"Come back to the breath". "Move with the breath". We hear this a lot in yoga. We practice breathing techniques, which in yoga we call pranayama. Today, during savasana (when I was supposed to be relaxing), I thought about breathing and running. We as runners focus so much on technique, on training, on our times, our fuel...but how often do we focus on breathing?
Breathing is pretty important. In fact, I joke with parents of asthmatic children in the clinic about this. Often reluctant to give their wheezing child a breathing treatment, I tell them that breathing should be their number one priority. Put it like that, and even though it sounds corny, it really makes them think twice. You can't do anything else if you're not breathing, right? When being trained to do CPR, we learn the ABCs of rescue: A=airway, B=breathing, and C=circulation. Breathing comes first. Breathing comes naturally to most of us, right? But how often do you think about your breathing when you're on the run? When you're getting tired? Running too fast? Running next to someone who sounds like Darth Vader? Would using breathing techniques, similar to what we do in yoga, help us while we are running?
|and proper breathing techniques...|
Just like everything else we do as runners, we need to learn how to breathe properly. Most runners at least use a basic breathing pattern of exhaling every 4th step. An article published in Runners World talks a lot about rhythmic breathing. Not only does this technique help with endurance but Bud Coates, the author of Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter, says it can help you stay injury free. He theorizes that exhaling puts the greatest stress on the side of the body you land on. So if you continually exhale on the same side of the body, you are putting a ton of stress on those joints and muscles. He suggests an odd/even pattern, so that you land alternately on your right and left foot. Coates uses a five step pattern for easy runs and a 3 step pattern for racing. Rhythmic breathing also helps give runners a feeling of centeredness--just like we feel in yoga--and keeps you relaxed and calm. In yoga we learn to exhale stress and worry. These same principles can be brought to our runs. A relaxed runner runs better. If you are feeling a twinge or pain on the run, try exhaling deeply. It takes practice but it really works! If you want to read more about Coates' techniques, chase the link above.
|Incentive to become a nose breather...|
I have tried nose breathing and it is hard! But I do occasionally breath through my nose when forced to, like if there's a bad smell, car exhaust, roadkill, or something like that. When I do breathe through my nose, my nose starts to run and that's a problem too. Back to the mouth breathing. I'm not a snot rocketeer and don't want to start.
I wonder if Jurek uses this app I found? The Breathe Strong app (available for download on the iPhone) was developed by Alison McConnell, breathing training expert and author of the book Breathe Strong, Perform Better. The app can be used for breathing training as well as during workouts. There's an app for everything, isn't there?
Or if you don't want to use an app or get a breathing coach, you can do what I do, and go to yoga. Besides all the physical benefits of yoga, and I've written about that, yoga teaches you to move on the breath, to become more conscious of your breathing, and to breath more deeply. There's a great article on basic breathing techniques here. But like anything else, there's no shortcuts. Breathing requires practice. Who would have thought that something so natural, so basic, would require so much thought?
Do you focus on breathing when you're running? Are you a mouth breather or a nose breather? Any helpful hints to improve our breathing efficiency?
I'm linking up with the ladies at Workout Wednesday! Be sure to head over to their blogs and see what everyone else is talking about!