Don't Let Breathing Be Your Kryptonite

As a competitor, your quality of breathing shouldn't be your kryptonite. Learn more about proper breathing for athletes on this week's ADVENTing.
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Published on
January 15, 2020
Updated on
January 22, 2020

In this week's episode of ADVENTing, Dr. Madan Kandula and Dr. Ethan Handler discuss why breathing well is the primary component of keeping your competitive edge.

Dr. Kandula: All right, so, if you had to create the optimal athlete, think about Rocky, who's the guy, who's the big Rus-- that so--

Dr. Handler: Ivan Drago.

Dr. Kandula: So if you wanted to create Ivan Drago, what would you sta- would you start with his like massive biceps? His- his cr- How do you create, how would you start to create, the perfect human specimen?

Dr. Handler: I mean, obviously its gonna be a nose that's that wide. Its gonna be huge.

Dr. Kandula: You would start with the nose. Right?

Dr. Handler: Yes.

Dr. Kandula: You're gonna start with a nose that... works.

Dr. Handler: Absolutely.

Dr. Kandula: Optimally.

Dr. Handler: Absolutely.

Dr. Kandula: Right?

Dr. Handler: Right.

Dr. Kandula: Because everything else, ya know, comes back to that. So, if somebody's nose, if you're gonna-- if your gonna create that, superhuman or the superhuman you wanna be, uh, ya know... give them functioning tools. Give 'em an airway that works. Give 'em, give 'em, ya know you wanna open up that intake valve, so they can, they can crush it.

Dr. Handler: Yeah.

Dr. Kandula: On the flip side, you wanna create the weakest, meekest, nothing, nobody of an athlete, and, what do you do for that? How do you get a start to, to uh--

Dr. Handler: Well you just block their nose off.

Dr. Kandula: Block their nose off.

Dr. Handler: Yeah.

Dr. Kandula: Like, literally- I couldn't, I couldn't take somebody-- I could take, take Superman, plug his nose, like he's not human, see I don't even know what he is.

Dr. Kandula: He's not human, but--

Dr. Kandula: If, If, if he were human, assuming he was human...

Dr. Handler: Yeah.

Dr. Kandula: Plug his nose, and what you're gonna see is over time, that superhuman, ya know Ivan Drago, beast is gonna turn into a little nothing. He's gonna melt away.

Dr. Handler: Its gonna be his kryptonite.

Dr. Kandula: Yeah cause you need, I mean the core of being an athlete, is you gotta be able to breathe properly. You have to.

Dr. Handler: Right.

Dr. Kandula: Um, and that's why, in this day and age there's a lot more talk about breathing and proper breathing, and actually, nowadays, there's yoga and meditation, and all the things that sort of all-- what's the core concept there? Like wha- what do they always talk about? One hundred percent of the time, they talk about breathe through your nose.

Dr. Handler: Mhm.

Dr. Kandula: Breathe through your nose, and what if you're the poor dude who wants to be Ivan Drago, but you're some, ya know, kind of lesser man, or woman, and your nose doesn't work and somebody tells you, breathe through your nose, breathe through your nose, and you'd say, and you try it, you'd try to breathe through your nose, it doesn't work, and then you open your mouth, and then you feel like a fool. Uh, but your nose didn't work, nobody ever told you that.

Dr. Handler: Except for that's a more commonplace. I feel like most patients will say, hey I can't breathe through my nose, or they may go to yoga or something else, that's probably more common than it isn't.

Dr. Kandula: I hear it, on the backend. Like, we tend to hear when we fix somebodies nose, and they say, this whole- my whole life, this whole time, where when I was running, and my coach was yelling at me to shut my mouth, and I tried, and I couldn't do it.

Dr. Kandula: The whole time my nose wasn't working.

Dr. Handler: Right.

Dr. Kandula: And they didn't know about it, until the backend, which is a shame.

Dr. Kandula: To me it's like, it'd say, when to get them working properly. And its a loss, that they've gone through their whole life ya know, not being able to breathe properly. Especially if you're an athlete. I mean its, its certainly important for everybody, but if somebody is really, ya know sort of, if somebody is really, uh, putting in their time and effort to- to do their best and be their best, and that's being sabotaged by a situation, that they didn't know even existed, or don't know exists. Um, that's a shame.

Dr. Handler: Right. And I would say, especially for athletes that are doing more longer, aerobic type sport, right? Runners, swimmers, and ya know and their other-- ya know, and there's other-- like football, ya know maybe a play lasts 30 seconds, and somebody's pushing as hard as they can for an immediate amount of time, like- certainly if you opened your mouth you can ram more in,

Dr. Kandula: Mhm.

Dr. Handler: Air in. Ya know, but for the more endurance athlete type person, like breathing through your nose, is essential. Ya know and you think about like cycling, and the amount of effort that people go to, like Tour De France, and all the drugging, and transfusing their own blood, its all trying to get more oxygen in your system. Um, trying to get a competitive edge, and think about, if you could just get your nose working, that might give you a little bit of a bump there.

Dr. Kandula: Big time. Like all, I mean honestly, I haven't ever really thought about it, so you get that like, yes.

Dr. Kandula: All the dope and the steroids, the this, the that, the, ya know all these things that people, I mean, its always trying to get an edge. Always looking for that, like what's that little thing, that I can do, that's gonna put me above the competition. And yet, they're missing the things that are sitting right in front of their face. Like literally, in the middle of their face, in the middle of their head, it's a, it's a, ya know sort of neon sign to the world, um, that, ya know I'm not at my best, but again, ya know, it's like a thing, you think about these, all these, sort of nuance things, the most obvious things, um, there's no time and attention put into it, unfortunately, when it's a massive, it's either, it's either, working properly, or it's not working properly, and if it's anything less than working properly it's gonna be a handicap, its gonna be something that drags you down, it's gonna be something that you ought to pay attention to, do something about, because um, the lack of doing something, is hurting you.

Dr. Handler: For sure.

Dr. Kandula: For anybody, but especially an athlete.

Dr. Handler: Yeah.

Dr. Kandula: And again, back to that ya know, where do you start, where does anything start athletically, I mean it starts with your breathing, ya know, I can't think of a sport where that not crucial, it does, I mean endurance athletes, with their breathing, their breathing is core to what they do for an extended time period, its sort of most apt, but even if you're, ya know Usain Bolt, or ya know... an athlete that's sprinting, why wouldn't you wanna- why wouldn't you-- - Right.

Dr. Kandula: Why wouldn't you wanna have a nose that's working, why wouldn't you want that? Um, and again, why though? What's the difference between, nose and mouth breathing, as far from an athlete standpoint?

Dr. Handler: Again, it's- it's, getting in the best amount, and best quality of air, into your lungs. I mean it's your primary airway, its the beginning of your airway.

Dr. Kandula: Conditions that air, so the whole point of your nose, and the reason everyone says breathe through your nose, is that there's a reason you have a nose, so is just to condition, moisten, warm, so by the time it gets to your lungs, your lungs are ready to go. Its, its--

Dr. Handler: It's your hempa, it's like you're a filter--

Dr. Kandula: Yeah, and it's, it's really a beautiful concept when it works. And, ya know, basically, and again, there comes a point, if somebody's truly going all out, where, eventually you're gonna kinda pass the threshold of what you can, which can actually breathe in through your nose, you're gonna drop your mouth open. If you're gonna sprint, then eventually you're pushing it to that extent. Okay, mouth comes open, but that's, ya know, but you should delay that until the last possible time, when that's needed.

Dr. Handler: Correct.

Dr. Kandula: Cause all those breaths, every breathe, you can have a breathe through the nose, versus a breathe through your mouth, every breathe that you can get in through your nose, is, is sort of powerful, is going, it's gonna, is going to optimize your uh, your athletic performance, every breathe that's coming in through your mouth, is weakening, and its gonna detract from that, and eventually you're gonna get to a point of if your sprinting certainly were, okay I gotta drop my mouth open, but you shouldn't do that, until you have to do that. And unfortunately, people have to do that too quickly, because their noses don't work.

Dr. Handler: Right.

Dr. Kandula: So...

Dr. Handler: Yeah, so I mean again, talking about, competitive edge here in sports, and people trying to get like a leg up, ya know, there's other ways of doing it, that are less effective. Ya know doping, and these other things that we were talking about, what if we could just get the nose working, give people a bump.

Dr. Kandula: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, it is really important, breathing properly, breathing properly means breathing through your nose. Um, do not uh, diminish the impact of that, do not diminish, or it's not something to be buried, or frustrated with. Its something to be taken care of. Ya know, again, its really a matter of, whether you want something working for ya or against ya, and for you is crucial, so...

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First published by ADVENT on
January 15, 2020
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Don't Let Breathing Be Your Kryptonite