The hardest workout I've ever done.

How breathing during a workout can make or break you?

I once read a taoist quote in Runner's World magazine (I love that magazine) that said:

"To breathe fully is to live fully. It is everything that we sense, feel, think and do. "

So, I made it through my first boxing class. It was hard as hell. After my class, I went to Coyo, one of the trainers to get some tips on a better workout.

Coyo takes me into the ring for some mitt work. She calls out the combinations: jab. cross. jab. jab. uppercut. duck. This is when I'm supposed to squat to miss as she swings at my face. The entire time, I feel myself panicking and thinking about the past when there was these other times that I lost this thing and they didn't invite me and why did he go for the other girl.

She sees me struggling. "This is why it is so important to breathe,'' she says. "When I was learning how to breathe, I would hold my core tight and inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth. I would do this while driving and practice until it was natural." On my way home, I tried Coyo's method. It was the hardest workout I've ever done.

Now that I know where to start, I took the opportunity to study breathing for not only boxing, but my other favorite activities. I studied breathing for boxing, running, and my other favorite sport, weightlifting.


Boxing:

As a beginner, you would breathe to relax. This would be a slow breathing method. As your are breathing slowly, you can focus on the combinations being called and performing the punches correctly. When you start to feel more comfortable with that, you will begin to punch harder.

When you observe a more experienced boxer, you will hear them making a hissing sound when they throw their punches and kicks. They are using the fast breathing method. We beginners will get there soon.


Weightlifting:

Weightlifting, to me, is a great way to build strength and confidence by doing slower movements. I have always used weightlifting in my training. From my experience, most beginners tend to hold their breath while lifting. This can cause dizziness, fatigue, increase blood pressure, and for the prouder beginners, possibly fainting.

Weightlifters have to control the bars and the movements. Otherwise, injury can and will happen quickly to any and every part of the body. This is where proper breathing comes into play.As a weightlifter, you would use the inhale through your nose as you lower the weight and exhale through your mouth as your push, pull, or lift the weight.

A good suggestion for beginners is to start your workout with some practice breaths. It will help put you in the right frame of mind to complete your workout and make you aware of your breathing. A good rule of thumb, keep it light until you get it right.

Running:

When running, you have no choice but to breathe. To hold one's breath, as beginners tend to do, would end in a certain passing out. Most beginners breathe from their chest, but belly breathing is the best practice for runners. Belly breathing allows the most air in the best cavity for the runner to use.

Your breathing rhythm is directly correlated with the impact of the stress of running. When a runner exhales, the muscles used to make the diaphragm relax causes less stability in the core. It is best to develop a breathing rhythm that allows you to inhale and exhale on alternating foot strikes. Or simply put, do not always inhale when your right foot strikes the ground. Make sure you are not always exhaling when your left foot strikes the ground. This will keep you injury free.

A great way to practice belly breathing is to lie on your back. Keep still with your shoulders down. Focus on raising your belly as you inhale. Lower your belly as you inhale being sure to inhale through your nose and mouth.

Breathing connects you to your mind, body, and spirit. If you find out that you can't complete your workout, I would start with your breath. It certainly deserves your attention.

H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Terry Hershey Park: My place of solace

Author's own.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx


When I need a serious reset, I jump in the car and and go to that parking lot under Beltway 8 and Memorial. I get my headphones, and my phone and just start walking. I'm talking about Terry Hershey Park. This out and back trail of about 12.5 miles has been my place of solace. This is the place where I began my journey into fitness. This is the place that brought me out of depression. I have used the rolling hills of Terry Hershey Park to train for my races, and I still come here to chill the f*** out. This is why:

Breathe in the beauty.

Author's own

There is beauty all around.

Terry Hershey Park is situated along Buffalo Bayou. There are all these trees that are overgrown with vines. It looks like a rainforest. It's like the trees befriended a vine and the vine showed them up. I don't know who is winning in this relationship. I think we are because it is beautiful. See how I just had this weird conversation in my head. Guess what I wasn't thinking about. The bad breakup I went through 5 years ago. Terry Hershey is also great during bluebonnet season. Many people visit to strike a nature pose. You can also use one of the many dedicated benches to reflect on your beautiful surroundings.

Shh! Keep quiet or you will scare them.

Author's own

The wildlife is abundant.

I really get a kick out of counting the different wildlife that I encounter. While preparing for the article, I tried to find all the insects, birds, and mammals that you will see in Terry Hershey. Too many to name so I will tell you my favorite stories.

This week, I saw 5 rabbits, some squirrels, a cardinal, lots of butterflies, a turtle, egrets and herons. There have been many times that I have seen 30 turtles just sunbathing. They are really scared of people so you have to be quiet or they duck back into the water. One time, I was running and almost ran into a huge spider hanging from its silk. I stopped to take pictures, but it wasn't having it. I waved bye-bye as it crawled up it's silk. I have also encountered poisonous snakes, but luckily, I saw them before they saw me. I can't help it, I'm a wildlife voyeur.

Walking or running, you get a great workout.

Author's own.

You can train for challenging races.

Terry Hershey Park is a great place to train. As I stated before, you have 12.5 miles of trails to work with. Whether you are a walker, runner, biker, or canoeing is your thing, this is your place to train. There are some of the best hills in Houston here making it a challenge. There are different trails with different difficulty levels. If you are training for a trail race, you can take the more difficult unpaved trails which are great to work those supporting tendons. You can also get off the beaten path that is across the bayou that will really test you. Honestly, I still don't know how to get on it.

Worth the 4 mile run.

Author's own.

Personal Experience

You have probably gotten that this park is dear to me. Let me tell you about some of the fun times that I have had on it. I call it "fun with myself." Not like that. Brace yourself, This is silly. When you have moments like these, you just have to give yourself over to them. I was listening to classical music while running. All of a sudden a song from the Last of the Mohicans comes on. It was so dramatic, I felt like I was running across a meadow or the frontier. Every turn felt new. I really felt alive and guess what? I was actually running across a meadow because that is what Terry Hershey looks like. I never forgot it. But, you know what I did forget? The fact that my car needs yet a new tire and oil change.

If you are new to Houston, want some hill training, or just need to relax, do not hesitate to get on the Beltway. Exit Briar Forest and park in the parking lot just underneath. It will lead you to mental health heaven.

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