Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pursed Lip Breathing (PLB)

Pursed Lip Breathing (PLB)
Many people have noticed that I breathe funny when exercising, and I even had one Black Belt recommend that I breathe “normally” so it would not be a distraction during forms. I decided to write this blog to educate both those with normal breathing and anyone who has difficulty breathing on PLB. I have had some form of COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease all my life. Usually I have been able to score in the very low end of “normal” on any breathing related test, but a couple of years ago I dropped below even that threshold and was eventually referred to a lung specialist. I believe this was due to the brand of toothpaste I had switched to (Sensodyne, which has medically active ingredients to decrease sensation in teeth). I have since changed to homemade toothpaste, and am on two different drugs daily to help with breathing, and am now back up to “low Normal” for lung capacity. As part of the treatment, I was also coached on breathing while short of breath. This includes diaphragm breathing, or breathing with your Buddha Belly, as well as PLB. PLB is where you purse your lips together while exhaling, as if you were going to whistle, creating back pressure in your lungs. This helps the small passages in your lungs hold open longer, improving air exchange. One way to visualize this is to think of an old fashioned canvas fire hose lying on the grass. Once the water flow is shut off, the part right at the end has the water run out, and then the canvas collapses and traps from water further back from escaping, at least in the short term. If you held the sides of the hose up, more water can pour out. Longer exhales, about 4 seconds each, are the target. Inhalations can be either from the mouth or nose, with the mouth being preferred for sheer volume of air, but care must be taken that breaths are not stacked, or topped up (Hyperinflation) before an exhalation happens. Nose breathing limits the possibility of stacking breaths, but having smaller passages limits the total amount of air brought in.
According to COPD Canada, 750,000 Canadians are “diagnosed” with COPD, mostly from smoking (I have never smoked, but both parents did) and up to 3 million total may actually suffer from it. For those of you with normal breathing, here is an excerpt from COPD Canada’s website:
It is my belief, that anyone who deals in the care of COPD’ers in their later stages should try a little experiment as suggested by Dr. Rick Hodder, a noted Canadian respirologist, in his book, “Every Breath I Take – A guide to living with COPD”. Quote: “Take in a deep breath but don’t exhale. Take in another and another. You’re hyper inflated. Hold it! Now run upstairs. You’ll soon appreciate what it feels like to have COPD or asthma.”
One other point about this directly related to the Kwoon, is that in addition to needing the pursed lips for back pressure, a “sound focus” exhalation is entirely counterproductive to maintaining enough blood oxygen to continue efforts for more than a minute or so, as well as reliable brain function. As I become Hypoxic (low blood oxygen levels) I become clumsy and “forget” the next moves in forms, and any ability in sparring drops dramatically.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Managing Hypoxia

Now that I have clued in to the problems Hypoxia is causing myself, the next thing is what to do about it? I have just ordered an Oximeter, a small device that clips on your finger, and it looks at the colour of your blood. Oxygenated blood is bright red, and this little machine shines an LED light and measures the transmission/reflectance to figure out the percentage of Oxygen in the bloodstream. I expect to get it in about two weeks, and will have it at the Kwoon. I have used these devices at the lung clinic, and always thought that they were cool, so must be expensive. Then one day, I was reading an article about why US health care costs so much, and the example given was an oximeter that you could buy through your health insurance provider for $150, with a $30 co-pay, or just order a new one for $30 direct. So I did some research (Google) and sure enough, it was on sale for $27 cdn from a company in Honk Kong, air mail shipping included. I had previously bought LED lights through this same company, so I thought it is worth a try.
The device my lung specialist uses clips on your finger and gives a reading in seconds, as well as pulse rate. If you want to try it once I get it, just ask. It will probably be with my water bottle at the back of the Kwoon, as it is not suitable to wear while actually exercising.
Dennis Donohue

Monday, November 18, 2013

Movember & Oxygen

Movember , that time of year when men have an excuse to attempt to grow a mustache, all in support of a worthwhile charity. While not as much fun as the charity where you go around in your underwear, it is a lot warmer (important at this time of year). I am collecting on behalf of my team at work in case you would like to donate. One lucky person will get my secrets to growing an almost instant mustache.
Tonight I am going back to class for the first time in a while, my back is not perfect but is healed enough to gently start training. In discussions with my wife about my training, I have realized that my lung issues have been affecting my training in ways I did not think of originally. The main thing that happens is I get hypoxic, but I don’t realize that I am (my wife can see the indicators easily though). So what happens is that as my blood-oxygen levels drop, my coordination starts to go, and I get clumsy. Also, my memory doesn’t work as well either. So if I do several forms at full intensity, I have problems with lots of little things that if I am working with normal oxygen levels are not an issue. This is something I will have to watch for, and ask for breathers as required. If the warm up is actually a cardio workout, it can take 20 minutes or so before my mind is working properly again, and depending on the lesson I might be home before everything returns to normal. As there are a number of people in the Kwoon with asthma, I am probably not the only one that is affected this way
Dennis Donohue

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What I have learned

This year in I Ho Chuan I have learned that I am in Kung Fu for recreation. I have found that Kung Fu was the first exercise program that I was able to stick with for more than a month, mostly because my brain was engaged the whole time in class. I would get bored with any other type of exercise, my mind would wander, and then that would be the end of it. I found that while in Kung Fu classes, I was totally in the class, and thoughts of what my boss was doing, what bills had to be paid or whatever stress was previously on my mind would be gone, and I would be present. I liked that I was learning potentially valuable fighting skills, although I have very little need of them in real life, and that I was getting rid of any middle aged spread that had started to happen. So the classes were enjoyable, the benefits were there, but it is not my life. First in my life is my Family (after 20 years of marriage, I know it takes hard work, as in effort and commitment to keep it successful), then a fairly stressful but rewarding career (supervising a crew of ten) that is also a lot of hard work. If Kung Fu was only more hard work, I would be farther ahead to just sign up for more overtime and go shovel coal out of a pit at a hundred an hour. What makes Kung Fu enjoyable is the people that I have meet there that I have a rapport with, and have made friends with. These are the people that I have built up trust with, were it is safe to spar with even though I make mistakes and leave myself open to their hits. It is the people that ran as the Silent River team in Mud Hero’s, then sat around a campfire and just talked.  I want to keep Kung Fu in my life, but not have it dominate all my free time. Is there room in Silent River for the Recreational Martial Artist?
Dennis Donohue