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.

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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

If you are anything like me, you love the beginning of the year. You check all the running calendars and pick out all your races for the year. You go to the local running store and buy your new shoes. You even get a pair of new socks to go with them. You download some music....to get ready for your first run of the season. You get to the park and put your feet on the cinder path. You about a quarter of a mile in......and you run out of steam. You are just not as motivated as you thought. I know I'm not the only one. Because I made it my job to motivate you I have created a short list of things that can motivate you quickly.

Nothing like good tunes on the open road.

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Music

This sounds like the obvious answer. Of course music is motivating. When was the last time that your heard a song and really felt it? Like, you really got it. When I trained for the Houston marathon in 2008, I was really feeling Refugee by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers. I had come off of a rough patch and I was ready to move forward. Tom, singing his heart out with, "You don't have to live like a refugee." just resonated with me because I knew that I was not going back to that. I got to acknowledge the hardship, recognize that it was significant and that it was over and agree to move on. This leads me to my training for the 2009 Honolulu Marathon. No Drama by Mary J. Blige was the song. I decided to actively "allow no more drama in my life." Those songs got me through training and the finish line.

Who is your favorite superhero?

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Your favorite Superhero.

My favorite thing to do when I run is to pretend that I have superhuman strength and abilities. I imagine myself in different scenarios overcoming odds and doing super cool things just for the hell of it. Because running did not come naturally for me, it felt like I needed superhuman powers to get through a run. It really seemed to fit. Here are a couple of superheroes who have always done it for me:

The Juggarnaut: Because once he gets started and gains momentum, he cannot be stopped. Not by rain or a heavy wind blowing against him or a slow and steady incline that never seems to end.

The Wolverine: He heals fast. It you have a cramp, a sprain, a pull, or your legs, toes, or feet are hurting, you can be the Wolverine and it will heal in about 10 secs.

The Phoenix: The bad thing about the Phoenix is that there is nothing that she can't do so, for this exercise, you have to be specific. This helps me take my mind off of pain and think about something I like to call "micro impossibilities." If the concrete of the road is bothering your joints, you could imagine that you are the Phoenix and that you can change your drops of sweat into a path that you can run on instead of the concrete. And everyone knows that running on sweat is great for your joints!

Live oaks look like lightening.

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Nature

Nature has a lot of things to glean inspiration from. I am obsessed with fractal patterns. Fractal patterns are reoccurring patterns in nature. They signify how things start from a small seed, grows and replicates. They are the natural order of things and a great example of why science is so cool and how and why you can count on it every single time.

They make me think about all the possibilities that are out there and how everything is connected. Live oaks are native to Houston. Have you ever noticed that the trunk and branches of a live oak tree look exactly like lightning. I see a row of live oaks and I think of a thunder storm because it looks just like that. I makes me think of having a brainstorm. I always ask myself: What else do I have up there? See how this works. Flowers and leaves are great for this too.

If you are on your next run and you are starting to run out of gas or feel pain, remember to look up, look down, and definitely don't forget to look inside yourself. You will find yourself at the finish line.

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