Blowing silence


My body, under the stress of lifting weights, is always held tight. Good form must prevail. My trunk and core are rigid throughout. The only action I allow during my resistance training is movement from the muscles I am trying to engage while lifting. The rest of my body, I envision, is made from stone. This keeps me injury free, maximizes the use of my body’s energy, and promotes greater intensity in my strength training. Beyond that, there must be proper breathing.
Good form must prevail...

Good form must prevail. Good breathing is at the heart of it all...

There is a leak though, within the scope of my good exercise form. I never knew it was there until today — until a gym member slapped me across the face with this information, and then handed it to me in a paper bag to carry around for the rest of my life. Sadly, I speak of a trait which I have grown to despise in others through the years – to the point where I have made many jokes of such violators. A violation of exercise protocol so sacred I may not workout again until I get this resolved within myself.

I now confess; I am a breathe-counter – one who counts his repetitions aloud and breathes his air out simultaneously. Who knew? At least one person.

I have explained many times to my students how important it is to exhale through the mouth during the concentric phase of resistance training. That a steady outflow of air minimizes the temporary state of high blood pressure which exists while weight is being lifted. That to talk, even to count aloud during this phase of exercise will disrupt that steady air flow, so there is to be no talking by my students. What is counting, if not talking — in numbers?

"threeeeeeeee.... foooooooour......"

"threeeeeeeee.... foooooooour......"

Yes, under the stress of the weights, while exerting my will against gravity, I disrupt my should-be breathing pattern and restrict my outward air flow by counting my repetitions and breathing simultaneously. God, where was I and what was I doing when I went so tragically wrong. I thought I was far above and beyond these actions. “I must be perfect in the gym” I often tell myself — to walk the walk in the presence of my students. Now I learn that I am not perfect; I am a breathe-counting schlub. Will my mother speak with me again? My father, am I still in his will? The shame of it all. The shame of being both a Cohen and a breathe-counter. Bhha-a-a-a-a says this black sheep, bhha-a-a-a-a.

I have known and seen many breathe-counters through the years. In truth, most seem to be men and women of virtue, people of faith, and of high moral standards like you and I. The very fact that they exercise says much about their human quality. Still, I have always felt eerie in the presence of breathe-counters, and would not want my sister to marry one. In fact, I have thought to myself many times that gym life would be better if breathe-counters were to be confined to separate facilities; internment gyms. Now I must accept that I too belong on the kibbutz of kinetic counting.

Breathe-counter Louise is mocked and shunned by her peers....

Breathe-counter Louise is mocked and shunned by her peers....

There may be hope. Though there is no “cure” for breathe-counting, there are treatments. A less rigorous exercise program designed around nasal breathing is one option. The intensity must be lowered to accommodate the smaller air passage, but it might be used to train myself into silent breathing. There is also yoga, where breathing matters most and where silence is absolute in the presence of most yoga instructors. Above all though, there could be the cold turkey approach; continued lifting, but silence in my breathing. Silence? An action so foreign to me I had to look up it’s meaning in the dictionary; a speechless moment. Not likely, not for this orator of athletic endeavors. Guess I’ll switch to nasal breathing with flared nostrils and closed lips. Hope you never need to. Be well.

4 responses

  1. I’m pretty sure I do my counting non-verbally. Sometimes I count when running also. I think it happens is that same place where all those other thoughts occur, which if someone claimed they heard me say, I would absolutely deny it!

    • Dr. J: I sometimes talk to myself aloud while running. It gets my mind off the fact that I am running for the first mile. From then on, the voices get louder but the lips move less.

      Joanne: Well, there has been improvement of late, so there is hope for me.

      Regarding message: There are some forms of exercise where and audible release is necessary — message might fall into this category. ‘Nuff said 🙂

  2. So sorry to hear about your audible counting. Reminds me of when a friend told me I chewed with my mouth open. I was appalled. I don’t chew with my mouth open anymore, so there is hope for you.

    However, I will never give up moaning while receiving a massage.

  3. Interesting. I love the way you described your shame: “I must be perfect in the gym” I often tell myself — to walk the walk in the presence of my students. Now I learn that I am not perfect; I am a breathe-counting schlub. Will my mother speak with me again? My father, am I still in his will? The shame of it all. The shame of being both a Cohen and a breathe-counter. Bhha-a-a-a-a says this black sheep, bhha-a-a-a-a.” < – Classic!

    I want to say I know exactly what you may be doing. But I'm not fully sure? Maybe sometime around you can let me hear what you do or have done in the past (if you have already nip the solution in the bud).

    If I understood you though, I have counted my inhales ..1, 2, 3, as I lightly jog (because I can't run, well working on that one…s-l-o-w-l-y) and exhales 1, 2, 3, to find a good breathing rhythm for myself. It helps to keep me focus on the mission at hand. I'm not sure if it's something similar to this.

    But if there's anything I have learned from reading your blog religiously, it's that you are the nickname I call you: Chameleon. 😀

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