When it comes to competing, or performing in high-pressure situations, being able to manage your emotional state is critical. In sport, the arousal state refers to the ability to manage your heart rate within a certain range- a range that ensures that we are performing both mentally and physically at our best. Obviously, the variability of this range changes depending on the sport in question, but what we do know is that we are always looking to keep our heart rate below 120 beats per minute.
I understand if this all seems a little specific (and possibly even a little boring if you aren’t into the nitty gritty of it all #geekalert) but whilst we may not be able to measure in the moment exactly what our heart rate is (or even want to for that matter), what we can all almost certainly appreciate is the result. Leaving our optimal zone has consequences on our brain function which yields some common signs and symptoms; loss of focus, clarity and the ability to make clear and rational decision to name a few! Not ideal when we are out there in the ring!
Whilst few of us are gifted with the kind of control that allows us to control our heart rate, what we do have control over is our breath. Your ability to control and regulate your breath then becomes your super power in exerting control over both your heart rate (the respiratory and cardiovascular system are intimately connected) as well as brain wave activity. It’s the most tangible tool that we have to manage our physiology and our emotions to ensure that we are in the optimal zone for training and competing.
One of my favourite breath techniques fit for purpose is the 1:2 breath ratio. It’s very simple to practice. Breathing to this ratio mean that if you means that if you have an inhalation of 4 counts, you want your exhalation to be 8 counts. If you have an inhalation of 6 counts, you want your exhalation to be 12 counts. You are doubling the length of your exhalation comparative to your inhalation.
This is a really easy, invisible and highly effective tool that you can use at any stage. You could use it when you are waiting for your turn in the competition arena, you could use it if you feel like you are getting a little disheveled and off centre in training; at any point that you feel as though your thought processes are getting a little “out of hand” in relationship with what you would like them to be, bring in this 1:2 count breath ratio and I guarantee you that you will start to turn things around.