The Way You Breathe During HIIT Can Make Or Break Your Workout, So Here's What To Do

by Georgina Berbari

Too often, when I'm doing HIIT workouts, I constantly catch myself holding my breath throughout each exercise. And while I didn't think much of this habit in the past, I've come to realize that the way you breathe during any workout — but especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — can actually make a huge difference in terms of the quality of your sweat session. Even amidst all of the inevitable panting and sweating that'll happen in these intense workouts, following the right breathing techniques during HIIT exercises can help take your workout to the next level — and, you know, make sure you're not giving up after doing all of about three burpees.

"Breathing properly during HIIT training is a game-changer and will enable you to be fresh enough to go for a few more rounds as opposed to collapsing and taxing out early," Lisa Niren, an ACE-certified personal trainer and head instructor at Studio, tells Elite Daily over email. See what I mean? It's all in the breath, fam. That's because, according to Leah Kalemba, a fitness instructor for Evolve Personal Training, Fighthouse MMA, and Moveir Dance Studio, breathing oxygenates your body on a cellular level and boosts blood circulation, which is basically a fancy, scientific way to describe how the proper inhales and exhales can ultimately sustain your energy and prevent unnecessary physical stress during a workout.

"Shallow, rapid breathing expends more carbon dioxide from your system," Kalemba tells Elite Daily in an email, "[which creates] an imbalance that constricts your blood vessels, tires you out faster, and can even make you dizzy." And I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the last thing you want to feel during a HIIT circuit is lightheaded and fatigued.

But aside from the physical ways in which breathing affects your workout, Kalemba says there's a mental aspect to it, too: Focused breathing, she explains, can bring you into a meditative state, clearing your head for the challenge and purging any negative thoughts that may be holding you back from giving your workout your absolute all.

"Prior to your HIIT workout, take a few moments to concentrate on a steady breathing pattern: in slowly through the nose, and out through the mouth, filling your diaphragm fully," Kalemba says. "Visualize your breath delivering energy to the muscles that are driving the movement."

And once you find a rhythm with your inhales and exhales, stick with it, says Niren. "Ideally I like to create a rhythm of breathing that coincides with the exercises I'm doing in my HIIT workouts," she tells Elite Daily. "It keeps me calm, collected, and paced with what I'm doing."

Of course, "calm" isn't exactly the first word that comes to mind when describing what it's like to do a HIIT workout, so if these tips feel a little inaccessible at first, consider this: Why not try thinking of your HIIT session as a way more intense yoga flow? After all, there's definitely a more obvious focus on the breath in yoga, but that doesn't mean the same strategies can't be applied to other workouts. Regardless of what you're doing, your breath matters, my friend — don't ignore it.

Instead, do your best to adapt the flow of your breathing patterns to the physical actions your body is executing. "For example, on the most intense part of the action, exhale forcefully and inhale as you wind up for the next movement," Kalemba explains. "For fast reps like mountain climbers, purse your lips on the exhale so that your breath comes out naturally with each movement."

To ensure things feel a little more natural during your workout, be sure to practice diaphragmatic breathing even when you aren’t working out. Pretty soon, you won't even have to think about the way you're breathing; over time, your body will learn what feels right for you and your unique movements.

"Think of breathing as an essential part of your form for movements and practice it," Niren says. "It will only make your workouts more effective."