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January 2019 Issue
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Effective breathing for tramping endurance

Slow and steady wins the race – moderate your breathing to keep plodding forward. Photo: Alistair Hall
Sometimes when the going gets tough, it feels like it’s hard to catch your breath.

Think of a long sustained uphill or plugging steps in deep snow. It doesn’t take long before you feel like you need to stop to catch your breath. While stopping does let your breathing and heart rate slow down, it’s not the most effective way to get up that big hill.

Instead of stopping, try slowing your pace. If your body doesn’t have to work so hard, your heart rate and breathing will slow down, too. If you find it hard to go at a slower pace, try counting your steps until 10 and then start over.

You can also learn to slow down your breathing or find a steady rate of breathing without changing your pace. Doing so will slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, making it easier to keep walking up the hill. If you don’t have asthma or any other respiratory condition, you can try these two methods:

  1. When you exhale, let the air out slowly. Think of saying ‘ha’ as you breathe out, like you are sighing. After you exhale, try waiting one to two seconds before you slowly inhale.
  2. When you inhale, try to breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. Try not to suck in as much air as possible. Instead take in about two-thirds of a full breath.

Try these one at a time. If that goes ok, you could combine them but you may not need to. You often only need to do these for 10 to 30 seconds and then continue breathing normally. You can repeat them when you feel short of breath again.