Every Breath You Take

Every breath you take

Every move you make

I’ll be watching you

The Police

Many seemed interested in the topic of breathing so I decided to share some of what I know.

I will begin with a simple test that anyone can do to get an idea of how well they are breathing and their general level of health. The BOLT or Body Oxygen Level Test, also known as a CP or controlled pause, is something I do every morning to gauge how I am doing in regards to my breathing practice. I have always been a bad breather. I mouth breathe, especially at night. When I began measuring my morning BOLT is was consistently around 20 seconds. Not real good. I thought I was in decent shape.

The ideal score for a healthy person is 40 seconds. The lower the score equals greater breathing volume which may lead to breathlessness during exercise and a variety of other health issues. Why are BOLT scores lower today than when our grandparents were knee high to a grasshopper? The simple answer is that modern humans experience more stress on a daily basis. We are constantly are on the go and our daily routines are not conducive to proper breathing. We sit too much hunched over desks while playing on cell phones and eating foods and chugging drinks that are often convenient and expedient, but generally toxic to our system. Additionally, our indoor climates are controlled so that we never experience extremes of temperature. We never are uncomfortable. Lastly, our busy lifestyles and being constantly on the go ironically limit our perceived time availability to exercise and move in a healthy manner.

HOW TO MEASURE YOUR BOLT

  • Rest for a bit before testing or do upon waking once you are up and about for 5-10 minutes

  • Best not to do this after a meal-empty belly=better

  • When you are ready to measure inhale normally through your nose and then exhale out through your nose

  • After the exhale immediately pinch your nose shut with your fingers

  • Time how long it takes for you to feel the first desire or urge to breathe.

  • This desire is usually felt in the diaphragm or by an urge to swallow

  • ***This is not a test to see or measure how long you can hold your breath. It is a measure to see how long it takes your body to react to a lack of air-this is a big difference.

  • When you feel the desire to take a breath remove your fingers from your nose and stop or look at the timer.

  • Now breathe in through your nose in a calm manner-you should not feel like you have to gasp for air.

Carbon dioxide is the main stimulus for breathing. The length of your breath hold is directly related and influenced by how much CO2 you can tolerate. When you hold your breath (CP) carbon dioxide accumulates in the lungs and blood.

A lower BOLT score, 20 s. or less, can indicate that you are sensitive to CO2 and this in turn will lead to a greater breathing volume. You are over breathing. When you over breathe then the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen is disrupted. Carbon dioxide is needed so that oxygen is transported to your body’s cells and tissues.  How we breathe determines our body’s level of CO2. If we are stressed and in turn over breathe, then we expel too much CO2 and then our body cannot efficiently use oxygen. If we breathe correctly then CO2 will be balanced inside of us leading to the proper delivery of oxygen to our muscles and organs.

An individual with a BOLT score of 20 or less will generally deal with issues such as a clogged nose, coughing and wheezing, and disrupted sleep along with lots of snoring. Exercising may result in being easily fatigued and breathlessness. It will not matter if you exercise intensely, take the top of the line supplements and do yoga with a Nepalese guru, if your morning BOLT remains low you will not improve health wise. Earlier I shared that my initial BOLT scores were around 20 seconds. I am pleased that through practice and breathing drills my scores are generally in the neighborhood of 30-35 seconds. That is the key…practice and discipline. We must retrain our brain to breathe properly. Normally we do not have to think about breathing, but due to the demands and stresses of life we now do.

Buteyko thought that a CP of 60 seconds and above was ideal health. When the CP is high then oxygenation of the cells is also high. The chance of getting diseases is significantly lessened.

An interesting thing is that in studies it shows that breathing is heaviest for most people from 4 AM-7AM. CP is lowest during these early morning hours. Sick people are more likely to die at this time. Why? Breathing is heaviest and body oxygen is lowest. Personally I am never sleeping during this time and may be fooling the grim reaper… for now.

ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY

Start with the morning BOLT Test. Then work on some breathing. Belly breathing is the key. Diaphragmatic breathing aids in lymphatic drainage-the diaphragm is a lymphatic pump. Initially, strive for a consistent BOLT score of 30 s. 24/7. When this occurs then belly/diaphragmatic breathing will become automatic. Before I do any breathing drills I reset my diaphragm using techniques I garnered from RPR. A quick drill gets me belly breathing and this is vital.

A breathing drill I currently use consists of sitting on a bench press with my back up against my Earthquake bar that is racked. I sit with an upright torso as if I was a scarecrow with a broomstick up my back. I place my hands on my knees and relax all muscles. I may play music at a low volume and I like the lights to be dimmed. The temperature is a bit cooler because I am in my weight room downstairs in the basement. I begin by taking light breaths inhaling through my nose. I primarily exhale through my nose as well, but the exhalation can be through the mouth. I practice reduced breathing. That is, I take small inhalations using my diaphragm and nose only and pausing to breathe between breaths so that a light air hunger exists. I do this for rounds of 3-4 minutes. Why? Exposing oneself to reduced oxygen intake for a short period of time will improve your body’s oxygen carrying capacity.

Another drill I practice is to do light breathing followed by what I call unclogs. I breathe lightly for 3-4 minutes and then when I feel comfortable I pinch my nose and tilt my head back and forth averaging a full tilt every 3 seconds. The head tilt is like a super exaggerated head movement as if nodding yes. The first round I perform 10 head tilts and I usually take 30 seconds. When the head tilts are completed I take one breath using my nose and hold my breath for 20-30 seconds. I then breathe lightly for 1-2 minutes followed by a second round of 15 tilts. I finish with 20-25 head tilts with the breathe hold during the tilts being approximately 1 minute.

UNCLOG DRILL

  • Light breaths using diaphragm and nose only-3-4 minutes

  • Round one I pinch nose and do 10 head tilts

  • After head tilts I take one nasal breath and hold for 20-30 seconds

  • I then breathe light for 1-2 minutes

  • I then pinch nose and do 15 head tilts-45 seconds

  • I then take one deep breath and hold for 20-30 seconds

  • I breathe light for 1-2 minutes

  • I pinch nose and try for 20-25 head tilts-60 seconds or more.

  • I finish with a breath hold for 20-30 seconds.

Breathing in the morning will energize you for the day and it will plant in your mind to focus on correct breathing even when the day’s stresses are coming at you like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew.

Just breathe.

B

My 1-2-3 Moment: Angi McRobbie

Angi is the owner of Dynamic Sports Massage Recovery. Based in Cleveland, she works with athletes of all stripes - from youth to professionals. She’s passionate about Ohio State, the Indians, and most of all the Browns. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.


I first heard about RPR from a massage client of mine. Completely honesty, my first response was that I had no idea what he was talking about but it didn’t sound like something for me and dismissed it. Then he comes back after going to a Level 1 clinic and says that it’s amazing and it works. He says that he can’t really explain how it works, but that I just need to feel it. Not ready to jump in, but impressed by how excited he is, I decide to look further into the RPR thing.

After reading about it on the website, it seemed interesting but I’m a massage therapist and this looks like it’s focused more on strength coaches and trainers getting their athletes ready for game day or events. I don’t know how it fits into what I’m doing but, going back and forth about it, I decide to go to Indiana for a Level 1 clinic with Chris Korfist. I figure it’s pretty simple - if I learn something, awesome. If not, well, it wasn’t too expensive.


In the clinic, it started to make sense, we’re going through the Wake Up Drills and I think back to a conversation I had with one of my clients who’s on the Cleveland Browns. We were talking about glute function and how the psoas effects that and he told me, “Ang, when I was in Jacksonville, they showed me this thing on the back of my head and jaw and I felt like I could run forever.” He couldn’t remember what it was called but as soon as Chris showed us the glute wake up drill, I realized: this was it!

At the end of the Level 1, I knew there was something to it but I still wasn’t sure how it was going to fit into my massage practice. One thing I’ve learned is that when something’s fresh, you just have to start using it, so I show a few of my clients the Wake Up drills and they think it’s magic - they feel awesome and, well, it makes my job as a massage therapist easier. They ask me why it works and it’s still fuzzy for me, so I know what I have to do - I go to Columbus for a Level 2 clinic hosted by JL.

Here’s where my 1-2-3 moment happens. We’re partnered up doing the compensation pattern tests and my partner and I are having a really hard time finding my stability. We thinking we’re doing something wrong, so we call JL over, thinking we just missed something simple. He does the tests on me and then asks if I’ll come to the front because he wants to use me as an example. Sure - why not?

“Here is a perfect example of a zero,” says JL. You can guess how I felt right then. JL goes on to explain that someone who has no neurological base of stability is a zero. “I don’t know her and I have no idea what’s going on in her life, but her sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive.”

I’m standing there, feeling like I’m naked in front of a room full of strangers, and this guy is telling everyone about me. He was right, by the way, I had a lot of stress going on in my life. All I wanted to do was sit down.

When we break for lunch, I go up to talk to him one-on-one. He asks if we can talk about what I have going on. I wanted to say no and run away but instead I looked at him and said, “Everything you said is no surprise at all to me. I just left a job that I loved. I was stressed about what people thought of me - my coworkers, and my clients. I had just started a business, which obviously brought a lot of pressure and stress. And I was dealing with it by ignoring it and just pushing forward - just plugging along.”

JL says this to me, and it really changed my perspective: “Pretending the stress isn’t there isn’t doing any good to you. And if you’re not doing right by yourself, you can’t do right for your clients.” Now, he’s telling me this because of how I tested? I feel myself getting emotional, and honestly just wanted to get out of this conversation and go home - I came here for some muscle testing stuff to help my athletes and now I’m having a therapy session? What is this?!

For the rest of the clinic, I was kind of in my own head. “How can I help myself get out of this spot?” “How can I fix this?” But as the day went on, I started to feel better. I got stronger, we did some really awesome stuff with vision and color. I went home that night resolved that I was going to take control of my 1-2-3. I was going to get my 1 in line so I could be better in 2 and then 3.

So what did I do? I started doing RPR every day (really just Zone 1). I started working out again. I did meditative yoga to give my brain a rest. I started journaling. I started taking time through the day to simply breathe and focus on that. And I can honestly say that I have never felt better.

That day gave me the confidence to really bring RPR into my life, and then into my practice. My practice has always been about educating my clients, and RPR fits right into that. And it’s not just my athletes who love it (and they do), but my regular everyday clients are seeing such success with it that they use it first whenever something comes up.

That day showed me that RPR truly is a game-changer. Not to sound dramatic, but RPR really did change my life and helped me learn how to thrive in my body. I’ve said it before and will say it again (I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face!): RPR was one of the most influential clinics I’ve ever been to and the 1-2-3 lens is something that I try to bring to every one of my clients.

My 1-2-3 Moment: Jeff Bramhall

This is the first in an ongoing series talking about how the 1-2-3 lens impacts people’s lives. if you’d like to be part of this series, shoot me a note.

At RPR, we talk about the world through a lens we call 1-2-3.

In the body, that’s a metaphor for optimal movement. It’s hip flexion and extension (zone 1), quads, hamstrings, and abs (zone 2), and then out to the extremities (zone 3). Just like your baseball coach told you when you were ten years old: power comes from your hips.

The body’s truly amazing - it will do whatever it takes to move you. If zone one isn’t doing its job to its greatest capacity, your body will compensate to find a base of stability further down the line. Great athletes can be great compensators, but compensations prevent you from reaching your full potential.

When I was introduced to this idea, it made sense but it didn’t rock my world, it just sort of … made sense. I’ll say without hesitation that I’m lucky. I never had any allegiance to what I’d believed because it was never a core part of my identity. Training, bodywork, coaching - those things brought joy and richness to my life, but they were never my sole pursuit.

When I attended one of the first RPR clinics at The Spot in Columbus, meeting Cal, Chris, and JL, looking around the room and seeing NFL coaches and trainers, entire Big-10 athletics staffs, and some of the best lifters in the world, I knew there was something here that was bigger than injury prevention or performance enhancement. There was something more than the lightness I felt when I first experienced the Wake Up Drills that had some incredible value. I was bound and determined to figure out what that was.

It took a long time, a lot of experimentation, and a lot of seeking, but it became clear. What drew me in and held me close was how 1-2-3 applies outside of the body and can improve every aspect of life.

What I found with 1-2-3 was that the ability to separate input from reaction. I was able to engage with myself from a place of authenticity and integrity (Zone 1), which allowed me to bring that same clarity and calm to my interactions with my close circle of people (Zone 2), and choose how (and whether) I wanted to engage with the rest of the world (Zone 3) - ATOF (if you know, you know).

I can tell stories of being a better salesperson using this approach (prior to joining RPR, I was a sales lead at Onshape) and I can tell stories about choosing to stepping away from relationships that didn’t align with my values. But the story I want to tell is when the power of 1-2-3 became REAL to me.

After work one day, I was on the subway heading downtown to meet up with my wife. I’m sitting near the end of a car and across from me is a mother and her probably three-year-old daughter and a few seats down from them is an older man, potentially homeless, probably drunk, but definitely down on his luck. One of those guys who carries an air of sadness with them. One of those guys that is, more often than not, simply ignored.

He’s being friendly with them and the mother is tolerating it because it’s pretty clear that he’s at least mostly harmless. Eventually, he starts being a little more friendly than the mother is comfortable with and she moves away. This does not go over well. “Just a bunch of princesses……..” he starts saying, getting loud, but not actively doing anything. He just starts running his mouth.

Now, this is where for the first 36 years of my life, I would have met force with force. I probably would have gotten in the guy’s face and verbally overpowered him.

But with this new 1-2-3 lens, and the space to separate input and reaction, I just walked over and stood next to the guy, outside his space, but close enough to speak softly and said to him:

“Hey man, is this really how you want to be?”

And he came back with a bunch of noise about princesses and entitlement and how he was just trying to be a nice guy. And after he stopped, I said simply:

“I totally hear you, but is this really how you want to be?”

And he stopped. He just stopped. And he said that he was tired. I’m sure tired couldn’t even begin to explain it.

And I held space with him. Every few minutes he’d get agitated and I’d coach him through to the next stop, reminding him that he was ok and he just wanted to get where he was going.

Now’s where it gets fun.

We reach what he thinks is his stop and he gets up to get off the train. I walk with him over to the door when he realizes that he actually has to go one more stop to reach his destination and, for obvious reasons, turns around to get back on the train.

And some other guy comes up behind me in a ball of rage and yells “NO WAY, YOU’RE GETTING OFF THIS F*CKING TRAIN RIGHT NOW!”

I turn around to the newfound hero, and quietly and gently say to him, “Hey man, you don’t need to worry about it. Everything’s all set here.” This is the moment that I’m honestly the most shocked by because he was so violent and forceful. And I chose to deflect that rage and meet him with calm kindness.

And I turn back to the older guy and say “The next stop’s in about a minute - let’s just get there.” And he does. And he thanks me for staying with him for the train ride. Maybe this is the first time he was treated with empathy in a long time, I don’t know. I just know that I was able to meet him on a level that acknowledged his humanity and reminded him that he had a choice.

Now, the hero’s gone, the older guy is gone, and I sit down - shocked at what had just happened because it’s so starkly different from how I imagine that situation to play out. The mother and daughter are sitting right across from me again. The mother looks at me with one of the most genuinely grateful looks I’ve ever seen and says, “That was amazing. Thank you.”

And I, at a loss for words (which I still am when I describe my feelings about this), simply say, “I’m glad I could help.”

I credit RPR for giving me the ability to create that space to choose empathy and kindness in that situation. That space allowed me to engage with human beings as human beings, rather than as problems to solve or as combatants to defeat. I also credit the 1-2-3 lens for giving me the language to describe this.

Anyone who has attended an RPR course that I’ve taught can attest to the earnestness and passion that I bring to this calling, and this story illustrates why. There is an infinite amount of good that can be brought to the world, all we have to do it choose it.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

B Briefly on Breathing

We’re excited to introduce a series of content by Glenn Buechlein! Glenn is a legend in physical culture, but also - and probably more importantly - an educator. Any introduction we could give would pale in comparison to Paul Leonard’s. Go read that, then come back here!

We’re excited to partner with Glenn because he truly embodies the power that comes with living 1-2-3. Enjoy!

B Briefly on Breathing

by Glenn Buechlein

I am now 52 years old and I have worked out or lifted weights non-stop for approximately 35 years.

Along the way I have competed and picked up a variety of certifications. I have read a library of books on the topic of strength and conditioning and have written in the neighborhood of two dozen published articles. Oh yeah, and a book, The Tao of B.

In the past year, especially after learning about Be Activated and RPR, I have come to the conclusion that something we all take for granted is the key to overall health and well being. If one chooses to eat clean and diet, do P90X, compete in a Tough Mudder, powerlift, run a mini, etc. nothing will be optimal unless there is a focus on correct breathing. Breathing plays second fiddle to nothing. Breathing is Batman and all the other things are Robin.

Take a deep breath…

Actually disregard the previous statement.

I will share some key things I discovered about breathing. These may be a bit random because that is how I think.

  • When stressed we will breathe faster and more often

  • When stressed we will breathe with the upper chest

  • When stressed we tend to mouth breathe and sigh more

  • When we breathe too hard or over breathe we get rid of too much carbon dioxide

  • When we get rid of too much carbon dioxide then oxygen cannot be efficiently transported to all the body’s tissues.

  • When your circulatory system is laid end to end it would circumnavigate the earth at the equator 3 X.

  • When we were born we belly breathed (diaphragmatic) and we breathed through our nose.

  • When do we stop doing this?

  • When we breathe through the nose we release nitric oxide that dilates the blood vessels and enhances the amount of O2 taken up by the blood. Drink beet juice.

  • When we nose breathe the diaphragm is activated and we get into the parasympathetic instead of the sympathetic (fight or flight)

  • When we mouth breathe it can change our appearance and facial structure.

  • When we breathe less, it is actually more.

  • When we mouth breathe while sleeping we will wake up tired.

  • When we breathe correctly in the proper pattern then our movement will improve.

  • When breathing pattern disorders exist this will have a negative effect on functional movement.

  • When we breathe with the upper chest it may lead to neck pain, TMJ, low back pain and overall poor posture including forward head placement.

  • When we chest breathe accessory muscles are forced to work harder such as the scalene, SCM, and traps. Basically this leads to a pain in the neck.

  • When I do my daily breathing drills I consider it a workout. I can mimic high altitude training and can enhance O2 delivery as well as unclogging my nose. Warning: High altitude training can make your legs shakier than constructing a Jenga tower on top of a jackhammer.

  • When I help people breathe correctly while working out or lifting weights they consistently perform better and feel better.

  • When you really focus on breathing it should be separate from the exercise.

  • When you know how to activate your diaphragm then it is much easier to learn how to belly breathe.

I have spent a great deal of time researching breathing. It may sound mundane, but it is beyond fascinating. I have experimented with Wim Hof style breathing, but I personally adhere to the principles of Buteyko. Some good reads on the topic are The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown and Advanced Buteyko Breathing Exercises by Artour Rakhimov.

I have always been somewhat of a mouth breather. I have made progress in becoming a better breather. It takes time and patience as well as discipline and commitment. I did not become a big bencher overnight and I am wise enough that it will take many turns of the clock and changes in the season for me to be a primo breather. I designed my own breathing workout that I do each morning. It is mine. I will share it, but do not be reluctant to get your own. Do some research and experiment. You will then discover what you need to do to improve.

So…do not take a deep breath. Do not enhance or amplify what you were doing to get into a state of stress. Rather, take a light breath… breathe lightly in and out your nose.