The Breathing Gear System™ | Brian MacKenzie

Issue #16

The Complexity of Respiratory Muscle Training & The Breathing Gears System™

When we think about respiratory muscles, it is easy to overlook the complexity and nuance that goes into their training. The Breathing Gear System has been developed to encourage people to consider the training of our primary respiratory muscles through learning more about differential control of respiration rate (RR) and tidal volume (VT). However, research and experience show there is much more at play than what we understand about metabolic acidosis when it comes to nonlinear increases in ventilation (V̇e) above compensatory thresholds- respiratory compensation rate (RCP). In addition, there is a complex relationship between primary and secondary respiratory muscles and the metaboreflex (blood stealing) for regulating ventilation during exercise and bouts of intense stress.

Two (larger) primary muscle groups are involved in respiration – the diaphragm and the external intercostals. Together these muscles work in a coordinated manner to maintain proper ventilation during rest and exercise. Control of RR and VT are two critical aspects of respiration that can be trained with The Breathing Gear System. By controlling RR and VT independently in suitable environments, you can prepare your body to become more efficient at regulating your breathing under most stress or physical activity.

Recent research has also shown a complex relationship between primary and secondary respiratory muscles and blood stealing that contribute to the nonlinear response of V̇e above RCP during incremental exercise. In addition, it is believed that central command (Central Governor – Brain/Nervous System) contributes to more than just metabolic acidosis when regulating V̇e during intense physical activity or high-stress situations. This means that beyond merely increasing oxygen intake, proper training of primary respiratory muscles may help us better control our breathing even under extreme circumstances. Therefore, training these muscles is critically important to anyone participating in exercise or professional sports, as energy and electrolyte balance are downstream effects (breathing and biochemistry directly impact each other). Blood Stealing means we are now switching how we use energy sooner than necessary. Consider this in an MMA athlete fighting in round 3, 4 or 5. Or a Baseball Player in the 8th or 9th inning of a longer than normal game, or a marathon runner midway through a race/training session.

The Breathing Gear System focuses on training primary and secondary respiratory muscles to achieve optimal respiration rates for different levels of physical activity or stress response through a coordinated effort with the mind; central command/governor theory. Through this system, we can learn how best to use our breath for improved performance while reducing fatigue levels caused by improper breathing patterns. Furthermore, we can also explore how different breathing exercises help us better cope with stressful events by improving our ability to regulate our breathing even when faced with extreme conditions. This work is hierarchically detailed in our SH//FT Health, Skill of Stress, Art of Breath courses, and Get Started with Breathwork (free). 

Understanding how everything from central command down works together helps us better appreciate the complexity behind proper respiration muscle training for improved performance and an ideal stress response. Through The Breathing Gear System, we learn how best to use our breath for enhanced performance while reducing fatigue levels caused ultimately by improper breathing patterns. With these tools, we can explore how different breathing exercises help us better cope with stressful events by improving our ability to regulate our breathing when faced with extreme circumstances in physical performances, war fighting, first responder work, catastrophic accidents, public speaking, to emotional outburst and exercise to name a few; limitless. 

What is Attention? | Emily Hightower

Issue #13


A late middle English word worth 9 Scrabble points, “attention” is defined first and foremost as:

notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important”

The similes for “attention” include: 

Awareness, Notice, Observation, and CONSCIOUSNESS

Our attention is the currency of our consciousness. When we PAY attention we are in a transaction with the objects of our consciousness that reciprocate something in return.

If you pay attention to cleaning and resetting your rooms throughout the day, you get a tidy space in return. Pay attention to your finances and you can generate wealth. Pay attention to your breath, body, and what’s right for you and you create more health.

If it’s that simple, why are we experiencing declines in mental, physical, emotional, financial, and interpersonal health?*

Our economy now relies on grabbing people’s attention to get us to spend our time (ourselves) in front of platforms with ads to hopefully buy more and more things we don’t actually need or even want. The more things we buy, the more things need our attention. The more distracted we are, the less we notice what’s right for us and the more uncomfortable with our reality we become. Enter more distractions to avoid reality. If we don’t have agency over our attention, we spend it on things that are not actually ‘important’ and lose ourselves, our values, and our health along the way.

To regain agency over health in this era, we need to reclaim our attention. This requires skill. 

There are many forms of attention from the perspective of your neurophysiology. For example; you can be hyperfocused on something acute like giving a talk or driving on ice, casually attending to something like stirring noodles, dispersed and distracted switching from things every few seconds, spaced out watching TV, or globally aware in a state of deep meditation and healing. Can you ‘read’ the difference in yourself? Social media, for example, takes our attention in a dispersed and distracted way that can drain reserves of attention for important things like in-person relationships.

Are you AWARE that the average person in will spend over 5 years and 4 months of their life on social media** If you’re in that average, what are you getting in return for that time and attention spent? Is it worth it? Would you take back any of those years if you could in the end? Why? What’s MORE important that you’re missing through the disconnected drain of the attention economy’s grip?

Our attention is a finite resource that ebbs and flows based on our energy systems. If you know how to read where your attention is going and how to direct these energy systems you can generate rewarding states of health and sustainable balance despite the noise of modern life. You can reclaim yourself.

Our SH//FT HEALTH program helps you Master Time and Attention: the most valuable currencies in modern life.


With Breath,

Emily Hightower