We talk a lot about being tolerant to Carbon Dioxide, but how do you actually know if you are tolerant or not?
Sure there are signs throughout the day. Taking big sighs, often feeling breathless, and mouth breathing are all symptoms of a low tolerance, but how we do actually measure it?
One of the two ways we measure athlete’s CO2 Tolerance is through the BOLT Score. This is a super simple test invented by Patrick McKeown. I’ll let him lay out the details
Taking your BOLT Score
To obtain an accurate measurement, it’s best to rest for ten minutes before measuring your BOLT score. Read the instructions carefully first and have a timer on hand. You can measure your BOLT now:
- Take a normal breath in through your nose and allow a normal breath out through your nose.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Time the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe, or the first stresses of your body urging you to breathe. These sensations may include the need to swallow or a constriction of the airways. You may also feel the first involuntary contractions of your breathing muscles in your abdomen or throat as the body gives the message to resume breathing. (Note that BOLT is not a measurement of how long you can hold your breath but simply the time it takes for your body to react to a lack of air.)
- Release your nose, stop the timer, and breathe in through your nose. Your inhalation at the end of the breath hold should be calm.
- Resume normal breathing.
– Patrick McKeown
For most people taking this test for the first time they will score somewhere between 10-20 seconds. The aim, however, is to reach a score of 40 seconds. Even elite athletes will often score around 20 to begin. This simply means they have been able to push through their limits to achieve their success.
To raise your score try simple exercises like mini breath holds throughout the day (5-15 seconds), focusing on breathing lightly only into your belly, and nasal breathing. Increasing your BOLT score by only a few seconds can have you feeling less out breath in no time!