Say what you want about elevation masks; we can go back and forth about the impacts of high-altitude training on blood counts, endurance, and respiratory efficiency. Whether you think it’s a gimmick and doesn’t have any utility or you find its novelty interesting, one thing is certain: The human-machine adapts to repetitive stresses.
Bones strengthen, muscles economize for repeated tensions and contractions, and just like the result of any repeated practice the body aims to make the hard things easy over time and with a minimal investment of resources. Similarly, when we increase the resistances associated with breathing then our muscule-respiratory system is compelled to adapt in kind.
The last few runs, I’ve done while wearing one has been tough, I’ve got it cranked up and it feels like I’m breathing through a coffee stirrer. There are at least a dozen reasons why I wear it, and at the top of the list is the fact that my training focus has recently shifted to prioritizing my ability to breathe and manage in low oxygen environments.
Adding external resistance for those muscles to work against not only increases the effectiveness of such a practice but will enable you to positively change your physiology as it relates to any physical performance, athletic or otherwise.
Pulling air against the elevation mask takes its toll after a while. When the diaphragm pulls with an increase in force, the tensions stress the joints between the ribs just as a bench press stresses the architecture around the shoulder. By increasing the resistance that my respiratory muscles need to work against, I improve their ability to work and increase the economy of their efforts. I do this by exclusively nose-breathing at all times, and at all costs, regardless of whether I’m wearing the mask or not.
To do this it’s necessary to protect each breath with a certain tension in my core. The harder it is for me to breathe during exercise, the greater the involvement of my entire core.
Simply focusing on breathing at all costs regardless of the stress, the load, and the intensity does infinitely more for core strength and athletic performance, and endurance training than any amount of crunches, situps and leg raises ever could. Traditional core exercises are simply an impractical practice with little, if any, real-world relevance. On the other hand, it’s impossible to understate the value of practicing to guard your core to enable proper breathing at a restful pace. Adding external resistance for those muscles to work against not only increases the effectiveness of such a practice but will enable you to positively change your physiology as it relates to any physical performance, athletic or otherwise.
Focus on true functional fitness and attend to the physiology of the human machine. The complex will become simple, the hard becomes easy, and the impossible becomes probable.
Prioritize a Breath-First philosophy.