When we think about long-distance running, we often concentrate on things like pace, speed, endurance, hydration, stride… etc. etc.
But what about the way we breathe?
Breathing is a normal, natural human function that we do without thinking, so it makes perfect sense to forget about it. However, studies have shown over and over that rhythmic breathing is essential for helping runners run longer. Concentrating on your respiratory system during running workout and getting the most oxygen to your muscles can improve your endurance.
Moreover, some of us tend to breathe from our noses, even when we run. Your nostrils are smaller than your mouth so they cannot populate enough air in your lungs for a sport like running. Here, we’ll outline the importance of good breathing for runners and offer some techniques to try.
Prevents Muscle Fatigue
Everett Murphy, runner and pulmonologist at Olathe Medical Center says inhaling and exhaling is regulated by diaphragm, and exercising this muscle promotes better breathing and prevents muscle fatigue. Usually runners utilize two-thirds of their lung capacity, but engaging your diaphragm delivers the air to the lower part of your lungs. This increases a runner’s aerobic capacity and also enhancing stress levels whilst eliminating runner’s cramps.
Many runners breathe from the chest instead of the belly. This is a disadvantage, because you waste energy by being a chest breather, whereas you can conserve much more energy for running by breathing from your belly instead. To breathe from the belly you should inhale by filling your belly like a balloon, while exhaling this balloon belly should deflate.
Colleen de Reuck, a 2004 Olympic marathon runner, explains that she switched to Pilates for improving her belly breathing skills. She says Pilates helped her stretch her intercostal muscles along with lengthening her spinal cord which proved to be a wise option for running. The best way to master breathing from the diaphragm is to practice when you’re not running. Many runners find that cross-training workouts, like yoga, can help with engaging the diaphragm.
Breathing Techniques To Engage The Diaphragm
Mindy Solkin, better known as Coach Mindy, is a certified Level III Running Coach and owner of The Running Center. Here are her top techniques to focus on breathing from your diaphragm:
Breathing Tips For Runners: Breathing From The Mouth
Your mouth is bigger than your nostrils, so naturally the intake of oxygen from the mouth is much more than your nostrils. While running, you should use your mouth for inhaling and exhaling breaths.
Techniques For Proper Breathing While Running: Breath Patterns
Your breath coordination with foot strikes helps to strengthen diaphragmatic muscle. The stronger the muscle the better control you develop over inhales and exhales. Begin with a 2×2 breathing pattern, breathe in by stepping left, right then exhale by stepping left and right. Progress your way to 3×3, step left, right, left by inhaling and breath out reversing the same. You may advance to a 4×4 pattern too.
Breathing Tips For Runners: Rhythmic Breath Control
Rhythmic breath also known as cadence breathing is a skill difficult to master. It involves body coordination and breathing along with running movements. Professional athletes utilize this breathing control pattern in marathons and also during their training. They take the two step approach which means at every two steps they breathe in and on the next two they exhale. You may also switch to a two step inhale and 1 step exhale breathing technique, but this might cause light-headedness if you’re a beginner so a 2×2 to 3×3 step inhale/exhale might work for an apprentice.
Techniques For Proper Breathing While Running: Purification Breath
The breathing technique used in this exercise is adopted from yoga. When you get up early morning it is difficult to engage the body in any activity. This yoga breathing technique can be very effective in promoting a runner’s day schedule.
If you’re too sleepy to get out of bed, position yourself in a lotus stance, use the index and middle fingers of your left hand to obstruct right nostril. Inhale to a count of four from left nostril, hold your breath for four seconds, release right nostril and exhale from it to a count of eight. Repeat the same with the other nostril. This process of yoga breathing helps to detoxify your lungs, making room for fresh air and also opens your sinuses and reduces congestion which can help you take that run for the day.
If you adopt these breathing patterns in everyday life, you will notice balanced mental and physical interactivity. Yoga breathing techniques paves the way by unleashing energy to many areas of your body, hence providing a harmonized function and improved performance.
Be sure to consult a certified specialist or professional coach prior to adopting any of the breathing tips for runners.