Breathe Deep

By Hilary Achauer

In The CrossFit Life

May 24, 2012

PDF Article

A chance viewing of the CrossFit Games on ESPN2 inspired Kevin Joyce to drastically change his health and his life. Hilary Achauer reports.

Kevin Joyce was feeling terrible. He had struggled his entire life to do something most of us take for granted—breathe.

Doctors could never figure out exactly what was wrong. They told him he had exercise-induced asthma, but he always felt it was something worse. In high school, Joyce played football and basketball and would often push himself until he blacked out. He liked football best of all because he was self-conscious about his labored, heavy breathing, and the helmet covered up the noise.

“I didn’t even want to hear my own breathing,” Joyce said.

After high school, Joyce began working as a New York City carpenter, and that’s when things deteriorated. He got weak just walking up stairs, and the dust at work aggravated his condition.

In the winter of 2011, Joyce reached a low point with his physical and mental health, and he became depressed. He happened to turn on ESPN2 one day and saw the rebroadcast of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. All those fit people climbing ropes and lifting weights sparked something in Joyce. He had heard of CrossFit, but “I never knew they had CrossFit gyms,” Joyce said.



9 Comments on “Breathe Deep”


wrote …

Good for you, Kevin! I have exercise-induced asthma and I find the met-con WODs to be a struggle, but the more I do them, the better my asthma gets. It's amazing to me that more doctors don't prescribe exercise as a therapy for respiratory problems.


wrote …

Kevin is a huge inspiration to so many of us at CrossFit KOA. Watching him give it his all in every workout, you can't help but push yourself harder. He's not just an amazing athlete, he's a passionate father, husband and friend.


wrote …

This is an inspirational article that should be made free to the public.


wrote …

that is cool Kevin....I read the whole article because I experienced this my whole life as well (to a lesser degree). My 7th grade football coach wondered why I was always breathing so hard. Never really had it looked at though. Just always thought it just sucks to me and my lungs.

When I played HS basketball, I was pretty much unproductive in the 1st Q just trying to get my wind back, then it seemed to get better as the game went on.


wrote …

Something so simplistic that so many take for granted every second. I applaud you brother.


replied to comment from Lauren Fitch

Doctors don't make any money from prescribing exercise.


wrote …

WOW! I suffer from exactly the same condition. I only have one functioning lung and walking up stairs can leave me completely puffed out. I used to resent exercise, because what seemed so effortless for everyone else, was so damn difficult for me! After 26 years of huffing and puffing and struggling through sport I found crossfit in November 2011, It's never easy but within 6 months I've noticed massive improvements. I get gassed easily, but the variations in the WOD's means some days I can really test myself and push harder and others really focus on building up all the other areas of my fitness! So nice to know I am not the only one out there!! Well done mate! :)


replied to comment from Talon Bradford

Doctors don't make any more money by writing you a prescription vs. telling you to exercise. Many don't know about the benefits of exercise on asthma. It's not about money and it's a shame that you consider physicians to be concerned more about lining their pockets than caring for their patients. The vast majority are more concerned with the latter.


wrote …

CO2 is needed in the lungs at a certain level and if it drops you can die, Over breathing or exercise reduces CO2 in the lungs which causes the perverse reaction of the body to protect itself by congestion of the lung aioli, hence asthma. I speak as someone who has had asthma all my life (62 years) triggered by having bronchitis when two weeks old.

Mouth breathing and over breathing are the real problems. But you can still do crossfit and any other relatively severe exercise by learning the Buteyko methods of breathing through the nose and holding your breath slightly between exercises in order to keep your CO2 levels high.

Kevin Mahl mentioned getting second wind in the above comments. This is the point at which the CO2 levels reach the required safety level and the body switches off the congestion reaction.

I should also mention that CO2 is a muscle relaxant and the above techniques are highly beneficial.

The Crossfit regime and the schema developed by Kelly Starrett have been a terrific, much needed paradigm shift in body management and training but I can't help feel that they've missed a trick by not teaching people how to breath.

Brian Richardson
Border City Crossfit

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