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Breathe!
By: Andrea Furst (profile)
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The benefits of breathing for enhanced wellbeing and performance have been around for many years. However, how many players commit time to regular practice of effective breathing for golf performance?

The benefits of breathing for enhanced wellbeing and performance have been around for many years. However, how many players commit time to regular practice of effective breathing for golf performance?

The ‘Make practice count’ article (see Sports Psychology Article Archive, February 2009) outlined the points of difference between technical time versus practice time and breathing was provided as an example of the psychological aspect of your game to include in your practice schedule. Spending time training yourself to breathe effectively is considered technical training. This means that you practice breathing at home or in a training environment so that when it comes to the course you are well versed on how to breathe and how to manage your body’s physiology in a competitive situation. Players can use breathing during a competitive round as a way to prepare for a shot, deal with a shot, and pass the time between shots during their walk.

The technical time spent on breathing is referring to specific time spent on being aware of your breathing with the aim of making your breathing deeper and more effective. This is so that you are using your lungs to their full capacity and that you are able to get oxygen moving around your entire body to relax your muscles. Effective breathing is a true blend of physiology and psychology; the psychophysiology of performance. The physiology of breathing is an area worth reading more about so that you can fully understand and appreciate its benefits. The psychology of breathing provides something for you to focus on. Something that is simple. Something that is within your control. Something that doesn’t need anyone or anything else but you. Something that is in the present.

Simply put, if you can manage your heart rate via your breathing there is a good chance you will be able to control your emotions, which assists with your focus and ability to play the game to your maximum on any given day. Breathing is a superb tool for enhanced psychological recovery, jetlag, emotional management, and clarity of mind.

There are several ways that you can breathe. There are numerous resources that you can access to provide the information to teach yourself to breath for golf performance. Diaphragmatic breathing is one breathing technique that many players find helpful. Diaphragmatic breathing is smooth, deep, rhythmical breathing from the diaphragm.

Here are some basic guidelines to assist you learning diaphragmatic breathing:

• Get into a comfortable position such as lying down on your back with legs and arms flat on floor, slightly spread so that they are not touching your body. • Loosen neck and shoulder muscles. Drop your shoulders and lengthen your neck. • Clear your mind of worries and distracting thoughts and aim to focus on your breathing. • Pick a ‘focal point’ to direct your thoughts to your breathing. For example, counting your length of breathes, observing the movement of the diaphragm, or feeling of air moving into your nose and out of your mouth. • Take long, deep breaths. • Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.

INHALE deeply and slowly through your nose and notice how your body seems to lift up:

• Breathe from your diaphragm in a relaxed, easy manner, and then let the air fill and expand your central and upper chest. • Push your mid-upper abdominal region fully outward as you breathe in as you fill your lungs. • The inhalation phase should last about 5 seconds.

EXHALE through your mouth:

• You should feel the muscles in your arms and shoulders relax. • Your mid-upper abdominal region will fall as you breathe out when you empty your lungs. • As you breathe out and relax, you should begin to feel centred and well anchored to the ground. • Your legs should feel relaxed, yet solid and firm. • The entire exhalation phase should last about 7 seconds. • It is important to exhale slowly and steadily.

Start 2010 with a commitment to include psychological aspects into your practice schedule in both your technical time and your practice time to optimize the transfer of your skills from practice to the competitive environment.

Here are several situations that you can train and implement diaphragmatic breathing:

• At home when ‘resting’ or recovering. • Before bed or sleep. • Before a round. • Pre-shot routine. • Post-shot routine. • Walking between shots. • Travelling (i.e., car, bus, train, plane). • Waiting around (e.g., delayed or stopped play, slow rounds, between rounds). • Any quiet time or ‘spare’ time.

So, the take home message from this article is really the one simple word that is a frequent piece of advice provided to tour players… “Breathe”!

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