How to keep your cool when the pressure is on.

The fitness test to join the elite ranks of the Navy SEAL program makes a sprint triathlon look paltry in comparison: at minimum, prospective candidates must complete a 1.5-mile run in boots and pants, 500-yard breast- or side-stroke swim, 50 pushups, 10 consecutive pull-ups, and 50 sit-ups, all with tight time requirements.But fitness is only part of the equation. Being able to keep cool in every imaginable setting—from interrogation to gunfire—is crucial for a SEAL. To accomplish this, they undergo another kind of training known as breath work, which slows the heartbeat, lowers blood pressure, and decreases feelings of anxiety or stress.

But this practice isn’t exclusive to SEALs. In fact, breath work can benefit triathletes of all levels, says Christina M. Roberts of EnFlyte Coaching:

“Sometimes, we encounter stressors on race day, such as fear of DNF or missing the goal or anxiety about open water. Our perceived threat of the situation—‘It’s going to be hard’ or ‘I’m going to DNF’—can create a physical response in the body that makes our breathing shallow, elevates heart rate and blood pressure, tenses muscle, and even creates gastrointestinal distress.”

By breathing with purpose, athletes can regulate heart rate, which in decreases feelings of anxiety and stress. Breath work also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is designed to kick in when the body experience stress.

“There are so many different styles to breath work,” explains Roberts. “It’s a great daily practice and doesn’t have to be time consuming.”

To train (your breathing) like a SEAL, Roberts recommends the following exercises:

Daily Breath Work

The two following breathing exercises are best done regularly in a quiet place, typically seated.

Belly Breathing (a.k.a. “Circle Breath”)

Box Breathing (or “Square Breathing”)

Breath Work While Training

On the Run

Breath Work In Competition

Centering