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To Breath or Not to Breath... ??

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  1. Dan
  2. Coaching Discussion
  3. Tuesday, April 30 2013, 08:16 AM
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Yes breathing is something we all must do. However,

a) When we are breathing are we actually doing it at the right time?
b) Do we even know when we are breathing?
b) More importantly are we breathing in a consistent manner?

Let's look at a few of these questions individually.

a) There is much discussion in other sports about the optimum time when breathing should occur. In golf there are those that support the breath in, breath out swing theory... and for very good reason. If you were to hold your breath while you swing you would naturally create unwanted tension in the core muscles, leading to loss of power. Golfers understand that power comes from a relaxed muscle. Curlers often breath in while in the hack, but breath out before starting their slide... again... no tension. OK... so Bowls is a sport too... shouldn't it fall in line that we would not want tension while we are delivering?

b) Most people are not aware when they are breathing and in most cases this is a good thing... if they are performing well! However, I would wager that those who are not performing well or who tighten up before a big shot have little or breathing techniques to fall back on.

c) Breathing is one of the best tools a top sportsperson can have in their arsenal. A golfer, curler or bowler can practice all the technical skills they want, and often do... but if they have no breath control or cannot breath in a consistent manner then bettering their own personal skills may be all for naught. If their breathing fails them, if it forces them to tense up, if they have no idea that their breathing pattern has changed and more importantly have no strategy or skill to get back to a proper breathing pattern before the big shot... well, they will ultimately fail with that shot.

If you are a member of Linked In you can follow a fascinating discussion on Breathing. It gets specific about Golf but I would contend that it is just as relevant to Bowls and Curling.
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Darryl Fitzgerald Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Great topic & one that isn't discussed much.

For myself, I am very aware of my breathing. First it's a calming/tension relief if I take a big breath and release it before stepping on the mat to prepare my shot. Second, I do as described above in the curling example and take a breath in before I deliver and exhale as I deliver. Such a small, simple thing.

Definitely something that I've never heard a coach talk about when talking bowls. In other sports i've played, I've had talks about it for things like pitching & hitting in baseball and also shooting in basketball.
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  1. more than a month ago
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Dan Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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absolutely debedeen... and you're right... we take far too much for granted in bowls

breathing is such a key factor when it comes to stepping up a notch with our performance. The linked_in article talks about having a target and then further discussion leads to how to focus on the target... and the athletes who are the most successful are the ones who have great breathing skills that allow them to focus entirely on their target and then and only then is it when the technical skills they possess can come to the fore.

Some think it is mental skills that we need to improve and develop strategies for and indeed I am a strong believer in Neideffer's Board Awareness / Narrow Focus grid (more on that later)... but I also believe that mental skills are directly related to breathing skills!

having said all that I can guarantee that as a coach when I ask an athlete to take a deep breath they will do it wrong more than 50% of the time... until I show them the correct way that is!

I have a video series for coaches and athletes coming out soon... I think this will make a very good brief, but valuable addition to the series!
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  1. more than a month ago
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Stephen Forrest Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I thought I would offer my input on this as it is central to the coaching I do on the West Coast.
The following is an excerpt from my 4 Steps to Success in Lawn Bowls coaching book
"Deep Diaphragmatic (Abdominal) Breathing"
Deep breathing is a physical technique of relaxation which is the fundamental start of many relaxation exercises. In this book, I intend only to demonstrate its use during a Lawn Bowls situation where it can be used to prevent physical and mental tension from affecting sound decision-making and delivery technique. As such, this exercise is conducted in a standing position rather than its normal position of lying down.
Stand upright with your feet slightly apart, your eyes closed and hands down by your sides. Your mouth should be closed but not clenched. Slowly begin to inhale through the nose, inflating the lower abdomen and diaphragm first, then expanding the rib area and finally filling the upper chest. Check your inhalation, making sure that the breath intake is silent. Refine your breath so that it enters the nostrils as if it were thread-like, not a gush of wind. As you inhale, visualize that this air is a gentle white mist entering your body. Hold your breath for as long as is comfortably possible. Your body will feel as if your feet are sinking into the floor and you will feel lighter as the experience continues.
When you feel it is time to begin breathing out, open your mouth just a little and slowly raise and lower your shoulders. Visualize the breath you are exhaling as a white mist. Let it slowly envelope you like a cloud of vapour. The cloud will begin at your feet, as you continue to exhale slowly and silently and then work up until it has surrounded your entire body. Pause for several seconds before continuing to breathe deeply, slowly and normally. Repeat this procedure enough times and you will start to experience a calm mental feeling.
This simple breathing technique should also be incorporated and synchronized with your actions for delivering every bowl, both in practice and in compettion.
Breathing out during the forward lunge and delivery of bowl improves muscular control and reduces physical tension in the actual delivery movement.
Keeping the mouth slightly open reduces physical tension in the whole upper body so when exhaling, breathe out through your mouth and that achieves both goals.
Synchronized breathing creates a rhythm for routine that over time will result in fewer poor bowls. The pace and timing of your even breathing should be deliberately incorporated into your Pre-shot Routine. You should inhale when you pick up your bowl, exhale when you check the bias and clean the bowl, inhale when you step on the Mat and then exhale when you start the delivery movement. This sets a calm, methodical rhythm to your actions.
All this is unique to each individual, of course. Your specific routine is best developed through experimentation on the practice green.
The books are available online at http//http://strobeonline.ca/store/
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  1. more than a month ago
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Dan Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Thanks Steve...

You hit upon a couple of key points... and not just that breathing is important! I'll touch upon one of them here.

It's about knowing the proper breathing technique... and many don't have it! I like the technique you describe and should also point out that it is a very good relaxation technique as well.

I have held many clinics where I ask the group to take a really deep breath... and am amazed to see how few take a proper breath. Most of them are heaving their shoulders as high as they can in the air in an effort to impress the coach with how big a breath they can take... which of course is only showing the coach precisely how little they know about proper breathing technique!

My favourite technique comes from a singing class I took at university, taught by a musical director/actor... and if anyone should know anything about breathing I would think it might be someone who counts on proper breathing technique for a living.

His was very simple...
• Stand straight, but relaxed
• Place you hand on your diaphragm (approx. your belly)
• Breath in through your nose... so that you are pushing your hand out from your belly
• Breath in some more (through your nose)... to push your hand out even more (it can be done with practice!)
• Exhale through your mouth until you think all the air is gone
• Continue to exhale through your mouth until all the air is really gone (this may take a little effort but you will be amazed to see just how much more "stale" air you were harbouring!)
• Repeat

I would not suggest trying this for the first time while in the middle of a game! Our game is slow enough as it is. This is something you can try everywhere else and most people would not know you were even practicing a key sports skill. Once you have mastered this simple technique you will not need to keep your hand on your belly as it should come naturally. Nor will you have to practice this while standing on the mat as you should have all this out of the way prior to getting to the mat. IMO the mat is a spot for delivering a bowl, not for showing off your new breathing technique, not matter how well you have mastered it! ;)

Once you have developed a proper breathing technique then overall you will find yourself more relaxed and able to get on with the business of the game, and that is making shots.
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