I recently took a trip to Hawaii. One of the highlights of my trip was the morning runs. The conditions were prime—temperatures in the 70s, low humidity, slight ocean breeze and flat terrain. Of course, the scenery—absolutely breathtaking.
I would start my run about 6:45 a.m. and run down the beach toward the sunrise. I would run in the sand and some on the sidewalk path that followed along the beach. Sometimes I would veer off my path and explore when something caught my attention. I would run out to the tip of piers, down alleyways and onto rock peninsulas. The sky would turn amazing colors and cast shadows and light on the ocean that was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes as I ran. The air was so clean and my breathing relaxed, I could have run forever. The only thing that stopped me each morning was the time. I had to get to my kids and parents to start each day.
When I returned home to KC, I went back to my normal routine of treadmill runs at the gym, but something had changed. My breathing was labored, my body felt fatigued, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t put in the miles. This happened three or four times; I couldn’t even complete half of my normal distance.
The morning of New Year’s Eve, I spent time listening to an inspirational audiobook while I began to de-Christmas my home. I was relaxed and able to really take in the book. I began taking notes as many ideas started to emerge about personal goals and client projects. I felt good. Shortly after, I went to the gym for a run, and instead of listening to my music as I typically would, I listened to the audiobook. About three miles into my run, I realized how great I felt. I was running again. Strong. I continued for another four miles and stopped because I had to get on with my day.
What was the difference? Why was I running and all of the sudden feeling good again? The more I thought about it, I realized what it was: I was breathing, REALLY breathing. Oxygen intake is so important for our state of mind, strength, creativity and well-being. I must have transitioned into a stressed state from Hawaii to Kansas City as I entered into reality of the holidays and being gone from work for well over a week. I was breathing to stay alive, not breathing for optimal performance—there is a difference. When we’re breathing for survival, our bodies are tense, our minds rigid, and we’re letting in only enough oxygen to sustain us, thus, we just get by.
If you want to excel, grow and reach new horizons, then you must BREATHE. The breath should be deep, gratifying and relaxed. Allow the oxygen to fill your mind, your veins, your lungs—done right, you can feel it! Breathing gives us strength, not only when physically exerting ourselves, but when mentally taxing ourselves. Next time you find yourself grasping for air and struggling to keep going remember to BREATHE. Try these tips to find your breath:
- Stop and take 10 deep breaths—in through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Go outside and take a walk.
- Turn on music you enjoy and complete an easy task.
- Listen or read something that inspires you.
- Smile and tell yourself you are strong and ready.
Sure, it seems pretty obvious that we need to BREATHE, but breathe for GOOD life, not just for survival. When you learn the difference you will grow, create, find solutions, and continually surpass your own personal best.
Breathe and be strong!