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Dizzy from Breath-Holding During Workouts?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Wassup frequin* twinsies!!  I have a question that I think you may have answered before but I can’t remember.  Sometimes when I’m working out doing weights or Pilates or any manner of things that require concentration on form and posture, rather than breathe regularly I hold my breath.  Because of the intense concentration and all. Sometimes I think I push too hard and then feel dizzy (probably because of the lack of oxygen to my brain or possibly I caught a glimpse of my own awesomesauce in the mirror and swooned a bit). So my question is how do I make sure I’m breathing properly and CONTINUOUSLY when I’m making this saucy bod even more saucy?  Frequins* 4eva, Lacy, TN

Note from Fun and Fit: * Freqins are freaks who wear sequins. Or twins who frequently wear sequins. While freaking out.

I feel so faint and swoony. Throw some water on me.

Alexandra: We’ve never answered this specific question. Nope. One simple thing you can do with the weights is relax your grip on them. You probably have a death grip, which leads to breath-holding. Release at least one finger (I always tell my students that it can be the middle finger if that makes them remember), and you’ll find you won’t be so tense or tight.
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Pilates is specific about exhaling and inhaling, so your teacher should come over and talk you through it. But…..that’s not what you want to hear right now. You happen to have a bad habit, so you need to park yourself right in front of the mirror and watch yourself. Staring at your tense, tight face will remind you to exhale. If you just can’t remember, stick a lipstick or something like that between your teeth to force your mouth open. The little bits of dry heave drool will remind you to exhale.

Kymberly: Another trick is to talk to yourself throughout each repetition. Exhale with Exertion; Inhale with Release; Exhale with Exertion; Inhale with Release.

Breathe Through That Thing, I Tell You!

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Alexandra: It’s really hard to remember to breathe when you’re on your own; it takes reminders. So you have to somehow train yourself to be your own reminder OR ask the teacher to watch you very closely. When I’m teaching, I wander around class and ask students if they’re breathing when I see breath-holding. They have to exhale in order to answer me. Do you by any chance have a class buddy?

Kymberly: For what it’s worth, breath-holding is super common. Not that you aren’t special and all. But at any given moment when in a class or the gym, we see people forgetting to exhale. If you find it hard to get a teacher, trainer, or friend to remind you to “breeeeaaaaathe” then look around at others. If you see jaw tension, red faces, bulging eyes, raised, tight shoulders, or hear gasping sounds, use those external signs as your own reminder.

If all else fails, invest in a Tentacle Fainting Couch.

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Readers: What trick do you use to remind yourself to inhale and exhale with some semblance of normalcy?

Photo credits: Creative Commons – Camera on autopilot, tigitogs, Smjor

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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22 Responses to Dizzy from Breath-Holding During Workouts?

  1. Tara Burner February 23, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    I focus on breathing since it’s part of yoga and incorporate that into my other workouts :)
    Tara Burner recently posted..10 Minute WorkoutMy Profile

  2. Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean February 23, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    i definitely find myself with a death grip on the weights occasionally! i’ve been trying to notice it quickly and correct it!
    Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean recently posted..Five Reasons to VolunteerMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit February 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      Yes, Lindsay, my students are major death grippers, I can see their forearms and shoulders all tensed up. Telling them to flip me off during bicep curls (or whatever) makes them laugh AND remember.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..3 Tips for Preventing Shin SplintsMy Profile

  3. Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb February 23, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I am so guilty of holding my breath, specifically while doing planks. Great pointers!!

    • KymberlyFunFit February 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      Is this the time to mention having seen those planks that involved dogs licking you, birds chirping, a cut off head and some breath holding? The less tension you put in your face, jaw, shoulders, eyes from breath holding, the more the energy goes to the abs.
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Chin Check: Get Better Posture-Part 7My Profile

  4. ModernSauce February 23, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Thanks ladies! Y’all are so great and I think I’ve been breathing better – possibly with spittle and audible gasping – but whatever. I like having more space to myself when people move away from me.
    ModernSauce recently posted..A house fit for a drunk mermaid. Hint: that’s ME!My Profile

  5. Charlotte February 23, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Charlotte recently posted..Project Wedding: An Attempt At Putting Together A Guest ListMy Profile

  6. Latia February 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks for sharing some good advice in here…I really appreciate it..
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  7. amber February 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    I catch myself holding my breath all of the time. Great tips ladies.
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  8. MCM Mama February 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Great advice. i have to consciously remind myself to breathe, but because I know I forget, it’s become a habit to check and make sure I am breathing.
    MCM Mama recently posted..TTT: Spilled milk, wasted gas, and low mileageMy Profile

  9. Mena February 24, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I try to remember my breathing, honestly I do but there are times during my Pilates class that my breathing just goes wrong. I either exhale as the teacher is inhaling or forget to breathe all together lol.

    Really not good, especially as I’ve been attending that class for a while now. But hey I could have posted that I breathe correctly all the time. But I don’t lol. Working on it.

    Put me in a Zumba class now and oh yeah I breathe like it’s going out of fashion. It’s the only way I can keep regulate my energy levels to keep up with the moves.
    Mena recently posted..How to Get Rid of Cellulite on Legs: 5 Facts About Real Cellulite ReductionMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit February 24, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Mena, I’m with you. If I think about my breathing it goes wrong. But if I just do mat Pilates, all goes well.
      By the way, if you like the feeling Zumba brings you, I totally encourage you to check out It’s disco, Bhangra, jazz, hip hop; all kinds of styles with music by a Grammy winner. We saw it at a recent fitness convention and are now bringing it to Santa Barbara.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Wrong & Right Way: StairClimber and TreadmillMy Profile

      • Mena February 24, 2012 at 10:44 am #

        Oh now that sounds interesting. I love all the dance based workouts – I’ve been dancing since I was a kid and I’m a street dancer with a local school, so hip hop, jazz and disco are right up my street. I’ve even taken the odd Bhangra class, boy that takes some work… Will check out the link, thanks.
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  10. Julie February 24, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Yoga is the best way to take control of our breathe. It is a hard way to learn it completely, but it’s really worth for it.
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  11. Life Lessons, Halfway Through February 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I’m a death gripper and a breath-holder. And that’s just at work. I actually learned to breathe while running, but I don’t pay attention when I’m with the weights. I think I need to focus.
    Life Lessons, Halfway Through recently posted..The HelpMy Profile

  12. Rhys@ fitness blog February 26, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    So many people are guilty of this when working out, especially during weight training! its so important to get your breathing right to get the most out of your workout, thanks Kymberly & Alexandra for bringing this issue up, I don’t think it is addressed enough!
    Rhys@ fitness blog recently posted..Fitness Guide [Infographic]My Profile

  13. Catwoman February 26, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Yoga is the best way to be a pro in breath-controlling! And you could use your skills while meditating, or exercising at the gym as well. Some training are really difficult, but practice makes the master;)
    Catwoman recently posted..Fog hygieniaMy Profile

  14. Calla Gold February 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    It’s kind of funny to forget to breathe, since it’s an automatic function of the body most of the time. But not when working out, if you don’t keep an eye on it. Great info and tips.
    Calla Gold recently posted..Restoring Antique Rings with Antique Diamonds for Engagement RingsMy Profile

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