It’s OK To Be Out of Breath

There’s a misconception out there – that being fit means exercise is easy and that getting out of breath means you’re unfit.


One of the most common remarks we hear from new athletes, particularly those trying CrossFit for the first time, or who haven’t exercised in a while is “I’m so unfit!”. This observation usually comes somewhere between finishing the warm up and mid-way through the workout, as their heart rate and breathing increases, and they suddenly feel ‘out of breath’.

In reality, what’s happening is a perfectly normal physiological response to exercise. As we begin to move our body through increased ranges of motion, with greater speed and against resistance (i.e warming up and working out), the heart and lungs must work faster to meet the muscle’s increased demand for blood rich in oxygen and nutrients. That’s it. Whether you’re an elite athlete or completely sedentary the process is the same. What changes is the amount of work required to raise the heart rate beyond resting levels.

For the sedentary individual, walking up a couple of flight of stairs could be enough to cause a significant rise in heart rate and breathing. If the elite athlete ran up the same flights of stairs carrying a few bags of shopping it would likely have the same effect. What’s important to understand is that no matter how fit an individual is, if they exert themselves beyond a certain point relative to their physical capacity, they are going to start breathing hard in response. What feels like a very hard workout to a beginner could well feel like a warm up to the elite athlete. However a very hard workout to the elite athlete still feels like a very hard workout. 

So while it is true that as you increase fitness and gain strength through exercising more, what was once difficult will become easier. However your workouts will now be more challenging, and you will be more capable of working harder. These are two things that are absolutely necessary if we are to continue to increase fitness. An easy workout is not an effective one. If we want to change our level of fitness, we have to challenge it.

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