Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Breathing on the Run
By the Focus-N-Fly Coaching Team

Today, we’ll return to one of the basic questions we get on a regular basis - how to breathe while running.

The faster we run, the faster we will reach a point when we will have to concentrate on our breathing in order to continue at that pace.  That is because the additional strain of the pace has caused our muscles to demand more oxygen on a quicker schedule.  All of a sudden, you need more air and breathing begins to require your attention.

Here are some simple tips to remember when the going gets tough:

Straighten up
When we are tired, our running posture can often fall apart - our shoulders hunch over or bunch up to our earlobes.  This level of tension is not desirable.  When you need to get more air, remind yourself to draw your shoulders away from your ears, but straighten up and stand tall.  This allows for your lungs to have the maximum room for air, and may help ease symptoms of a side stitch by stretching out the afflicted area.

Breathe deeply
When we tire, we tend to pant and take shallow breaths.  In that moment, panting seems like the quickest way to gather as much oxygen as possible.  In reality, it is much more efficient to take a slower, deeper breath.  Rather than taking a shallow breath, imagine you are filling your stomach/diaphragm first, from your bellybutton up to the tops of your lungs.  Panting is like splashing some water over the mouth of your water bottle.  Some of what you want gets in, but the effort yields much less than the desired result.  A deeper breath is like sticking your water bottle directly under the faucet stream.  Fill up those lungs so they can do what they do best - get air to your screaming muscles!

Begin a slow and rhythmic breathing pattern
When you are running or walking at relative ease, your breathing pattern may be 2-2 or 3-3, that is, it takes two footfalls (one landing of either foot) to inhale and two footfalls to exhale, etc.  However, when you are tired and air is at a premium, try to spend a bit more time on each inhale than you do on each exhale, for what might end up as a 3-2 rhythm or a 4-3 rhythm.  Take your time, try to relax yourself generally by the almost meditative counting of your breathing rhythm, and/or let a favorite song guide your brain through the pattern.  All of a sudden, you’ll be at the next mile marker or water station.

Everyone is a bit different, and all of us, from novice to experienced runners, need to practice techniques in low stress situations before taking them to the streets in the big race.   Listen to your breathing on easy runs to find out what your natural patterns are.  Try to maintain a tall posture and open your chest when the running is easy before forcing yourself to find that position when the running is tough.  Test out a 3-2 pattern or a 4-3 pattern on your next interval or tough workout and see what feels right. 

By practicing these techniques, we hope the finish line will find its way to your feet a little faster!

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