Showing posts with label breathing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breathing. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2017

And then I Needed to Just Breathe...

Disclaimer: I received The Breathing App and gear in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are my own.

It's no secret to anyone that I am somewhat of a high-strung kind of gal. In fact, some call me type A+. Being driven is often a good quality-- as a type A person, I have high standards, I'm ambitious, I'm goal oriented, I'm not a quitter...but there are definitely some downsides to being type A. It is exhausting being such a perfectionist, and the drive to continually succeed can lead to stress. And we all know what stress does to a body.

Unless you're type B, that is.

Running has always been an outlet for stress relief for me. But what about when I can't run? It's not like I could just leave in the middle of my workday for a run, right? Can you imagine?

What I can do when I'm feeling overwhelmed is take a minute to breathe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Just breathe

Today in yoga, my instructor was demonstrating dolphin pose. The key to this pose, she said, was to melt your heart towards the mat. Yoga instructors say the funniest things, don't they? I asked her what that meant, and she demonstrated by literally melting her chest towards the mat. She also told us that the key to doing this correctly was the breath.

"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...
Running is simple, right? We put on our shoes and go. But by using better breathing techniques, we can supply more oxygen to our muscles. More oxygen equals more endurance. Have you ever been on a tough run where you noticed that your breathing was ragged? Ever get a side stitch? I had one at my race last Saturday. Oh, I hate getting side stitches. Luckily, I was able to chase it away by focusing on my breathing, taking deep, slow abdominal breaths, working my diaphragm, and exhaling on the opposite side of the stitch.

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...
Are you a nose breather or a mouth breather? I'm a mouth breather, and my biggest incentive for trying nose breathing is to avoid inhaling insects on the run. Seriously. In June, we get those clouds of gnats that fly around, and ick! I've usually inhaled a few of them every summer. Protein, right? A few years ago, while on the run, I was stung in the eyelid by a yellow jacket. Yeah, it hurt, and my eye swelled shut. But all I could think about is what if I inhaled that bugger into my gaping mouth? I could die!  Experts say that nose breathing is more efficient, keeps your heart rate and your blood pressure lower, and helps relax you. Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner and author of Eat and Run, is a nose breather. Makes sense. He recommends breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

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?

Just breathe.

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!