EPISODE 10: The power of breathwork with World-Leading Breath Expert and Author, Patrick McKeown

One of the greatest performance enhancers we can control is an action we all do around 20,000 times a day without a second thought – breathing. Respiration is a key factor in developing physical fitness, and influencing our mind and our sleep, so to perform at our best on any level, we should understand and improve how we breathe.

Sharing his decades of experience researching, teaching and experimenting with breathwork on this episode, Patrick McKeown explains the best techniques for mastering oxygen intake, the benefits of nasal breathing for our sleep and alertness, and how reducing chemosensitivity can improve our fitness even before we take a single step.



This episode of Perfect Athlete is sponsored by Precision Hydration who help athletes personalise their hydration strategy using their sweat tests and electrolyte supplements. 

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“I would estimate that 50% of the people listening to this today are mouth breathers during sleep. They’re waking up with a dry mouth in the morning. It’ll take them an hour or two to get going. They’re more likely to relapse in the afternoon. Their concentration, their focus and their performance is impacted.” – 4:40 – Patrick McKeown

“I’m more interested in how you can improve HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and nose breathing during sleep improves it.” – 14:35 – Patrick McKeown

“Your breath hold time during rest gives you a good indicator of the degree of breathlessness during physical exercise.” – 21:45 – Patrick McKeown

“The air hunger, the feeling of suffocation that you have when you switch from mouth to nose breathing during physical exercise, goes away after about six to eight weeks, and then your breathing is becoming more efficient.” – 26:25 – Patrick McKeown

“Breath holding in the 1980s was primarily done by breathing in and holding the breath, which is not not likely to drop the blood oxygen saturation as much as after an exhale. So it’s a much stronger effect when you exhale and hold the breath.” – 33:30 – Patrick McKeown

“Athletes with poor breathing will tend to have poor movement patterns, and having poor movement patterns increases the risk of injury. For example, 50% of people with lower back pain also have dysfunctional breathing patterns.” – 42:55 – Patrick McKeown

“Our breathing should be long, slow and deep.” – 44:10 – Patrick McKeown

“Surgeons have been wearing masks for decades while doing surgery, and some of their surgical procedures might have been going on for three, four or five hours. No surgeon is falling down as a result of wearing a mask. ” – 51:30 – Patrick McKeown

“When we breathe out, the end tidal carbon dioxide, the end of breath CO2, is pooled in the mask and we’re breathing that back in again. That’s not a bad thing. Because as carbon dioxide then increases in the lungs, it makes you feel air hunger. And this is exposing the body to increased carbon dioxide, which in turn is helping breathing patterns become slower and lighter, and also reducing the chemosensitivity to carbon dioxide.” – 52:05 – Patrick McKeown

“The mind and the breath and sleep, they’re three pillars, and each one is influencing the other. By changing breathing patterns, we can influence the mind, but if the mind is all over the place, it’s going to change our breathing patterns. Changing breathing patterns can influence our sleep, and if we get good sleep quality, it in turn is going to improve our focus and performance.” – 1:00:24 – Patrick McKeown