Some people zone out when they run. While I have moments of zoning, my mind is usually going a thousand miles a minute with random thoughts:
- Stomach cramp. Please let this just be a benign cramp or a fart but not that other thing because I don’t think there is any place safe to do what I might need to do if it is that other thing
- When can I get a forced break (because I don’t want to cheat and take a voluntary break) such as a stoplight or tying my shoe or walking across black ice?
- This song always comes up on my iPod and I always skip it and why is it on my iPod anyway?
- Does that car see me? If I have to ask if it sees me then it probably doesn’t see me and I should move over into the ditch.
- Is my cadence quick enough? (I really do think this) Maybe it’s not 180 strides per minute. I should count but I don’t feel like it so I am just going to increase my turn over a bit and call it good.
- I am too hot I should not have worn this extra layer but I don’t want to take it off and tie it around my waist because then it moves and annoys me.
- How much longer do I have to go? (always I think this)
- Here's that cramp again. Shit.
One thing it never occurred to me to think about while I ran was breathing. That is until I went to the Runner’s World Festival in October and heard Budd Coates (renowned running coach and author of “Running on Air”) speak about the importance of breathing patterns while running. Say what?
I take breathing for granted. For example, right now I am breathing and I didn’t realize I was breathing, but if I wasn’t breathing I would be turning blue or be dead so it is good I’m breathing after all.
Why is a pattern of breathing when you run important anyway?
While lots of us give note to our form, far fewer pay attention to how we breathe. It is common for runners, especially those who are inexperienced, to breathe haphazardly while they run with no real pattern or purpose. Yet, research and experience has found that developing a "plan" for your breathing while you run can in fact improve efficiency and pacing.
Why is a pattern of breathing important? Breathing rhythmically puts less stress on the respiratory system. Also, being aware of your breathing while you run helps you to gauge your perceived effort and pacing.
What is an example of breathing with a pattern? A common way to breathe rhythmically is a 2:2 ratio. This means that you take two steps (one with your right foot, then one with your left) and you inhale. You take two more steps and exhale.
Nose or mouth? When running you should always be predominantly breathing out of your mouth as this is the best way to get oxygen in and out of your body.
If you were to read Budd Coate’s book, “Running on Air,” you would learn a crap-load (<scientific term) about breathing, but here are some Cliff note points that I found particularly interesting:
- If you are always getting injured on the same side of your body, this may be related to your breathing. Why? Well, let’s say you always exhale when you step with your right foot, then your core is always less stable when you hit with your right foot, thereby making you more prone to injury on that side.
- Rhythmic breathing improves running for those with asthma
- Developing a breathing pattern can increase lung volume and can help you set a “dream” pace for your training and racing.
At first this whole breathing thing completely overwhelmed me. It is hard enough for me to just RUN let alone RUN and count my breaths, etc. But, I thought I’d give it a try and HOT DAMN if I didn’t have a pattern already in place.
I find that on my easy to moderate runs, I step three times –inhale- then step three times – exhale (3:3). I do try to keep my cadence around 180 steps per minute. Of course this varies if I am going up hill or on the trails.
There is so much to this breathing/running thing, so just read the book (or for basic info, this article).
Do you have a breathing pattern when you run or are you just glad to be breathing at all?
If you aren’t focusing on your breathing while you run, what are you thinking about? Donuts.