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How Nasal Breathing Helps You Be a Better Athlete

How Nasal Breathing Helps You Be a Better Athlete

Monday, July 03, 2023

Athletes, young and old, face a multitude of challenges on their journey to success. These challenges can be physical, mental, emotional, and even social in nature. Understanding and overcoming these obstacles is crucial for their overall development and achieving their athletic goals. 


Challenges Faced by Athletes

Some of the challenges faced by athletes of all ages include:

  • Intense Competition: Athletes, regardless of age, encounter fierce competition in their respective sports. This competition can be highly demanding and often pushes athletes to their limits. Young athletes, in particular, may find it challenging to cope with the pressure to excel as they strive to establish themselves and gain recognition in their chosen sport.
  • Time Management: Balancing academics, training sessions, competitions, and personal life can be a significant challenge for young athletes. Juggling school assignments, practice sessions, and other commitments can be overwhelming and require effective time management skills.
  • Physical Demands: Athletes, especially at a younger age, often face the physical demands of intense training and competition. Pushing their bodies to the limit while still growing and developing can increase the risk of injuries and fatigue. Proper conditioning, nutrition, and rest become essential for athletes to maintain their physical health and prevent long-term consequences.
  • Mental Resilience: The mental aspect of sports is equally important as the physical aspect. Athletes face various mental challenges, including performance anxiety, self-doubt, and dealing with failures and setbacks. Young athletes may find it particularly challenging to manage these mental pressures while still developing their coping mechanisms. 
  • Financial Constraints: For both young and adult athletes, financial constraints can limit their opportunities for training and participation in higher-level competitions. Seeking sponsorships, scholarships, or community support becomes crucial for athletes to pursue their athletic dreams.
  • Social Sacrifices: The commitment required to excel in sports often entails sacrifices in social life. Young athletes may miss out on social events, parties, and gatherings due to training schedules and competitions. Finding a balance between their passion for sports and maintaining healthy social connections can be a challenge that athletes must navigate.
  • Transition and Burnout: As young athletes grow older, they may face the challenge of transitioning from youth to adult sports. This transition often involves higher expectations, increased competition, and a different level of commitment. Additionally, the risk of burnout due to prolonged intense training or overwhelming pressure can be a real concern for athletes of all ages. 

These challenges encompass physical demands, mental pressures, time management, financial constraints, and social sacrifices. Overcoming these obstacles requires dedication, resilience, support systems, and effective coping strategies. By addressing these challenges head-on, athletes can develop not only as athletes, but also as well-rounded individuals.

Athletes take on challenges head on and are adept at figuring out how to overcome issues. However, sometimes merely adapting to problems can prevent you from finding a real solution. Such is the case for many athletes who struggle with nasal breathing. why nasal breathing is vital for athletic performance

Why Nasal Breathing Is Vital for Athletic Performance

Breathing plays a vital role in an athlete's performance, and the way athletes breathe can have a significant impact on their overall abilities. Breathing through the nose, as opposed to the mouth, has been found to offer several advantages that can enhance athletic performance. 

1. Breathing Through Your Nose Can Increase Oxygenation

Nasal breathing allows for more efficient oxygen uptake. The nasal passages warm, filter, and humidify the incoming air, preparing it for optimal absorption in the lungs. The narrower nasal passages create resistance, which slows down the airflow, allowing the lungs more time to extract oxygen. 

This helps increase oxygenation and oxygen delivery to the working muscles, enhancing endurance and performance.

2. Breathing Through Your Nose Can Improve Lung Function

Nasal breathing encourages diaphragmatic breathing, where the breath originates from the lower abdomen. This type of breathing engages the diaphragm and maximizes the lung's capacity, leading to better oxygen exchange and carbon dioxide removal. It can enhance the efficiency of the respiratory system and prevent shallow breathing, which is common when breathing through the mouth.

3. Breathing Through Your Nose Can Enhance Aerobic Efficiency

Breathing through the nose promotes a balanced ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide helps regulate the release of oxygen from red blood cells to the muscles. By breathing through the nose, athletes maintain optimal carbon dioxide levels, ensuring a better balance between oxygen delivery and utilization. 

This can result in improved aerobic efficiency, delaying the onset of fatigue and allowing athletes to sustain high-intensity efforts for longer durations.

4. Breathing Through Your Nose Can Reduce Respiratory Stress

Breathing through the nose aids in slowing down the breath rate, helping athletes achieve a more relaxed and controlled state during exercise. Nasal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress responses. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes competing in high-pressure situations, as it can help them stay calm, focused, and in control.

5. Breathing Through Your Nose Can Improve Airway Protection

The nose acts as a natural filter, trapping and filtering out harmful particles, allergens, and pollutants present in the air. By breathing through the nose, athletes can reduce the risk of respiratory irritations, allergies, and airway inflammation. This protection can contribute to better overall respiratory health and decrease the likelihood of respiratory-related performance issues.

To leverage the benefits of nasal breathing, athletes can incorporate specific breathing techniques into their training and competition routines. They can practice diaphragmatic breathing, focusing on deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. 

Additionally, mindful breathing exercises and techniques such as alternate nostril breathing can help athletes develop better breath control, and improve their ability to breathe efficiently during physical exertion.

At the same time, there are factors that lead people to breathe primarily through their mouths. Without correcting the source of mouth breathing, it can be challenging for athletes to practice proper nasal breathing. 

How Athletes Can Learn to Breathe Through Their Noses

Tongue thrust, also known as orofacial muscle imbalance or improper tongue posture, occurs when the tongue rests or pushes against the front teeth or protrudes between them during swallowing, speaking, or at rest. 

This abnormal tongue position can have an impact on an athlete's ability to breathe through their nose effectively. Correcting tongue thrust can help improve nasal breathing and enhance athletic performance.

The Key to Nasal Breathing Is Correcting Tongue Thrust

Correcting tongue thrust can bring several benefits to athletes, particularly in terms of nasal breathing and overall athletic performance:

  • Correcting tongue thrust helps athletes establish proper tongue posture and eliminate the obstructive effects on the airway. This allows for unobstructed nasal breathing, enabling efficient air intake, optimal oxygenation, and improved respiratory function during physical exertion.
  • By eliminating tongue thrust and promoting nasal breathing, athletes can take advantage of the nose's natural filtration and humidification processes. This leads to improved air quality and a better balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, supporting enhanced oxygen supply to the muscles and improved aerobic capacity.
  • Addressing tongue thrust can help correct postural imbalances associated with the condition. By achieving a more aligned posture, athletes can optimize the alignment of their airway, facilitating better airflow through the nose and improving overall respiratory efficiency.
  • Nasal breathing is more energy-efficient compared to mouth breathing. When athletes correct tongue thrust and breathe through their noses, they reduce the energy expenditure associated with using accessory breathing muscles and taking in colder, unfiltered air through the mouth. This energy conservation can contribute to improved endurance and prolonged performance.

In addition to improving nasal breathing and enhancing athletic performance, correcting tongue thrust can offer several additional benefits. These benefits extend beyond the realm of sports and can positively impact various aspects of an individual's life. benefits of correcting tongue thrust

Other Benefits of Correcting Tongue Thrust

Here are some additional advantages of correcting tongue thrust:

  • Dental and Facial Development: Tongue thrust can contribute to dental malocclusions, such as open bite, crossbite, or crowded teeth. By addressing tongue thrust, orthodontic problems can be prevented or corrected, leading to improved dental alignment and facial development. This can enhance aesthetics, promote proper chewing and digestion, and contribute to overall oral health.
  • Speech and Articulation: Tongue thrust can affect speech and articulation by interfering with the proper movement and positioning of the tongue during speech production. Correcting tongue thrust can help improve speech clarity, pronunciation, and articulation, leading to enhanced communication skills and increased self-confidence.
  • Swallowing and Digestion: Proper tongue posture and swallowing patterns are essential for effective swallowing and digestion. Tongue thrust can disrupt the natural swallowing process, potentially leading to difficulties in swallowing and digestive issues. By addressing tongue thrust, individuals can establish correct swallowing mechanics, ensuring efficient swallowing and optimal digestion.
  • Sleep and Breathing Disorders: Tongue thrust can be associated with sleep-related breathing disorders, such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Correcting tongue thrust can help alleviate these issues by improving the position of the tongue and facilitating proper airflow during sleep. This can lead to better sleep quality, reduced snoring, and improved overall respiratory health.
  • Facial Muscle Balance: Tongue thrust can cause imbalances in the orofacial muscles, affecting the function and appearance of the face. By correcting tongue thrust, individuals can achieve improved muscle balance, leading to a harmonious facial appearance, reduced tension in the facial muscles, and potentially alleviating symptoms such as jaw pain or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
  • Confidence and Self-esteem: Addressing tongue thrust and its associated issues can have a positive impact on an individual's confidence and self-esteem. Improved oral health, speech clarity, facial aesthetics, and better overall function can enhance one's self-perception, social interactions, and overall quality of life.

How To Correct Your Tongue Thrust

If you’re an athlete who wants to improve nasal breathing or you’re just ready to stop breathing through your mouth, IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust is here to help. Our program is designed to retrain the tongue’s position in your mouth. In just seven weeks, you can see drastic results and substantial improvement. 

Are you ready to learn more about our tongue thrust correction program? We would be happy to answer your questions and tell you more about how correcting tongue thrust can improve your life. Reach out to us today for more information!

Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.