The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick Mckeown – a book review from a Chi Running perspective. The books starts with some essentials on how breathing works. I love the title of the website ‘The Oxygen Advantage – Simulate High Altitude Training.’ This is a great introduction and easy for the non scientist to follow. It’s fascinating to find out more about the anatomy and functions of the nose. If turns out it’s not just two holes in your face!
You will quickly learn how to work out your Body Oxygen Level Test score (BOLT.) The aim of following the Oxygen Advantage course is to improve this score, and along with it gain the wide range of health benefits that the book claims. These include getting rid of asthma, weight loss, improving sleep and increasing sports performance.
As the book moves on and discusses some really useful practical exercises to help improve your BOLT score it also has some really clear examples of groups who breathe through the their nose all the time. This helps make the point about the importance of nose breathing. It also provides a nice link with the Born to Run book for those who have read that.
It may be surprising to think that many of us breath incorrectly. This is much like the way we have got in to bad postural habits and therefore a natural running technique like chi Running can make a huge difference to our running. It’s true that learning Chi Walking and Chi Running seem uneccesary to some people, “why do i need to learn how to walk?” When people take the time to learn some simple techniques and accept that there is a link between the way they move and associated health problems, they will be ready to explore ways to change that. It’s developing a mindful practice throughout all our lives and living by the principle of gradual progress that make a huge difference here.
I must say I have been utterly convinced (if I wasn’t before) of the importance of breathing correctly, and also that so many people don’t breath correctly. I’ve also been convinced that making changes in our everyday lives – when we are just sitting around and going about daily routines – can have a huge effect in our performance in sport. There is another parallel to Chi Running here, as I love the way that some of the best changes we can make to improve our running are those postural adjustments that we make all day every day throughout out routines. As you can see the book fits perfectly with the Chi Running philosophy and the two approaches complement each other very well indeed.
The surprise chapter, which really was the icing on the cake for me, was ‘finding the zone.’ This chapter spends a great deal of time discussing how important mindfulness is for the human being, and its relevance to anyone wanting to breath better. Again it had a lot of examples of how mind body techniques can be of huge benefits and did a great job of extolling the advantages of using mindfulness techniques together with the Oxygen Advantage breathing exercises. In fact, if you follow the programme properly you need to include mindfulness in it. This image reminds us of the links between breathing and mindfulness.
Here is a short quote from the Finding the Zone chapter to highlight just how close the philosophy is to that of Chi Running.
“Scan your body for any tension that may be residing there, and bring a gentle feeling of release to tense areas to encourage relaxation. Tension of muscle groups during sports is counterproductive and consumes energy – learn to recognise areas of tension in your body and practise melting them away with the power of the mind.”
The book suggests looking at a video of a cheetah running to see just how relaxed it looks. Here is an example of such a video (opens in new window.)
Can you see just how relaxed it looks? Can you see, yet again, a common approach shared between The Oxygen Advantage book and the Chi Running way of looking at running (and life)?
So this is definitely the start of my journey with the ‘Oxygen Advantage’ programme. I have used various breathing techniques before but I’m going to give this one some real sustained attention and report back in another blog. Please do comment and ask questions you might have about the book, any resources you have in breathing or any methods you have used yourself.
In summary, read this book if:
- You are a runner who has never thought about breathing technique
- You have had problems with your breathing at some point in your life
- You aren’t sure why nose breathing is important
- You are interested in a mindfulness based approach to life