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Author Topic: Breathing while Lead Climbing?  (Read 1699 times)
surf88
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« on: June 07, 2011, 07:47:23 AM »

Went back to Rattlesnake to climb yesterday with Tim.  I lead the dinosaur route. 
Just a quick question, is it natural to have breath control issues when your running out above your protection?  Any fall at Rattlesnake = Guarenteed bleeding because the rock there is like a cheese grater.  So I find when I start to get above my protection my chest gets really tight and sometimes I forget to breath and I start to feel a little anaerobic . I'm not sure if its fear or focus?  Im pretty sure its not panic, because I'm able to maintain my focus. . This same thing happens to me when I'm snowboarding steep chutes too.
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2011, 02:53:02 PM »

Went back to Rattlesnake to climb yesterday with Tim.  I lead the dinosaur route. 
Just a quick question, is it natural to have breath control issues when your running out above your protection?  Any fall at Rattlesnake = Guarenteed bleeding because the rock there is like a cheese grater.  So I find when I start to get above my protection my chest gets really tight and sometimes I forget to breath and I start to feel a little anaerobic . I'm not sure if its fear or focus?  Im pretty sure its not panic, because I'm able to maintain my focus. . This same thing happens to me when I'm snowboarding steep chutes too.

You are not unique in the described reaction.  I've heard others describe the "forget to breathe" problem and I've seen it discussed in several different sports related venues.  The effect of fear on breathing seems to come in two forms: holding one's breath and breathing in rapid, tiny gasps that don't take in enough air to do any good.  Long distance runners with coaches are admonished to establish a steady rhythm between pace and breathing; freaked out, first time climbers are told to relax and take a deep breath -- the concept comes up all the time.

It would seem that fear and adrenaline responses should include instincitve deep breaths to prepare for fight or flight.  Maybe, during some key evolutionary period when our species was down to a few couples escaping cataclysimic flooding by floating on logs, our greatest risk during crisis was drowning, not tigers.  So, some of us hold our breath when scared.

For almost 60 years, I have played a musical instrument that is primarily ruled by air (trumpet is called a "wind instrument") and I have so much control of my breathing mechanisms that I can sustain a stream of bubbles through a straw into a glass of water indefinitely, breathing in through my nose while simultaneously blowing out through my mouth so the bubble stram never ends; I can sing three different pitches simulatneously.  I do not experience the problem that you describe, but my recommendation would be to take three deep breaths, thinking not about expanding your lunds (chest) but thinking about expanding your abdomen and the kidney area.  Blow out forcefully and completely between each breath -- got to get rid of CO2 as well as take in O2. 

Have you seen that Banff Film Festival piece about the free solo climber on Half Dome?  There is a scene about 2/3rds of the way up where he freaks and is standing on an 8 inch ledge, shaking.  This guy has been doing 5.11 pinky jams 1000 feet up in the air with no rope and then all of sudden he loses it and is standing on what to him should feel like a tennis court taking little short breaths.  You can actually watch him gradually slow down and deepen his breathing.  Immediately after his breathing is normal, you can see him relax and then he takes off on the climb again.

You're probably just the kind of person that reacts to getting gripped by shallow breathing.  Know that fact and know that you can slow it down, get it deep and go on.

Tommy T.

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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2011, 06:47:52 PM »

Haven't exp'd that myself, but breathing is something I try to control now while climbing.

I think its about channeling energy efficiently and grunting and exaggerated breathing (subconsciously happens) is not efficient.
I keep my mind on that while climbing and I"m not sure if its a placebo effect but it feels like I have better control over things while pulling through difficult moves.

Might get out on the rock Next Wednesday if things work out, and hope to lead a 5.7 to start the season off (might be 5.8 but not sure: Zambizi Hatchet Head)
Heavy breathing might happen, there's a spot that's pretty run out but I typically don't think of it when it happens; I almost block it out and focus on the task in front of me, when I'm through with that climb, I almost forget I ran it out.
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2011, 10:38:16 PM »

Quote
You are not unique in the described reaction.  I've heard others describe the "forget to breathe" problem and I've seen it discussed in several different sports related venues.  The effect of fear on breathing seems to come in two forms: holding one's breath and breathing in rapid, tiny gasps that don't take in enough air to do any good.  Long distance runners with coaches are admonished to establish a steady rhythm between pace and breathing; freaked out, first time climbers are told to relax and take a deep breath -- the concept comes up all the time.
Good to know I'm not alone.  This is an "I'm so focused I forget to breath" problem, not an "I'm hyperventilating because I'm panicky" problem. I was kind of thinking it is an instictual thing where my body is so focused on its immediate survival that breathing is not a priority.  Just to clairify, this is a very diferent feeling than the loosing your mojo (panic) feeling like you described for the free solo climber on half dome.  I know that feeling too.  One of my personal proudest moments was being able to regain my composure after loosing my mojo in a ropeless exposed situation. 
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2011, 12:21:36 PM »

 One of my personal proudest moments was being able to regain my composure after loosing my mojo in a ropeless exposed situation.  

And we are all glad that you did!!

Tommy T.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 08:13:28 AM by Tommy T » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2011, 08:33:11 AM »

A couple of my original examples involved your type of non-breathing.  The runner trying to force a final sprint at the end of a long-distance race may grit his teeth, bare his gums, tighten his chest and abs and concentrate every thought into pumping his legs.  Fortunately, you can sprint 100 meters without breathing, so it may work.  If you've ever seen a sprinter win the race and then pass out on the track, chances are he held his breath the full distance. 

Do you know whether you usually breathe by inflating your chest or by inflating your abdomen?  I can see that a person who is concentrating on keeping a tiny finger hold or a difficult extended horizontal arm position might be, subconscioulsy or intentionally, trying to reduce all extraneous upper body motions.  If fact, a lot of climbing positions surely use the chest expanding muscles to control shoulder positions.  Breathing from the abdomen would let you lock up the upper body when you need to and still breathe. 

It also is more likely to ventilate the lower parts of your lungs, which in some people become pretty stagnant from lack of regular use.    Finally, it gives you a drill sargent's air support which allows "command voice" type shouts at your union public employees.

Tommy T.
 
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