Think of the first time you gave a toast at your friend's wedding or presented a report in front of your manager at work. Perhaps you had to remember to breathe to avoid passing out. Breathing correctly in boxing isn't unlike performing any other task in which you're concentrating heavily, and it will be challenging at first. But the more you get comfortable with basic boxing drills, you'll notice that your breathing has become subconscious -- just like the fifth or sixth time you spoke in front of a large group.
In boxing, get in the habit of keeping your mouth closed on your mouth guard when sparring or competing. Although it will be a struggle initially to breathe almost exclusively through your nose, this type of breathing is necessary to reduce the chance of being injured. Wearing a mouth guard takes a period of adjustment, so considering wearing the device when jogging or even just around the house to familiarize yourself with nasal breathing. A mouth guard that contains a top and bottom piece has a hole in the middle through which you can exhale, if necessary.
Slow and Steady
Once you're comfortable breathing through your nose, practice taking slow, steady breaths while moving around in a boxer's stance. Although boxing can be an exhilarating rush that causes you to be short on breath, the best technique is to keep your breathing rhythm consistent and slow. By breathing slowly and deeply, you're able to keep your heart rate low, which helps you conserve energy. Don't feel silly about putting so much concentration into something that seems so basic; eventually, you'll get the hang of it.
Breathing correctly when throwing punches helps add power to your punches, keeps your lungs full of oxygen and prevents you from overtiring. As you punch, exhale sharply, either through your nose or through a slightly open mouth, as you would when sighing rapidly -- and don't be embarrassed if you snort a little. Try to keep your jaws together if you exhale through your mouth. When you watch boxing on TV, the sound you hear when a fighter throws a bunch is his exhalation. When bringing your hand back to your body, inhale to fill your lungs again.
It's totally normal for beginners to be nervous when they enter the ring for light sparring drills for the first time, but nervousness can be a detriment. When moving around the ring, beginners often increase their breathing rate and hold their breath when exchanging punches. The combination of rapid breathing and holding your breath leaves you gasping for air, which results in being tired or having to open your mouth, which is dangerous in contact drills. Even if you forgot to breathe correctly during the round, use the time between rounds to inhale deeply through your mouth.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.