Over Oxygenation Prior to Race

I’d like to get your thoughts on over oxygenation prior to a race.

About 15 minutes prior to my 400, I spent some quiet time in a corner and did a series of deep breathing exercises. When I was ready to run, I was over oxygenated feeling light headed and fingers all tingly. I had no problems in the race (ran season best), but I thought I was going to die afterwards. I developed a splitting headache, felt nauseous and light headed into the evening.

My reasoning was is this … the more oxygen I can deliver to my muscles, the longer I can last in the latter part of race. I’ve tried it in the past (17 years ago :D) with some success, but never felt as bad as I did yesterday.

Are there any merits to over oxygenation prior to a race like the 400, or it doesn’t really make a difference physiologically speaking?

A similar technique called packing is used by free divers and this is what causes these symptoms.

Although I doubt any significant positives physiologically speaking, if it helps you -even psychologically- and helps you concentrate, etc, why not?

Just make sure you make the finishing line each time! :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d do deep breathing everyday. I definitely wouldn’t try something crazy right before an athletic event though.

Sometimes you get exited before a burst (sprint, jump, race etc.) and generally it is a good thing to have that extra excitement combined with an adrenaline rush. However, you might forget to inhale properly (fast short breathing instead if longer deeper ones) and consequently end up with decreased relaxation. A few deeper inhalations and exhalations might just give you the extra benefits from the excitement combined with controlled and relaxed power output.

I probably won’t try over oxygenating to the extent that I did, not because it affected my performance, but rather due to the effects I felt after the race.

Is there a reason why you think it is crazy before an event?

Thanks for your feedback Nik … always appreciated!!

I can’t see how any unassisted deep breathing would be bad for you. Deep breathing exercises and habits are a very common theme in most types of holistic medicine theories, and many of these experts claim that shallow breathing is a big problem for most people. Shallow, short breaths due to stress, bad posture, lack of exercise etc. will lower the oxygen content in your blood. This can be further compounded by the fact that our current environment is lower in oxygen than perhaps it should be due to pollution and other human depletion practices. Most human pathogens operate in an anaerobic environment. Now I am not establishing a cause and effect relationship here, but even cancer tissue grows in a low/no oxygen environment. If you want an even more dramatic example of the importance of oxygen, hold your breathe and tell me how you feel after 2 minutes :smiley: .

I think it’s also worth mentioning the benefits your body enjoys during exhalation, which may be amplified by exaggerating the exhalation phase, aka deep breathing: you hit an acceleration phase, like Charlie mentions, and you get lowering of BP and heart rate. My dad treats trauma patients, mostly burn victims, and he has done a little bit of research on the physiological changes during the exhalation phase - I should check to see if he has published anything (he’s very modest about his work).

Maybe the way you felt after this particular race was a coincidence, or maybe it was due to your deep breathing beforehand. My guess is not, but at the very least I think you should give the deep breathing exercises a few more chances before you decide they aren’t good for you.

I also feel like “over-oxygenation” is an odd term. Is “over-oxygenation” even possible, if you think about it? Can your blood hold TOO MUCH oxygen? I feel like any extra oxygen your body will take in under your own power is good for you.

In my opinion, there is no need to do something out of the ordinary before an athletic event unless used in practice first. A warm-up should produce typical results and you should be able to understand your body’s response to it through practice.

Some info on the subject -or sort of- from the very best on their sport! :eek:


An interesting read…