Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Breathe Better, Run Better?

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?

photo

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. 

SUAR

44 comments:

  1. I'm glad to just be breathing! I think you are a Survivor fan like me. Excited? Who are you pulling for?

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    Replies
    1. YES can't wait. Probably Natalie. You?

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    2. I am absolutely on the Natalie team! My husband and I are avid Survivor fans and Australia is so far behind, lucky my husband has worked out how to keep us current.

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    3. Natalie has played well. If not her, go old man Keith.

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  2. I look at my surroundings, at the people in the park. That person is limping AND making her way in the park? Oh god I should be grateful to be able to run. Oh that aching calf? Thank my lucky stars I can feel it. Think of people who cannot feel pain. Or another one: I keep going so I don't look like (__insert__). Somehow deterrent images work better for me.

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  3. I have actually been using that method for awhile! It was really hard at first just to get my brain around it, but now I like to check in every once in awhile with it during longer runs!

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  4. I love to focus on breathing while I'm running. I'm finding that it really helps with pacing. Plus, if I start getting a cramp, I try to exhale really forcibly when I strike the ground with the opposite foot (i.e. cramp on the right, exhale on the left). For me, it makes the cramp go away, without having to stop or slow down.

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  5. Several years ago I read about the "barefoot method" and taught myself to not run with my heel landing first. Since then, I randomly "discover" changes to my form that help me run better. The latest is arm/elbow positioning. Stand with your hands at your sides and inhale deeply. Now, put your elbows level with your shoulders and inhale deeply. Your volume doesn't really seem to change, but inhaling takes less effort.

    Finding this out changed my running style to keep my elbows high and my shoulders relaxed. Focusing on this also seems to increase your cadence and posture - especially when you are feeling tired and your cadence and posture suffers.

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  6. My acupuncturist states that being conscious of your breathing all the time is very important. Most people breathe very shallow breaths. We would be so much healthier if we actually took deeper longer breaths. It is hard to get used to, but stick with it. Our bodies need the oxygen to run more effectively.

    Love your blogs!

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  7. I read that book when I first started running. It didn't make a ton of sense when I was so new at the sport, but now I am realizing that I definitely keep a breathing pattern. But if I'm not thinking about breathing (which is hardly ever), this is my thinking: feeling good, my inner knee hurts a bit, I can't wait to be done, awww look a deer!, is that guy going to attack me?, am I done?, maybe I should just keep going further than I planned.

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  8. I used to get side stitches all the time. I started focusing on my breathing and found that by exhaling on the opposite side, I can usually chase them away.

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  9. I taught myself a 3/2 running pattern, it works really well, except when I run with my running buddies, we're chatting and I forget 3/2 breathing ;) I was at the Runner's World Half attempting the hat-trick, did the 5k and 10k, pulled my hamstring and that's all she wrote. I'm pretty sure I saw you finish the half marathon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it all seems to go to hell when you run with other people (or I forget to pay attention, get off my pace etc). Sorry about your hamstring...and sorry we didn't get to meet in person!

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    2. I read the same 3:2 breathing advice, said to counteract that very problem you mentioned (weaker core when you're breathing out on the same side every time). An uneven breathing pattern changes up the side every time. I don't usually think about it except when I'm doing my hill repeats. Breathing really is in the forefront of my mind then. ;)

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  10. I think I've come to the conclusion that every time I read about a new technique, or a preferred pattern, be it breathing or stride or whatever, I try it and either it doesn't work or I end up injured. Not being a "naysayer" here, but I believe our bodies are designed to a specific pattern and that this pattern is often "overthought" potentially leading to disappointment, or injury. I have found that the best pattern for me is the one that my body allows me to do naturally without thinking. When I zone out and just run in the most natural, most comfortable way I can. My body will tell me if it doesn't like what I'm doing and now, I listen.

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    Replies
    1. That makes sense. My guess is that you have already settled into a breathing pattern that works for you...

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  11. I have found focusing on my breathing actually helps me stay relaxed. I worry less about other things and run more naturally. Also I will get a side stitch if I breathe reckless! If I am not focused on my breathing oh man my thoughts are everywhere!! I am a pretty random person.

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  12. I have asthma so j have to pay attention to my breathing and its more rhythmic. Other than that I zone out!

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  13. Never thought about it until I realized how tight my upper body was and how that was restricting my breathing. Now I stay more relaxed, breathing is deeper and my times have improved.

    Also, I have the same head conversation about the extra layer. I will carry it before I will tie it around my waist. :)

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  14. This is silly but the only time I think about breathing on a run is when I am doing speed work, tempo, or something where I have to suddenly pick up the pace and I am winded for a few moments until my breathing evens out. It always does, so I just say to myself "relax, and your heart/lunges will catch up with the rest of you in a minute"... and usually by the time I have told myself to relax, my breathing has evened out. Other than that, I never, ever think about breathing!

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  15. My breathing always seems to be 2:2, unless I'm going very slow. When I go faster, I pick up my stride frequency. I'm breathing faster, but it's still 2:2.

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  16. I tend to not think about it until I start to get a side stitch then I remind my self to breath better.

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  17. Well, I feel like an idiot! I always thought it was best to breathe out your nose when running and I use it as a gauge. If I can run and breathe comfortably out of only my nose, I know I am sticking to an "easy" run. If I have to open my pie hole, then I need to slow down. I guess that was so wrong. Whoops!

    Random side note: Your hair looks GREAT in that first picture! So pretty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a girl who ran cross-country in high school tell me that it was "correct" to only breathe through my nose. I just laughed and said that I was going to get the most air possible into my lungs, and I didn't care what was "right" or not. I actually think she was wrong. ;)

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    2. The lady on the treadmill-trainer-programme-video-thingy (TTPVT) suggests that nose breathing is a sign that you're running at recovery pace - "you should be able to comfortably breathe through your nose" is the advice that she gives for finding the right recovery pace.

      I'm still struggling to find this on the treadmill, and usually find that I'm huffing like a randy water-buffalo and sweating spinal fluid when she says this...

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    3. I know when I took the Chi Running workshop they said to breathe through your nose. But every think else I've read says use both nose and mouth to get the most O2. Thanks makes the most sense to me, but again maybe it is a personal choice. I feel like I'm suffocating if I just breathe through my nose!!

      And Kate, thanks for the hair compliment!!!!!!!!!!

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  18. I've had the song thought a lot - and always forget to delete the dang thing!

    I know I could work on my breathing, but when I try to focus on it, I start breathing even weirder. I think if I could breath "normal" that my running would improve.

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  19. I do 3:2 breathing when I'm doing speed work or getting tired in a tempo run. I find my legs get tired before I get winded - the extra oxygen seems to help them keep going (totally non-scientific, just what I've observed / decided).

    When I'm hitting the wall in a long run I switch to 2:3 (exhale longer than inhale). In yoga longer exhales than inhales are used to relax you, and I find this relaxation helps me get over the "oh-geez-I-hate-this-why-am-I-running-I-could-be-at-home-on-the-couch-if-I-stop-and-walk-no-one -will-ever-know" moments.

    The rest of the time I don't think about it so much!

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  20. Seriously? I am a blonde....its hard to enough to remember left foot-right foot-left foot-right foot. If I have to think about anything else I would end up in the ditch!

    All I think about is "should have peed one more time" and now ya gotta hold it for the next hour or so!

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  21. I do a 3:2 breathing ratio. I Implemented it after reading an article in a Runners World a few years ago. After doing it for a few years, it's just routine now. I often have the same thought while running.... Why the hell is this song on my iPod?

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. I have been a two step in two step out guy since basic training in the military. The Cadences teach you breathing rhythms(typically slower than that), so it seems very natural to me to do that. Of course I tend to run with music(Steve Boyett's podrunner)
    Cheers!
    Tony -
    Blog at http://goo.gl/xlMfuY

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  24. Hi there! I am new to running and am glad to have stumbled across your blog. I love your sense of humor, so I'm sure I'll enjoy catching up on your past posts. :)

    ReplyDelete
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