate

Try this simple exercise to measure your breathing rate.

Sitting down, get comfortable, relax and just breathe as you normally would. Time yourself for a minute and count the number of breaths you take. One breath is counted as breathing in and out – an inhalation and an exhalation.

How many breaths did you take? Does the number surprise you? Are you in the normal range of 6-10 breaths per minute?

Mouth vs Nose Breathing

Mouth breathing is the catalyst for the diaphragm to stop working and become lazy in the process of breathing. Mouth breathing is dysfunctional breathing, or over-breathing, and has a detrimental impact on your health, especially over a period of time.

Mouth breathing:

  1. Promotes chest /shoulder /neck movement
  2. Uses more energy, leading to tiredness and coping mechanisms wearing down
  3. Your nose becomes blocked, making it even harder to nose breathe, which, in turn, the nose becomes even more blocked
  4. Can cause overbite and incorrect jaw formation in children
  5. Changes the facial structure
  6. Promotes feelings of stress and shortness of breath
  7. Lowers immunity – weakening the immune system
  8. Increases blood pressure
  9. Activates the fight or flight response – releasing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline
  • Weakens the core
  • Effects our emotions
  • Promotes hidden hyperventilation, more over-breathing
  • Offsets the respiratory centre, which is like a thermostat in the brain, located in the medulla oblongata and pons, in the brainstem
  • Increases free radicals in the body
  • Decreases sleep quality

For athletes, this mouth breathing pattern and habit means you are no longer training your muscles to work efficiently, thus, your muscles will fatigue and tire more quickly.


The Nose Knows

Our nasal cavity is the only structure designed for breathing; it’s the body’s natural and normal way to breathe, to bring air into our lungs. It’s the body’s only filtration system for the air we breathe, cleaning, warming, sterilizing and filtering the air. Mouth breathing does not.

Breathing through the nose and diaphragm breathing is called functional breathing.

Nose breathing:

  1. Increases lung function
  2. Promotes diaphragm breathing
  3. Is the body’s filtration system of the air coming into our body
  4. Builds immunity and strengthens the immune system
  5. Helps to balance the acid and alkaline levels in the body
  6. Stimulates the nerve endings at the base of the lungs that are sending messages to the brain to activate the relaxation response
  7. Triggers the release of hormones, endorphins and dopamine, which elevate mood and reduce pain
  8. Helps to release stress and relax your nervous system, body and mind
  9. Helps bring the body back into balance for normal functioning
  10. Resets or keeps your breathing center, your breathing thermostat, in balance
  11. Helps to build and maintain a strong core
  12. Helps to decease blood pressure
  13. Lowers the white cell blood count, meaning less stress on the immune system
  14. Decreases levels of the stress hormones
  15. Promotes and increases better sleep quality

For athletes, nose breathing helps decrease the impact of lactic acid in muscular activity by promoting maximum delivery of oxygen to the working parts of the body. It also cuts down on dehydration and recovery time and increases oxygen intake by a min of 20%.

Nose vs Mouth Breathing

Please note: When we speak is the time we open our mouths. To let the breath out as we speak, we are actually breathing out when we are speaking, on the out-breath, when we need to take another breath in. It’s shut the mouth, take that next breath in through the nose. Breathing in through the nose, speaking on the out-breath.

Interesting Studies

One 2017 study published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, found diaphragmatic breathing can “improve cognitive performance, and reduce negative consequences of stress, in healthy adults”.

A 2018 review of the literature, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, went even further, proclaiming that “breath-control can change your life”. According to the study’s authors, researchers from the University of Pisa in Italy, slow breathing techniques trigger changes in our cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous systems, which lead to “increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion”.

Needless to say that breathing, bad or good, will have a profound effect on all systems of the body, the mind and spirit. The power of breathing.


An 18th Century discovery

In George Catlin’s book, published,, in 1870, ‘Shut your mouth and save your life,’ he outlines his travels in Native America.

He watched with interest the amount of attention Native American mothers paid to their baby’s breathing.

He noticed how they would gently press the baby’s lips together to ensure their child was nasal breathing after feeding.

He noticed that the babies of European settlers slept with their mouths open as they gasped for air in poorly ventilated rooms.

He saw that sickness rates were far lower in Native America than that of the European settlers, concluding that there is a definitive link between health and nose and mouth breathing.

So, with all due respect, SHUT YOUR MOUTH TO BREATHE BETTER and Be Healthier

The Gases Involved in Breathing and their Roles

Typically, the air we breathe consists of about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. with other trace gases. Nitrogen is also an essential element of all life. Everyone focuses on oxygen and forgets about the other elements vital for life and for our good health

The 3 main gases involved in Breathing are: Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, and Nitric Oxide.

Oxygen is the most vital element for breathing and life; interestingly, the human body is about two-thirds oxygen

Carbon Dioxide – gets a bad name; it’s not just a waste product. It is needed to release the oxygen from the cells, the hemoglobin, to the tissues; this is called the Bohr Effect.

When there are low levels of Carbon Dioxide, the oxygen cannot be released in the quantity needed, for normal functioning of the body, at rest or active.

It’s the carbon dioxide that stimulates you to breathe.

Carbon is a smooth muscle relaxer; smooth muscle is found in the stomach, intestines, blood vessels, and lungs, as well as in other parts of the body; it is also the body’s natural bronchodilator.

We need Carbon Dioxide to live.

It also helps in and with:

  1. Vasodilation(expansion of arteries and arterioles).
  2. Cell Oxygen Levels
  3. Oxygen Transportation in the body
  4. Free Radical balance
  5. Nerve Stabilization
  6. Muscle relaxation

Carbon dioxide levels in the body dictate how much oxygen we release to the cells. Our hemoglobin within the red blood cells ‘holds onto’ the oxygen molecule until there are sufficient levels of Carbon dioxide to release it.

Exercising produces more carbon dioxide, but if we breathe through our mouths, bringing in more oxygen, then we don’t allow that carbon dioxide level to rise to release more oxygen to the cells. That’s actually reducing the amount of oxygen we can deliver to the working cells that need it, and our performance decreases.

So, Nose Breathing will help efficient gas exchanges occur, helping our performance, not hindering it.


Nitric Oxide – a vital molecule produced in the body that affects many aspects of health.

Nitric oxide naturally occurs in the body via nutrient-rich foods and by nose breathing.

It is a powerful vasodilator and smooth muscle dilator, which means it opens your blood vessels increases blood flow, and helps reduce inflammation; it can also help reduce muscle soreness, improve exercise performance as well as lowering blood pressure, and help with better brain function.

There are 100,000 miles of blood circulation going on throughout your body. Nitric oxide is the king of blood circulation functions.

Nitric Oxide is produced in the sinuses, so when nitric oxide reaches the lungs, it increases the Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide exchange. Nitric Oxide also helps sterilize the air coming into the lungs and is a natural anti-bacterial.

Only as recently as the 1980s has the important role of Nitric Oxide been discovered in the functioning of the human body.

Nitric oxide was named “Molecule of the Year” in 1992 by the journal Science. (“Nobel Prize Awarded to Scientists for Nitric Oxide Discoveries”)

In 1998 the Nobel Peace Prize in Physiology and Medicine was jointly awarded to 3 scientists for their research into and findings of; Nitric Oxides role in the human body.

Continued research has proven the crucial role the Nitric Oxide plays in such fundamental biological processes as regulation of blood pressure, functioning and malfunctioning of the immune system, and activation of mechanisms in the central nervous system affecting everything from gastric motility to memory to behavior.

Breathing and Emotions

Breathing impacts and influences both physiological and psychological factors. 

Breathing patterns are also linked to our emotions. We know from research that our emotions change the way we feel and think.  We also know our breathing pattern can influence the emotions we experience.

Breathing and emotions, emotions and breathing are closely connected. Breathing has direct influences on the brain and limbic system (the emotional, behavioral, and memory center of the brain)

We can therefore change our emotions by the way we think and the way we breathe.

Many therapists and psychologists use a variety of breathing techniques with patients, but because breathing happens automatically, many of us don’t pay attention to our breath, nor have we learned how  to harness and utilize its full potential to calm our minds and body.

A revealing study by Pierre Phillipot showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct breathing patterns.

In this study, participants were instructed to generate emotions like fear, sadness, fear, and happiness to the best of their ability.

While they were experiencing the emotions, the research team asked each participant to closely observe and report on their own breathing patterns.

The research team found that each emotion was associated with a distinct pattern of breathing. For example, when the participants felt anxious or afraid, they breathed more quickly and shallowly, and when they felt happy, they breathed slowly and fully.

Even more interesting was the follow-up study. The researchers, working with a different group of participants, instructed them to breathe in the patterns they had observed corresponding to the emotions felt by the other group.

The researchers literally told the participants how to breathe and then asked them how they felt.

Lo and behold, the participants started to feel the emotions that corresponded to the breathing patterns!

This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath by the way we breathe. Scientific research now shows us clearly, that Changing how we breathe will affect and impact us in some way, either positively or negatively. Knowing this is a game changer, not only for our physical, emotional, and mental health but also for how we train and compete.

Breathing into Relaxation

I would like to take you through a breathing meditation, allowing you to become aware and focus on your breathing and to experience what good breathing feels like, this will also help you to relax, and it will take around 3 and a half minutes

Try this, please sit down, and get comfortable.

Put your right hand on your belly and just become aware and focus on your breathing, in and out, in and out. Gently close your eyes, breathing in and out through your nose, gently, slowing and easily

Breathing in and out through your nose, gently, easily, and slowly, breathing in through your nose into your hand, breathing out through your nose, breathing in through your nose into your hand, breathing out through your nose. Just being aware and focused on the air coming in and going out through your nose.

Breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out.

Now just bring your awareness back into the room you are in, back into all of your body, and when you are ready, open your eyes.

Did your breathing become flowing and rhythmic? How do you feel?  What did you get from that exercise? What did you learn from this exercise?

This quick and simple breathing exercise can be done anywhere; I invite you to practice this to experience feel-good breathing whenever you feel a bit stressed or worried.

Stress can be managed and dissipated through and with breathing.

Breathing and Sports Performance

Breathing Correctly Is a Key to How Your Perform

What if small changes in how you breathe could support and help your performance? Learning to breathe properly May, in fact, make the difference between doing well or badly, winning or losing.

Most of us just think and believe that when we work out, train, or play, breathing through the mouth is normal, and it gets more oxygen into our lungs. Someone may have told you to do this, you may have been taught to do it this way, or maybe you’ve just seen others do it and followed this. The thought and belief that mouth breathing is necessary and ideal whilst being physically active, even when pushing ourselves to the max, is a myth.

Whilst the majority of people believe that mouth breathing is necessary in order to be able to do sport or any kind of physical activity, it is not based on science. I believe that people think this way because it’s been done this way for such a long time without an understanding of how the body works, what good breathing is, and what the body needs to function efficiently for optimal health and performance.

Many of today’s sports coaches / trainers and athletes have a minor, if any, focus on or understanding of breathing, such as breathing rhythm, shallow vs. low breathing, nasal vs. mouth breathing, big vs. small breathing volume etc. It is surprising, considering that correct breathing lays the foundation for efficient oxygenation of the blood going into the muscles so that strength, endurance, focus, clear thinking and concentration can be maintained.

Frequently, I hear from sports coaches, athletes, and others that you don’t have to think about your breathing; it’s an automatic process taking care of itself. Yes, it is an automatic process, but now, science tells us that breathing is the one automatic process we can control; we can adjust and change it so as to allow and enable the body to function efficiently and to its optimum.


Dysfunctional and/or incorrect and/or bad breathing habits limit your sports performance and health.

We all know that by doing weight training, we will become stronger, and by walking, jogging, or running, we will increase our fitness. There is no difference between doing those activities where we train to improve, then focusing on improving the way we move the air in and out of our lungs in order to breathe more efficiently, thereby helping and allowing our body to work more efficiently. How breathing helps sports performance

Another argument I hear is that if nasal breathing is so superior, it would have been discovered many years ago, and everyone at the elite level would have done it or be doing it.

Again, I believe this is due to the lack of understanding of the functions of the nose and what it is made for to bring air into the body. Mouth breathing has now become known as dysfunctional breathing, hidden over-breathing.

With more and more research being done on breathing, it appears that we humans have taken for granted that something as simple as nasal breathing is far more important than we once thought.

Old ways of thinking are being debunked, and new discoveries are being made all the time. Just because everybody is doing or thinking in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best or correct way of doing it.

With such a way of reasoning, our planet would still have been considered to be flat, it impossible to fly, the 4-minute mile barrier would never have been broken, and high-altitude training to improve our blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity would never have taken off.

Think of it, a horse weighing 500 kilos or 80 stones has no problems whatsoever oxygenating its powerful muscles while running twice as fast as Usain Bolt and only breathing through its nose. Indeed, we are not horses, but still, it is a fact and indeed an interesting fact.

When 2016 & 2020 Olympic Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour record for the marathon, he was breathing through his nose after he crossed the finish line.

Eliud Kipchoge

Most people would expect him to be gasping air in through his mouth, as most people would be,  but he wasn’t. He was breathing through his nose.

So, he’s just run a sub-2-hour marathon, and he’s not breathing through his mouth?

Why? Functional breathing, that’s how…breathing through the nose.

He was unlocking one of our lost biological norms to enhance every ounce of his performance. Humans are designed and supposed to breathe through the nose.

Whether it’s crossing the line at a marathon or playing squash. Fatigue can weigh you down not only physically but mentally. So, gaining that edge, breathing and mindset could be the difference between a; 2h 01min or 1h 59min marathon, winning or losing a squash match, or winning a golf tournament.

More about Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide is key in improving blood flow; Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator that allows the blood vessel to dilate and improve delivery of the blood to the cells. Imperative when physically active, Nitric Oxide also helps with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production, ATP being the energy stored in the cell.

Brain fog and poor concentration are caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

Did you know that your brain is only 2% of your total body mass but consumes 25% of your body’s oxygen requirements?

The lack of adequate blood flow to your brain will dramatically limit the oxygen, nutrients, and the removal of waste, which in turn reduces brain performance which can lead to poor performance.

An additional benefit of enhanced Nitric Oxide productivity is neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons form in the brain, important in learning and memory. These physiological conditions can either positively influence an athlete’s performance or impair the outcome.

When you learn to control your breath, when you are breathing efficiently, less is more, you will be able to:

  • Get through your workouts better
  • Recover better in the short term (in between points) and long term
  • Lower your heart rate and reduce stress; athletes know that after exercise, we want to get our heart rate down ASAP for better recovery and fitness levels; this is also true of the breathing rate.
  • Decrease the impact of lactic acid on muscular activity by promoting maximum delivery of oxygen to the working parts of the body
  • Increase oxygen intake by a min of 20%.
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Increase focus
  • Reduce dehydration
  • Improve core stability

A study of 331 people ranging from recreational exercisers to elite athletes showed that 65% of the participants considered their breathing to be the limiting factor to their performance.

15% of the participants said weak muscles or poor fitness limited their performance, and 35% said tired muscles and lactic acid buildup limited their performance. All of these are affected directly by breathing.

All elite athletes know the importance of heart rate recovery and overall recovery. Breathing recovery is also very important. So, if you’re over-breathing at rest and after you have finished the activity, chances are you are over-breathing when active, and you are not going to recover effectively, efficiently, or quickly.

Breathing efficiently means “You’re doing less work of breathing to get the same oxygenation,” says George Dallam, the lead author of a study into breathing and its effects on athletes and sports performance, and a professor in the School of Health Sciences and Human Movement at Colorado State University and former National Teams coach for the USA Triathlon team.


Another study in which ten participants biked with all their might is in line with the results from the study above. On one occasion, they biked with their noses taped, and on the other occasion, they had their mouths taped. Some interesting results from this study:

  • Nasal breathing reduced lactic acid by 11%(8.0mmol/L) compared to mouth breathing (9.0mmol/L).
  • Participants took 22% fewer breaths during nasal breathing (31 breaths/minute) compared to mouth breathing (40).
  • The former Swedish triathlon Ironman record-holder(2005-2012) Clas Bjorling had 38% less lactic acid (295 Watts load) when using nasal breathing. Furthermore, Clas had a 10% lower heart rate, 139, compared to 155, with the same load.
  • Mattias Andersson, a former Nordic champion in taekwondo and an asthmatic , took 26% fewer breaths during nasal breathing. Mattias had an asthma attack after the test where he biked and only breathed through his mouth and had to take Bricanyl (terbutaline-a bronchodilator). However, after biking using nasal breathing, not only was he able to push back a looming asthma attack, he also managed to cycle for two minutes and fifteen seconds longer.

Less is more; this is breathing properly for the body’s needs. The body wants to work efficiently; it’s built to work efficiently. It’s us that either helps it or hinders the body’s functioning. Understanding how it works and then taking the appropriate actions will determine your outcomes and whether or not you perform or reach your full potential. 

High Altitude Training

The benefits of High-Altitude Training for athletes are well documented and has now become known as legal Blood doping… thanks to its ability to boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Immediately at 3,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level is where your body releases EPO

(Erythropoietin), a powerful hormone that boosts the production of red blood cells.

Studies with elite athletes have shown that hemoglobin, the protein in the blood cells that transports oxygen, has increased, which translates into a 3% boost in performance on competition day due to this increase.

Ok, not all of us have access to mountains to go altitude training, so the next best thing is to:


Simulate High Altitude Training

This can be done by improving your C02 tolerance (balance of levels); this is done by knowing how to breathe correctly and training in specific ways with your breathing. Nitic oxide production boosts your EPO, the body’s red blood cell-building hormone Erythropoietin production, enabling the body to increase hemoglobin in the cells, therefore, increasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood to deliver more oxygen to the exercising muscles. Therefore, extra oxygen can significantly increase the muscles’ energy production, which in turn can help to improve athletic performance.

From a straightforward athlete’s performance perspective, oxygen is required for the body to make energy.

The mitochondria is an energy-producing structure within the muscle cell where the oxygen is used to drive the biochemical reactions that break down the energy stored in foods to the form of ATP to be used in the body.

These high-energy ATP molecules are the energy sources that are used by the muscles. So, the more oxygen in the body/muscles yields, the more ATP generation, which results in improving athletic performance.

Breathing is A Key to unlock your fullest potential and live your best life

Breathing is like any technique, your grip, swing, and footwork in any racquet sport. If you have a bad technique, it hinders you and works against you; if you have a good technique, it helps and works for you to improve and grow.

To go from one to the other, what do we do? We first need to become aware of it; then, we learn to change one to the other, controlling what and how we do it and practicing it until it’s changed. Out with the old habit, in with the new habit.  It’s very much like installing new software on your computer.

What is happening in your brain is neurons are firing up to create a pattern which in turn will create and make a habit; the more you practice this, this process will rewire your brain, and it becomes the way you just do it.

What we are actually doing in this process of changing habits is retraining and rewiring the brain. We are unlearning to learn, to learn again.

Good breathing can help you get into a Flow State. The term “flow state” describes a state of mind, a mental state in which a person is completely and easily focused on a single task or activity. It can occur during a wide variety of tasks, such as when a person is learning, being creative, or playing a sport.

They are directing all of their attention toward the task, and they do not experience many thoughts about themselves or their performance. Some people refer to this as being “in the zone,  paying no attention to distractions, and time seems to pass without any notice.

“The more you are aware of your breathing and the more you believe in the power of thoughts and feelings, the greater changes you can create in your life.”

If you truly want better health and better sports performance, take charge and action; you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It’s up to you!


“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray


Alexia Clonda,

Breathing, Mindset and Spiritual Coach & Mentor, The Healing Teacher and High-Performance Squash Coach


If you would like to chat about your breathing and how to improve it, contact me via email at:


M: 607 319 9161


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