I am very fortunate on my podcast show ‘The Brain Booster’ to get to interview some really interesting people in the areas around coaching and performance.
Every now and then someone comes on the show that really gets me thinking in a totally different way. Someone who shakes my existing worldview and has me considering, ‘why didn’t I think about that?’
A good example of this was one of your fellow countrymen, a man called Patrick McKeown, author of a book called ‘The Oxygen Advantage’. Patrick tours the world teaching people how to breathe better.
Yes, as strange as it may seem this man has spent the last twenty years studying how we breathe and how, when people breathe inefficiently, it can have serious repercussions not just for how we perform at sports like golf but our whole well-being in general.
In the book he explains many of the myths and misconceptions about what should be the simplest thing we do in life.
Without giving the whole story away, Patrick explains most people are what he calls ‘chronic over breathers’. They are using the mouth to breath when in fact we should be using the nose to do what it is designed to do. As he says, ‘the mouth is for eating and the nose is for breathing’.
The effects of mouth breathing can be a lack of energy, an inability to focus and concentrate.
Do you think that may be important for your golf?
Mouth breathing it would seem is bad for us as golfers and life in general.
He also makes it clear sucking in a ‘big deep breath’ is perhaps one of the worst things that you can do to try to calm things down and relax in a stressful spot on the course.
A big deep breath through the mouth will actually increase your sense of ‘fight or flight’ and make your anxiety worse. You see a lot of players making this mistake under pressure.
His whole principle is about breathing efficiently through our nose in a much quieter, calmer and slower manner. The potential golf benefits from his message are huge.
The other interesting point he made in our time together on the podcast was his observation that in the modern world, we are so much inside of our heads. We are always thinking about what we should have done, what we ought to do, what we need to do in the future etc. As we spend all of this time up in our heads, we are in a constant state of low-level distraction.
Our attention is literally scattered through our busy lives like confetti. The ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand is almost a forgotten skill. We then come to play a game like golf which absolutely demands our attention to perform well and we then wonder why we often play so poorly.
When you simply bring your attention to your breath you quieten all of this noise down. You focus on your body as opposed to drowning in the noise between your ears. You become present to what is going on now as opposed to having a conversation with yourself about a past that has gone or a future that hasn’t even arrived yet.
Just by making a point when you have the chance to notice your own breathing, you can begin to slow the breath down. You can begin to let the nose do the job it is wonderfully capable of doing. As you breathe more efficiently through your nose, you begin to quieten the breath but at the same time calm the mind down. You also learn to keep your attention in one place.
From a mental game view, I have long since believed the secret to better golf resides in one word, attention. The ability to pay attention to something you deem important for a period of time.
It may seem the simplest thing in the world but as another guest on the show Fred Shoemaker said recently, there are perhaps just a handful of golfers who manage to keep their attention on one thing for the duration of a single golf swing. A movement taking only a couple of seconds but we can’t even keep our attention in one place for that length of time.
As the mind jumps around, then the body is unable to perform the task it is trained to do. We drown in our thinking and block the innate ability of the body to perform.
It may be a stretch to say going for a walk each day and just simply placing your attention on your breath will make you a better golfer but from what experts like Patrick McKeown are saying, it will certainly give you a better chance and at the very least, you will definitely feel a lot better in general.