As runners, we are constantly being bombarded by messages about the importance of nutrition and how it fuels our bodies. It got me wondering why we seem to focus so little on the other really important fuel we need – oxygen.
I seem to recall that when I started out running my early limiting factor was that I got short of breath very quickly, and it was this that tired me way before my muscles began to complain about what I was putting them through. Having done a bit of reading, courtesy of Mr Google, I’ve predictably discovered that there are a number of breathing patterns we should be using to maximise our performance. The argument I found most compelling was that a breathing pattern based on a three in, two out method would mean that the start of the cycle would alternate from the left foot ground contact to the right, and thus balance the weak point of the cycle (most prone to injury) between both sides. (I tried it, and just couldn’t make it work; as soon as I’d thought am I still doing that, I’d realise that I’d defaulted back to my usual 2 in, 2 out). But it occurred to me that this was being proposed as an idea to reduce stresses on the body and to reduce injury – laudable aims indeed – however, it was nothing to do with breathing efficiency.
Perhaps I’ve missed it, but aren’t there any exercises we should be doing to help us improve our breathing? To increase our lung capacity maybe? Something to help us breather deeper? I suspect that those who practice yoga know the answer to this. I, having all the flexibility of your average house brick, have never tried it.
What I do know works for me is to remember to run tall. Like most of us, I tend to slump forward when getting tired, and I also tense up in my attempt to maintain pace. A quick reminder to self to straighten out and relax my arms and shoulders miraculously makes breathing much less laboured.
So here’s my half-baked theory for the day. I’m going to practice deep breathing and holding my breath for longer periods over the course of a few weeks to see if that makes any difference. You never know……