I regularly talk with people about beep test training and discuss ways to go about improving beep test scores. One of the most common concerns I hear from people is the issue of breathing.
The reality is that no matter how fit we are we all reach a point during the test where breathing becomes difficult. This is simply the result of the continually increasing workload placed on the body during the beep test.
There is, however, the opportunity to improve our beep test performance by improving breathing efficiency.
The breathing sequence
When we breathe during exercise a simple process occurs:
- The breath comes into the body,
- there is a momentary pause,
- the breath leaves the body,
- there is a momentary pause.
This sequence occurs continuously during exercise. The rate at which this sequence occurs is dependant upon the intensity of the exercise. Obviously the higher the intensity of the exercise the faster the breathing cycle needs to occur.
Think of breathing as delivering fuel and removing waste from the body. Just like a motor vehicle takes petrol into the engine and removes gases via the exhaust system. We need oxygen to fuel our working muscles and we need to remove carbon dioxide from our bodies. Our body’s capacity to utilize the fuel is called Vo2Max and it’s a capacity that can be increased through appropriate fitness training.
Improving your beep test score through effective breathing
The first step to improving our beep test score through improved breathing is to understand the process as we’ve just discussed. Understanding that an increased rate of breathing is normal and that it is the body’s way of coping should give us some reassurance that nothing is ‘wrong’, it’s normal.
Secondly, when we know that it’s the body’s way of coping and that it’s normal we tend not to panic as much because logically we understand the process and we’re expecting it. We appreciate that in order to continue further with the beep test the body needs to and should being increasing the breathing rate.
The third step is to try to maintain a smooth and rhythmical breathing pattern through out the entire test rather than just when the intensity starts to climb. Start breathing in a slow controlled manner from the first beep!
A common misconception is that we should breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Try that for yourself the next time you’re in the middle of high intensity training like the beep test.
We simply cannot get as much oxygen into the body quickly by bringing it in via two small holes on the nose. If we don’t provide the oxygen/fuel the body needs it will just stop, it’s that simple. You should be breathing in through the mouth in order to get the largest possible volume of oxygen into the body. This is particularly important as the intensity starts to climb.
Finally, if we’re following a carefully constructed beep test training program, such as Mastering the Beep Test the ability for our bodies to cope improves and breathing at a high rate of intensity becomes that little more bearable.