2002: Take heart: Proper breathing easy
Whenever you see a player interviewed on television after winning a tournament, especially if it’s for the first time, at some point the player invariably will talk about breathing and how it kept him or her relaxed.
The Ryder Cup was a great example. Breathing sounds easy enough. But there is a right way and a wrong way. The right way enables you to get the proper amount of oxygen into your system and to your brain so it doesn’t panic. Breathe the wrong way and you might end up hyperventilating.
The next time you play golf and, late in the round, you see your opponents standing behind the ball taking great big chest-breaths, press them. Because if they take two or three more breaths like that, they will just pass out.
If you breathe properly, you’re not going to notice the chest going up and down. Watch Tiger Woods. He’s one of the best at breathing properly when he’s behind his ball preparing for the next shot. When he takes a deep breath he takes it from his diaphragm so his stomach fills up and then it goes down. If you breathe from your shoulders and your chest, you’ll notice that the muscles in your chest and neck tighten. This also has a dramatic and bad effect on your golf swing.
The best way to learn how to do this is get in the static back position, which is laying flat on the ground with your feet up in a chair. While in that position, take a deep breath with your chest. You fill your chest as full as you can get it. You let all the air out, push it out and you keep your chest down, put your hands on your stomach and then as you breathe in, you breathe in and you fill your diaphragm. Your hands should be moving up and down on your stomach. That’s how we’re designed to breathe from the time we’re born.
The problem is, the older we get, we’re sitting in an office chair; we’re sitting in a car; we’re sitting in a cart; we’re bent over and our rib cage is closed down on the diaphragm. It takes about 20 seconds for the oxygen to go from your diaphragm and lungs and into the bloodstream and into the body and into the brain to where you actually get benefit from it. Taking a diaphragmatic breath needs to be part of your pre-shot routine.
Also, your posture must be correct as you walk and approach the golf ball. If you’re rounded from the shoulders and bent over, your rib cage closes on your diaphragm and makes it difficult to breathe properly.
Related to all of this is the heart rate. You may have seen this on Buy.com Tour telecasts. Some of the
players are monitored. It’s very revealing. The heart rate helps determine where adrenaline and oxygen levels are. If you know what your resting heart rate is, a monitor can help you
maintain that rate under stress.
Heart rate monitors are about $50. The key is to get your heart rate between 60 and 80 percent of your personal maximum and maintain it for a desired time based on your fitness goals. Your
personal maximum is derived by taking 220 minus your age. Before embarking on a strenuous
conditioning program check with your physician to make sure you don’t have any health issues.
First, without working out, determine what your resting heart rate is. Then determine your heart rate during normal activity – walking around the house or walking to and from the practice range. You want your normal activity heart rate to be as close as possible to your heart rate right before and after you hit your shot.
The more consistent those numbers are, the better you are at controlling the adrenaline flow. One of the fun things about playing golf is learning how to control these things yourself. Learning how and when to breathe makes it easier to concentrate.
If you’re out of oxygen, then you can’t focus. The heart rate is a big indicator of this.
So when you’re out playing, use your breathing. Understand how to breathe. I suggest you get a heart rate monitor and check to see your level. It will give you some immediate feedback. And I’m sure it will make you play better golf without even changing your swing.