When most fighters struggle with cardiovascular conditioning and increasing their endurance, they figure the key must be in their roadwork and amount of time they spend getting their heart rate up. Sometimes that’s the case, but the secret may also lie in another aspect of your training. There are things some fighters do, habits some fighters have that rob them of the oxygen they need. Like poor conditioning, these habits leave them huffing and puffing for air. If you’re putting in the right amount of time in the gym, hitting the road often enough and training with the intensity you should, then it may all come down to better breathing.
First of all, you should be breathing through your nose, not your mouth. Yeah, this also helps prevent getting hit with your mouth open and getting your jaw broken, but it is also important to getting the proper oxygen supply to your system. What it does is it allows you to breath deeper into your diaphragm. When you breathe deeper into your diaphragm, this causes your abdomen to expand, places downward pressure on your stomach and forces more air into your lungs. This increases blood flow to and from your heart, making you more efficient. Practice this in the gym, especially when you start to get tired and feel the inclination to fight with your mouth open. This will increase the cardiovascular demands on your system and will ultimately help create good breathing habits that you can take into the ring with you.
Next, be sure you are not holding your breath. When you hold your breath consistently during sparring or during actual competition, you are likely depriving your body of oxygen. When this happens, your cells have to get their fuel from an alternate source and that causes what’s called lactic acid fermentation. That’s basically what lactic acid build-up means and it is what causes that burning, sore, fatigued feeling you get as the rounds progress. That muscle pain and tiredness is the feeling that comes when you try to demand energy from cells that are oxygen-deficient.
Finally…relax. Oh, that’s sounds so easy, but it is really hard for some fighters to do. Having someone hurl punches at you and try to put your lights out is, understandably enough, not everyone’s idea of an enjoyable night on the town. However, when you fight tense, you breathe shallow and take in less oxygen. You also become more muscle-fatigued faster and that makes you FEEL more tired. This feeling is partially an illusion, but also relates to the points above as well. When you are not relaxed, you expend more nervous energy, waste your reserves on staying amped-up at 100 percent and don’t let your body move freely and act naturally.
Once you learn to control your breathing, you will become stronger, you will be able to produce more intensity (fight at a greater pace) with less effort and will have likely tapped into an oxygen supply that you never knew you had. You’ll find new excitement from the simple task of controlling your breathing and it will be like getting your second wind, the first time around.