When engaged in high-level sport or activity, carbon dioxide accumulates in our cells and blood, and we get that feeling of breathlessness. We often associate this feeling with the need to intake more oxygen, but it is really the body trying to rid itself of the excess carbon dioxide being produced in response to exercise. The blood is already saturated with more oxygen than we can use at a given time, so when it comes to reducing breathlessness and improving fitness, it is important to increase our ability to tolerate the build-up of carbon dioxide.
How do we accomplish this? Well, Patrick McKeown gave us an answer in his book, The Oxygen Advantage by means of the BOLT: the Body Oxygen Level Test. This test is performed by pinching the nose to hold the breath after a gentle exhale, and counting the seconds until you have the natural, physical urge (a slight contraction of the breathing muscles) to inhale. This is not a test for a maximal breath hold. After the test, you should be able to resume regular breathing through the nose and should not be feel the need to take in extra air. The number of seconds which you were able to perform the test is your score, and athletes should look for a score between 30 and 40.
Here is a video of one of John, one of our professional basketball players, talking about his experience with using the BOLT. John was able to get his BOLT Score over 50.
As well as being effective for improving aerobic fitness, the BOLT can also be an indication of how recovered you are. If you have a lower BOLT score than normal the hours or days following strenuous training, it is an indication that your heart and metabolism are still working to bring your nervous system back down to a normal state. Therefore, along with tracking your heart rate, the BOLT is another tool athlete’s can use to improve their performance and gauge their need for recovery.
Try performing the test after taking your heart rate andbefore getting out of bed in the morning. Take a read through The Oxygen Advantage, or contact me through the website, to learn about the many methods there are for improving your BOLT Score and getting the most out of your aerobic fitness.