Monday, October 17, 2011
How to Breathe When Running
This weekend, 20,000 women hit the streets of San Francisco to take part in the annual Nike Women's Marathon. The race is going on its eight year, with benefits going toward the Lukemia and Lymphoma Society.
This got me thinking about running... Ever wonder why some days you feel like you could run forever while on others your legs feel like lead and every minute just seems to crawl by? Certainly the amount of sleep you got the night before, stress levels, and diet play a role in how you perform during your runs, but how you regulate your breath also plays a major role in your energy levels during your runs. Here's how to power your muscles with fresh oxygen on each stride.
1. Learn how to breathe deeply: Your lungs are just a bit smaller than your ribcage, but we all tend to use just the top third of the lung. One reason being that, like all muscles, the intercostals, which run between the ribs, can get tight and inflexible, limiting the expansiveness of your lungs. When you take a deep breath, you are expanding the lungs, pressing down the diaphragm, and causing your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with air. Learning to breathe deeply helps you take in lots of oxygen while running, preventing dizziness and nausea. With a little training and some stretching you can breathe to your full potential to increase endurance. Cross-training with workouts like Pilates and yoga can also help you learn to use your entire lungs when breathing.
2. Match your breathing to your steps: For an easy-paced run, inhale for three to four steps then exhale for the same amount. Count the steps in your head while you adjust to breathing on tempo. If you are running more intensely, your breathing tempo will increase to support your increased energy output and become faster - a breath in for one to two steps and out for one to two steps. If you can't match your steps to your breathing tempo then you are trying to run too fast; slow down, and get back into your rhythm. Rhythm is key!
3. Breathing in the cooler temps: It's important to breathe through your nose while running in chillier weather because cold air is dry and breathing through your mouth increases the dryness while decreasing the temperature of the air. Since your lungs do not like dry air, you can experience asthma-like symptoms, like wheezing and coughing, when breathing cold air in through your mouth. Breathing through your nose not only filters out air impurities, but also warms cool air to body temperature, creating less shock for the lungs and decreasing those asthma-like symptoms.
4. How to breathe through your nose: If nose breathing is difficult for you, start experimenting with the technique now before the temperature drops drastically. Breathing through the nose helps you breathe more deeply and efficiently, which will ultimately help your running no matter what the temperature is. If you plan to run in cold temps and have yet to master nose breathing, you can try wearing a bandana (or a shirt that can be pulled up far) over your nose and mouth to help trap the moisture of your breath and humidify the air before it reaches your lungs.