Running and the importance of Breathing
It may seem like an automatic thing, breathing while running. But there are an array of techniques to both running and breathing that can make you perform better, but more important will make you feel better throughout your run, and reach that unconscious ‘meditative state’ that is the joy of running, much sooner.
Sri Chinmoy, the famous spiritual leader, and founder of a 3100- mile ultramarathon, saw breathing and running as part of a deeper spiritual process – benefitting the inner and outer self. Breath is a critical element in many schools of mediation and of course Yoga. It is also a function that naturally responds to intense effort like running, where the body demands more oxygen to counter the increased carbon dioxide that builds up inside you. Without getting too philosophical, I’ll just address the benefits of finding the right breathing pattern here so that you can have the most comfortable and beneficial running experience, rather than the lifestyle and esthetics of living issues that are worthy of a different kind of discussion.
Until I started running regularly, I didn’t even know this aspect of running existed. And it’s changed my whole perspective.
Running importance of Breathing on a treadmill, was where I first noticed that I seemed to tire with one leg, my right in this case, dragging a little as I finished up whatever distance I was doing that day. I even felt my right thigh stiffen and sometimes get a little sore later in the day. After mentioning this to some people in my weekend running group at a local park, it occurred to me- I was a ‘right-left’ breather- inhaling on my left step, and exhaling on my right. So my stride was locked into my breathing pattern.
When you see a person who is tiring, like at the end of a race, and they’re dragging one foot, usually one more than the other, this is what is happening –they are inhaling on one side (tightening the abdomen) and exhale on the other (relaxing the abdomen). This kind of movement holds you back by restricting your movements, and taxing you more on one side than the other.
I have asked about this from trainers and more seasoned runners, and read in various places (runtastic.com, runnersconnect.net, to name a few) about the importance of developing a pattern of breathing that keeps your movements free of the inhaling/ exhaling function and allows for consistent movement.
The solution is to separate your breathing pattern from your striding, or stepping, pattern. It’s much easier than it sounds to adopt this technique, and it becomes automatic before you know it. I tried a few different patterns – inhale 3, exhale 2, switch around, try inhale 2 to exhale 1, etc. and settled on a pattern that worked for me. Switching back and forth was pretty tiring, so once I found a pattern that was easy enough to do I just stuck to it.
The effect was amazing- not only didn’t I tire as quickly, but I didn’t notice the miles as much, finding it easier to complete long distances without thinking about when I’d reach the end. Eventually, I found that extra energy for the finish, too!
A personal trainer I know said that when you change your breathing pattern, your whole body opens up more and your movements are freer.
About Mouth versus Nose Breathing:
Running and the importance of breathing, your nose is a natural filter, and is sufficient for low exertion activities. Your mouth allows for more air to enter, so I’m generally a mouth breather as a runner. In extreme cold I’m a nose breather.
There is a school of thought that you should inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Under heavy exertion, you might breathe through both at the same time. And there are a surprising number of resources, web sites, social groups and even books, just on this topic – breathing and running (You can explore runnersworld.com, verywellfit.com, letsrun.com, runnersconnect.com, etc.). Feel free to explore the different sources.
Another approach can be to practice deep breathing when you’re not running – from a sitting or standing position inhale/ exhale deeply, relaxing your back and shoulders. You should feel your belly expanding and contracting if the breath is deep enough.
Do this for several minutes. Feel free to go with whatever works for you, as long as it’s comfortable and meets your goals for running.
Wearing a mask is advised right now when you are outdoors due to the current pandemic.
But wearing a mask can inhibit your breathing some and slow you down a little as a result. I’ve read where it’s okay to pull the mask down when you have sufficient distance from any other runners, but not if you are in a crowded park on a Saturday morning. The filter also helps with car or chemical fumes. Some masks have a slot for another filter that slides into it in cases of severe pollution or if you’re working with toxic chemicals or fumes.
There are a lot of options for runners, from bandanas or light scarves to a gaiter that covers your neck, to any number of mouth and nose coverings that have come out since the pandemic began from thematic to stylish, and even a face shield could work.
I received a filter from a company called DLYDiary- it’s loose enough for comfort, has a piece to fit your chin on the bottom, and a filter holder. It’s also two layers, but very thin. The key is to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in high contact areas.
I recommend that you experiment with patterns -3 in 3 out, 3 in 2 out, etc., but the important thing is to find what is most comfortable for you and helps meet your performance goals.
If you just run for the exercise, or just for fun, or if you like the challenge, once you start exploring and relearning about breathing, you’ll never take it for granted again.
And the most important thing is that you keep running. Thanks for reading this article Running and the importance of breathing