Remember we spoke about breathing being one of the factors the ANS subconsciously regulates? Well, luckily this is a two-way street because we can also consciously control our breathing when we want to, unlike our blood pressure or digestion. The Wim Hoff method, meditation, Yoga instructors, martial arts, track and field, cross country, wrestling, weight lifting, swimming, fighter pilots… all of these people stress breathing as a fundamental principle to success. They all use different tactics to achieve the said strategy of breathing but all agree on the importance of breathing. For our purposes, I generally recommend some form of box breathing. I have been doing this for years and I cannot recall who originally taught me but I’ve used it extensively throughout my lifting and martial arts/wrestling career and find that it truly helps me perform during high-stress competitions when things inevitably go wrong. Box breathing consists of inhalation for time, hold that air for time, exhale for time, pause for time, repeat. Times will vary and I prefer nose inhalation and mouth or nose for exhalation. A general recommendation for a starting place is 3-5 seconds each. There are a million ways to breathe and context will influence how we breathe. Ultimately being aware of our ability to consciously control or breathing is a tactical tool for the regulation of the ANS and allows further control of our nervous system. So, the tactic aligns with the strategy.
“How do you create an organism that feels safe? Probably the main way of doing that is touch. Touch is how we come into the world, and safety is conveyed to us by being held.” (2) I am biased towards Reflexive Performance Reset and Be Activated protocols for myself, my training partners, friends, family, and clients to utilize because it is highly organized, effective and time efficient. Theories for why it works range from neuro-lymphatic system, fascial system, and direct origin and insertion of muscles. Exactly how do they work? I’m not sure and currently don’t care; these are both highly successful tactics that give people further control and autonomy of their own health, injury prevention, and performance with no downside. It also only takes a few minutes. Competent chiropractors and physical therapists that perform both structural and soft tissue work can also be of great service when you need hands-on help. Massage therapy, Mobility WOD, Graston, ART, foam rolling, body tempering are also all tactical “touch” tools and methods that may help. So, the tactic aligns with the strategy.
The simplest yet, over-thought of the three. Just get up off your ass and do something! Anything! For individuals who compete in a specific sport (for our readers who are physique or strength sport athletes) keeping a base of GPP is important. Some traits may take a back seat depending on the part of the competitive season but always revisit these traits to create a balanced and healthy athlete. This entails flexibility, mobility, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and muscular power. It can also be as simple as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) for some or even walking for overweight people. A metanalysis showed that the more distance people walked and the longer the intervention was maintained, the more weight was lost. (3) Don’t over complicate it. Move the joints and tissues through full ranges of both passive and active ranges, in a variety of different planes and utilize different energy systems. If you’re focused on being mindful of your breathing, sweating, generally feel better and cognitively sharper after any general physical preparedness exercise routines than you’re doing it right! Specific sports will come at a little higher cost to the body because of the concentrated stressors. But that’s ok and that’s our choice. To push the limits of the mind and body and go to uncomfortable places will always come with some side effects. Balance the specific stressors of the sport with other tactics to fill in gaps in movement from your specific sport because if “you don’t use it ya lose it” (direct and important quote from The 40-Year Old Virgin). I prefer to tactically perform walking, some form of low impact cardio, incline treadmill, weighted walks, stationary bike, Kettlebells, or calisthenics, along with stretching to compliment my powerlifting and bodybuilding training. Get moving and do it a lot. Any exercise is a tactical tool to help better control your bodies health, injury prevention and performance. So, the tactic aligns with the strategy.
“It has become increasingly evident that bidirectional (“top-down and bottom-up”) interactions between the brain and peripheral tissues, including the cardiovascular and immune systems, contribute to both mental and physical health.” (4) The strategy of a bi-directional approach to controlling the autonomic nervous system remains the same regardless of how you choose to tactically execute it. Don’t major in the minors. Find modalities for each of these that you like and implement them daily to help live the way you want to live and perform the way you want to perform.