We’ve had some hot, hot days here already in my beautiful corner
of Central Texas.
Unlike the East Coast, where I used to live, hot days in the
Austin area are typically dry days. And clear days. We don’t
usually experience that hazy, smoggy view in the distance
you get in more humid, urban areas.
This week, however, we have had several hazy, almost smoggy days.
Usually we have a lovely view across the hills and lake where we
live. But our views are a obscured right now. I see haze where I
should be seeing hills.
What the heck is going on?
Am I back in Beijing?
Well, it turns out this haze and smog is actually caused by dust
and sand which has floated over here from Africa.
Wow, that puts a whole new shine on the globalization thing!
Here’s the scoop from our friends at NOAA:
“Saharan dust often travels across the Atlantic thanks to a hot,
dry, dusty layer of air known as the Saharan Air Layer. Extreme
daytime heating of the Sahara creates instability in the lowest
layer of the atmosphere, lofting dust particles into the air.
The dust-laden air layer continues warming as it travels westward
across the Sahara. As the Saharan Air Layer moves off the west
coast of Africa, it passes over a cooler, wetter layer of air.
This temperature inversion (air usually cools with altitude)
prevents mixing, enabling the dust layer to travel across the
And continue on into Texas.
Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.
This reminds me of the time back in the 1990s when Mount
Pinatubo, a volcano in the Phillippines, erupted. It also
spread ash and dust all over the planet. This resulted in
beautiful, multi-colored sunsets over the next couple of years.
I bring up this latest “global dust road trip” because these
events obviously can cause people some irritation of eyes,
sinuses, and lungs. I have felt it in my eyes and my nose is
a little stuffy.
While mild, these symptoms remind me of how things used to be
when I suffered from asthma.
(If you’re interested in reading more about my asthma and how
I overcame it, click here.)
One of the best things I ever did when I was working on improving
(and eventually overcoming) asthma was to learn as much as I
could about breathing and breathing techniques.
And I learned a very important fact: the numero uno predictor
of how long each of us will live is….our lung capacity.
A number of studies, including the very highly regarded Framingham
Heart Study (which has been going on for over 50 years), have
found that lung capacity is the best predictor of longevity.
The bigger your lungs, the more air they can process, the longer
you live. Unfortunately, once you hit your 30s, your lung capacity
begins to decline. In fact, depending on how active you remain, by
the time you hit 70 you’ll lose about 50 percent of your lung
In order to improve and preserve lung capacity – and therefore,
YOUR capacity for living – you’ve got to build up a reserve.
You may think this means jumping into an aerobic exercise program.
To a certain point, aerobic exercise is OK. But unless you are a
marathon runner, there is no need to do a lot of it.
For a superior investment of time, focus on your breathing exercises;
perform shorter, more intense interval training two to three times
per week; and include two to three brief, well-rounded strength
training sessions per week.
Strength training can consist of lifting weights, performing
bodyweight exercises and other types of calisthenics, performing
dynamic energy exercises, dynamic tension….or even a mix of
all of the above. You get to choose your fun!
You can program your strength training so that it provides strength
and lean muscle building effects while also giving you the
cardiovascular work you need to improve lung capacity.
The truth is, aerobics can actually decrease lung size. Sure,
your lungs may become more efficient. But their overall capacity
On the other hand, focusing directly on your breathing – as with
the exercises in the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise
Course, Volume II: The Dynamic Energy Routine – is the surest way to
build lung capacity.
These exercises tone and strengthen the muscles and structures
that support healthy, proper breathing. Proper breathing can also
lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and help you burn more
This type of program was the linchpin of my efforts to overcome
a debilitating disease, get back in shape and achieve the
health and energy I was missing.
Earlier today, as I thought back to those “bad old days” with
asthma, I was reminded of an old book I found and read. It’s
actually one of many I have found over the years on breathing,
health, and fitness. It was written in 1936 by a leading
exercise and fitness professor, Dr. Thomas K. Cureton, who was
professor of physical education at the University of Illinois.
In one of his books, he wrote several paragraphs that turned on
some lights in my head.
Keep in mind, I was desperate for some answers to my deteriorating
health. At the time, the meds and inhalers my doctors had
prescribed were making my asthma worse, and I hated becoming
dependent on them.
I also detested my inability to train at the high levels to
which I had become accustomed. I never knew if a martial arts
class or sparring match might become another asthma incident.
Dr. Cureton reached out to me across time and space with
the following bit of advice:
“Breathing is emphasized here because in order to achieve
physical fitness you must develop the habit of breathing
regularly while exercising so that you will (1) avoid fatigue,
and (2) increase the capacity of your respiratory system.
“If you pay close attention to yourself while you exercise
you will find that you have a natural tendency to hold your
breath, particularly when you are performing high-tension
or unfamiliar exercises. Rather than capturing more air in
your lungs and thereby giving you greater endurance, holding
your breath only serves to deplete the supply of oxygen,
speed up the accumulation of carbon dioxide, and cause your
muscles to become fatigued more quickly.
The habit of breathing regularly during all forms of exercise
can be developed through conscious practice of deep inhalation
and forced exhalation. Breathing drills also help to build up
lung capacity. A deep breath held for a few seconds will
increase the air pressure in the lungs by forcing air into lung
tissue that is not normally active in breathing.[You can] build
your lung capacity by breathing regularly and fully during all
forms of exertion.”
These three paragraphs were a godsend to me at the time. They
helped to confirm that I was heading in the right direction
with my initial experiments in fully incorporating breathing
into everything I did.
Whether you’re looking to increase your lung capacity, vitality
and endurance….are overweight and need to lose some L-B’s….or
could use some extra energy to propel you through your day…a
solid program of targeted breathing exercises, intervals, and
well-rounded resistance training is the way to go for optimal
You Can Do It!
“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”
P.S. The combination of deep breathing with specific, targeted
exercises that build lung capacity, vitality and stamina is a
true powerhouse — and the foundation of my own health and
fitness regimen. I teach and demonstrate this core set of exercises
in “the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume 2:
The Dynamic Energy Routine”. For more information, or to acquire
your own copy of the program, click here.
Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013