The Genesis of breatheX

Why does an old "bit flipper" come out of retirement to build a state-of-the-art breathing exercise tool? Well, in a word COVID...all joking aside, this year has been a challenge for us all, and although I consider myself very fortunate to have been retired for some time I found myself looking for ways to stay occupied. Being an avid audiobook fan I started devouring books on various topics while doing my properly socially distanced activities like hiking, XCskiing and biking to stay active. One of those books was "The Oxygen Advantage" by Patrick McKeown.

Billed as helping to "maximize the benefits of any fitness program" and helping to simulate "heightened athletic performance" this book caught my attention as a very active person who lives and plays at 10,000 feet above sea level. What was perhaps most startling to me as I listened to the book (aside from the Irish brogue of the author/narrator, only kidding Patrick) was how little I actually knew about the physiology of breathing and how significantly it impacts health and fitness! I was really intrigued, and being the nerd that I am, I decided to do some experiments on myself to see if this stuff was really true.

Nasal Breathing and Mouth Taping

One of the first things that caught my attention was the author's insistence on nasal breathing, even during exercise and while sleeping. I was a bit skeptical that I could really breathe only thru my nose during intense physical exercise especially living the this altitude and constantly facing hill climbs but I decided to give it a try. Initially it was only while I was out for a gentle hike, then I started doing it while XCskiing, when the season permitted I started doing it while road biking (even while climbing up Vail pass) and finally I was mountain biking all my normal trails at normal or better pace all while only nose breathing.

It was incredible, especially for someone who would always automatically switch to mouth breathing while doing intense activities because my nose would often become runny during these efforts. Even more amazing is that I actually felt the efforts were somehow easier! Then I even went so far as to start taping my mouth shut at night (I know it sounds weird) but I found that indeed, the author was right, I would wake more refreshed and my occasional snoring seemed to be gone! Needless to say I was hooked and decided to get serious about breathing practice.

Looking for a Breathing App

Shortly after finishing the first book I came across another, Breath - the New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor. I inhaled (pardon the pun) this book as well and realized holy cow, there was so much I hadn't known about proper breathing techniques and or ancient yoga practices.  So I decided to take a dive deep (again pardon the pun).  I started to take up a daily breathing practice and of course I went looking for App's that could help. I came across several but none seemed to have either the full power/flexibilty that I was looking for nor did they have a really clean user interface that ran on multiple devices so I was a bit frustrated.

Now it also just so happens that being a programmer from way back in the day (think IBM mainframes and assembler code) I had also recently become interested in Apple's Swift programming language and in particular the new SwiftUI frameworks that were purportedly making mobile app development much easier. Again out of nerdy curiosity (as well as having plenty of free time on my hands due to the lockdown) I had started teaching myself how to build mobile Apps using SwiftUI. I was taking some online courses to get familiar with the iOS development environment and had built a few simple apps by following along with the instructor.

breatheX is Born

Then one day it suddenly dawned on me that it would be much more interesting and motivating to just build my own Breathing App. One that would have all the power and flexibility I really wanted along with a clean, simple to use interface that could run on any Apple device! So I began in early June 2020, not really knowing what I was getting into but plunging ahead with all the optimism of a college graduate on their first gig.

I was amazed to see how powerful SwiftUI really was and also how many great web resources exist for aspiring mobile developers. In a matter of a couple of weeks I had cobbled together a functioning App that allowed me to create simple practice routines with some cool animations and sound effects and could run it on my own iPhone!  That was pretty satisfying to say the least, but I didn't stop there. I knew I wanted something that was far more capable so I added the ability to add multi-step routines and got that working. Then I realized I wanted to track my practice sessions so I added that, then I realized I wanted reminders so I added added notifications to keep me on track etc., etc., etc.

Beta Testing Begins

As I continued to build more and more functionality each day / week I realized that hey this App might actually be useful to others so I got it setup for external beta testing and gave it out to a few friends and family members. Most of them were very polite but must have thought I was a bit crazy in my obsession with my new "hobby". However that didn't deter me and I just kept plugging away because not only was I building something actually useful to me but I was also learning all sorts of great programming techniques each step along the way. Suddenly it dawned on me that this might really be worth releasing to the world.

That's when I got really serious about polishing the UX and making sure it would be easy enough for anyone to use. I also realized that I could use a bit of help. I started taking more courses on SwiftUI especially a course called SwiftUI Master Class that was put together by Robert Petras. This guy was not only a great instructor on how to use SwiftUI but he is also a gifted designer. All his sample Apps were BEAUTIFUL and I was able to pick up the finer point of how to make things really visually appealing using tricks I'm sure I would not have discovered for years had I not seen these examples. I had hired a graphic designer to help develop a color palette and refine my crude AppIcon design and I even hires a Code Mentor to review my code. I then began systematically polishing and refining the user experience and I solicited several more beta testers including some breathing experts such as Robin Rothenberg author of Restoring Prana who helped me see the App through the eyes of a novice user which really helped shape the final product.

Unending Rabbit Hole

Of course once you get committed to releasing a product like this into the world there are so many other things that come into play. pricing, packaging, support, websites, setting up an actual business entity, etc., etc., etc. At times it seems to be a daunting and never ending series of tasks, but hey it's fun, and I really hope you enjoy this App and much as I have enjoyed building it! I'm committed to making breatheX the very best breathing exercise App out there and I still have a LOT of ideas about where this can go in the future but I'd really like to also hear from you. Please rate the App and send me your feedback with any ideas you may have since this is still very much a Work-in-Progress.

In the meantime, breathe well my friends!

November 29, 2020