As you hurtle into your late twenties and early thirties, you hit a point when you can no longer ignore the deeply reluctant epiphany that lurks within. You’ve long suspected it, but it’s finally time to begrudgingly accept it and let it into your life – ‘looking after yourself’ is now no longer an extravagance exclusively practised by people who have their shit together; it’s become something that you literally have to do in order to avoid dying.

But hey, exercise is hard. Beer and pizza are delicious. And marketing has been actively assuring us that we can ‘have it all’ throughout our entire lives – so why can’t we?! There must be some kind of cheat code that will enable us to blitz through our exercise routine with energy to spare, so that we can have a clear head and smash it at work the next day, land that account or whatever people with real jobs do, then hit the pub for a celebratory beer and pizza session?

Well, according to the manufacturers of BoostOxygen, that very miracle tonic has been surrounding us the entire time! But in its filthy, impure form (particularly if you live in London). That’s right – now that all the obscure foods have already been branded ‘super’, and we’ve been convinced that the only way to consume them is in smoothie form, the health supplement market has moved through solids and liquids and arrived at gases – it’s time to get oxidised! Well…I think that actually means rusted but hey, I’m no chemist.

Being a man of above-average but definitely below-good levels of physical fitness, my editor has deemed me the ideal test subject to gauge whether the sheer breathy power of 95% pure oxygen can really boost your athletic performance. In a city with air pollution this bad, I’m willing to try anything. So let’s huff a load of oxygen and do some intensive physical exercise!

First Test: Kickboxing!

I meet my editor outside the tube station to pick up the canister. It’s massive but incredibly light, which seems immediately obvious with hindsight. Goods procured, I head to my kickboxing class, which I’ve been attending for coming up on four years. I have a couple of belts, so I’m technically at a decent standard, but equally I’d need to seriously step it up for my next belt. Plus, I skived off last Monday to see Childish Gambino, so I perhaps need some greater martial arts discipline.

There’s one other dude in the changing room and I’ve seen him around before but we’ve not spoken. So after conducting the lengthy process of getting all my gear on while studiously avoiding conversation, I realise that I can’t huff a load of unidentified performance enhancer in front of this guy without explaining what I’m doing. He’s on board, if a little bemused, and intrigued that my oxygen is peppermint-flavoured. After a few deep draws on the canister, we realise there’s another 10 minutes before the class starts so I may have just wasted a few lungfuls of the precious gas. Oops. We enter the dojo and, ready for some aerobic airwork, I take a couple of deep…drags? It feels wrong to be using smoking terminology for this.

Not actually me…

Nonetheless, it seems to do the trick! I’m always a sweaty mess by the end of my kickboxing class – it’s just a matter of how quickly it occurs, and typically it’s within the first 15 minutes. This time around though, I’m feeling pumped after a warm-up of air punches, even adding a bit of extra range to my uppercuts to flaunt my additional oxygen-based energy. I grab a quick gasper from the canister every time we break for water; while this lesson is mercifully bereft of any planking or squats, it’s not exactly a walk in the park, but my kicks are high and relentless. This isn’t necessarily
an abnormal state of affairs but it’s worth noting that I can feel a little out of practice after just one week off, and I’m definitely on peak performance here.

Second Test: Singing!

So, uh, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but like, I’m in a band? Yeh I play bass and I’m also like the lead singer? Er…I mean we don’t really fit in a single genre…there’s a lot going on, all our songs are quite diverse? A band we’re like…I dunno man, we’re pretty unique, you know?

Now that we’ve got the wanky band chat out of the way, I figured that injecting sweet delicious oxygen directly into my lungs could prove beneficial for a soaring vocal performance, so I decided to test it out at practice. After again awkwardly explaining to my band members why I was freebasing a pressurised can fitted with a mouthpiece, it was time to belt out our setlist with nary a vocal warm- up! For context, we have a lot of three-part harmonies and these typically require a whole lot of diaphragm-flexing – this is so loud that our drummer refuses to be in the same room when it’s underway. I repeat: it’s too loud for A DRUMMER.

Dead Comics Band

Now, I’m not recommending that any budding vocalists forgo their vocal cord stretches, but amazingly the oxygen boost actually seemed to help – we weren’t exactly playing to gig conditions but my singing was on point from the very start, and I was making some fairly substantial vocal leaps without issue – particularly on a track that I embarrassingly couldn’t record properly a few weeks ago as my voice was kept cracking (much like my rib, which had received a pretty substantial kick a few days prior…).

While obviously huffing a load of oxygen isn’t an instant throat salve, proper breathing is crucial for all vocalists and getting a deep lungful of clean air worked wonders – highly recommended!

Final Test: Cycling!

I grew up in London, so while I will vehemently defend the excellence and convenience of the Tube to any out-of-towners, I also despise it and avoid it like the plague wherever possible. As a result, my preferred method of getting to work is cycling, which is practical and feasible since I don’t have any Elephant and Castle-sized roundabouts to negotiate. That said, anyone who regularly cycles in London will tell you that it doesn’t matter how many parks you manage to fold into your route – the city’s famously subpar air quality will have you spitting ashen phlegm in no time. I live in Brixton which is supposedly one of city’s most stagnant smog basins, so my lungs need all the help they can get. Time for BoostOxygen to make up for the fact that the most abundant O2 in London is the unwelcome venue branding!

I’m running slightly behind for work so I take three deep pulls on the canister and zip off on my bike, remembering a smidge too late that I probably should have pumped up my tyres. Nonetheless, I’m swiftly making smooth progress – although it’s not clear whether this is due to the deep breathing, or simply that I’ve had a fairly restful weekend and haven’t been kickboxing in a few days. Indeed, while I make it to work on time (just) it’s a bit more difficult to gauge if the oxygen was the deciding factor here.

Conclusion

I’m not gonna lie, I was deeply sceptical about the benefits of huffing neat oxygen from a can. Apparently, Kanye West swears by it, and even his most die-hard adherents would concede that his judgement has been pretty off for at least the last two years, so it was a pleasant surprise that I felt a
palpable difference in two of my three tests – it’s pretty impressive that something as simple as extra oxygen could have such a notable impact across activities as diverse as kickboxing and singing. Still, this is all anecdotal evidence, and it interests me whether the effect is purely psychosomatic – after all, I didn’t notice any real effect on my morning cycle.

So, while my findings were perhaps a little inconsistent, after trying BoostOxygen I’m certainly less likely to scoff at anyone who uses a pressurised can for an extra boost.

Boost Oxygen is available HERE

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