Exercising With Resistance Bands (Part 2)

Editor's note: This is part 2 of a series. Check out part 1 and part 3!

Doing respiratory rehab one-on-one with my therapist on ZOOM made it even more intimidating. Jim could see how I reacted to exercise. When he sent me to my kitchen to get a glass of water, I returned and he could tell that I was huffing and puffing. He quickly reminded me to close my mouth, explaining that if you are huffing and puffing it is because you are not doing pursed-lip breathing.

Shoulders

We began with my shoulders. Jim made me lower my shoulders to relax them and watched my shoulders during exercise making sure that they were always lowered and relaxed. He called me out when I slipped up and made me keep them lowered. At first, it hurt to keep my shoulders relaxed, I’m so used to them being up around my neck. Jim explained that keeping my shoulders tense around my neck constricts the muscles and makes it harder to breathe. It took several days of practice to sit upright and learn to relax my shoulders, but Jim was right. What a difference lowering my shoulder made to my overall breathing.

Warm-up

Before we began, we did some breathing and warm-up exercises. We warmed up starting at the feet and marched in place, finishing with our arms, neck, and head. I could feel my feet, arms, neck, and shoulders loosening up. Jim never pushed me to begin while I was short of breath. He was particularly good at taking the time to make me feel comfortable and we did the breathing slowly together.

Breathing

He talked me through what I had learned many years ago but had become lazy about. He told me to close my mouth and find something to focus on. Take a deep breath in through your nose, deep into your stomach until you could see movement, then slowly exhale through pursed lips. Do this 10 times upon exertion or when you get short of breath and do it until your breathing returns to normal.

Pursed-lip breathing

We’ve all been taught about pursed-lip breathing (PLB), but this rehab held you accountable for it! Using pursed lips to breathe, we made sure my breathing was even and normal before we started each exercise. Together we took deeps breaths in and out. Jim explained to me that as infants we naturally used PLB but grew out of it and became mouth breathers as we aged. Now we had to go back to the basics. After each exercise, we took minutes to breathe using PLB until I recovered and my 02 levels became normal.

In the moment

Jim said that it was essential that we stay in the moment and intentionally breathe through our nose, with lowered shoulders, so that the air gets deep into our abdomen. You will see your stomach move if you practice hard enough. Then, we exhale, gently, through pursed lips. This helps the air in our lungs to empty so a fresh breath has room to enter. Before long, I too could see my stomach move with each breath.

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