Last week I did a post about form. But of course there is so much more to form. Today I am going to tackle another basic: breathing. It is very hard to get anywhere without being able to breathe evenly. So, how do we get there?
We can all pant. That is never an issue. But when you pant, you are breathing shallowly, which means not as much air gets into your lungs; and quickly, which means what air does hit your lungs doesn’t stay there long enough.
Before running, try this exercise: “lie down on the floor, placing a hand on your belly and breathing deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you are belly breathing. If your chest moves up and down rather than your belly, you are not breathing deep enough. Focus on your hand and try making it rise and fall.”**
A good way to see if you are breathing appropriately is the CDC suggestion “that if you can comfortably talk during your running workouts, but not sing, you’re performing at a moderate intensity, which is often appropriate for longer endurance runs. If you can’t say more than a few words without pausing to breathe, your running intensity is vigorous, the CDC notes, which is appropriate if you’re running at a rapid pace for shorter periods of time”*
While this is a great way to see if you are breathing too quickly, what do you do if you are? Everyone needs to find their own way, but I can make suggestions you can try to find your own way. I use my yoga breathing. Being a bit of a geek, I love that Sara Ivanhoe compared the proper way to breathe for yoga to breathing like Darth Vader, deep in the back of your throat so it echoes a bit. Now, I don’t practice my Darth Vader impression as I run down the road. But I do try to inhale deeply, pause, and then let it back out. That does not work all the time, and I can tell when I have not been doing it. I try to take that deep breath for every two to three shallow breathes I take.
Another way to try a ratio is matching your breath to your strides. Many successful runners “prefer a 2:1 stride/breath ratio, according to a review published in 2013 in PLOS One. More specifically, authors of this review note that many runners prefer to take two running steps for each breath they take during workouts.“* This ratio doesn’t work for everyone, so play with it to see if you prefer a 2:2, or a 2:3 ratio more. Focusing on your breath will help you keep it even.
Breathing properly can also help prevent side stictches.Many side pains come from your incomplete breathing. When you expand your lungs, you also engage your diaphram. Your diaphram is a muscle that moves with your lungs during breathing. When you increase your breathing dramatically, your diaphram may spasm, resulting in a side stitch. If you breathe evenly, and keep your posture upright so your lungs can fully expand, these spasms are less likely.
If nothing seems to help, especially if breathing becomes difficult, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor. “Asthma or exercise-induced asthma and allergies are very common, so when you feel you can’t catch your breath, if you cannot inhale or exhale productively, if you experience any wheezing, or other symptoms that are uncomfortable or concern you, please check with your doctor.”**