Breathe right and run better

2015-01-31 00:00

BREATHING and running are linked.

Without oxygen, we cannot run and the better the air supply the more easily we run.

I am often asked about the ­correct breathing and whether it should be through the nose, mouth or both. There are books that ­recommend you breath in for so many strides and breath out over the next two or four strides but this sounds complicated as I find breathing rates normally take care of themselves.

As a runner, I find no benefit by selecting either the nose or mouth for breathing. The faster you run the more air you want and it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

My first focus is to get people to breathe correctly.

If you ask people to take a deep breath the majority tend to lift their chest and shoulders in an attempt to get as much air into the chest cavity as possible. They not only create tension in their shoulders and neck, but limit their ­capacity to about 50% of their actual capability to absorb air.

The correct way to breathe is to use your diaphragm to suck or pull air and to access the full lung ­capacity. By taking in a greater ­capacity the required breathing rate at any point is less. A slower breathing rate provides a more ­relaxed running style at any speed.

Learning to breathe correctly is important. Try this method to get the principles.

Lie on your back with a weight on your stomach. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom is an ideal weight for most beginners.

Commence the training by relaxing to a steady state. Now try to breath in by pushing the book up using your stomach muscles — you will feel air being dragged into your lungs. Keep raising the book until you feel no more air going ­into the lower sections of the lungs and only then expand your chest to get additional air into the final 30% of the capacity.

Hold this for one second, then exhale and let the book drop down. At the same time, allow your chest and diaphragm to ­“collapse” as far as you can and expel as much air as possible. Hold for a second and you will experience an automatic reaction forcing you to pull the next batch of air into the lungs, followed by the raising of the book again.

Initially, do sets of five repeats and this exercise can be practised whenever you wish. After a week, you will be able to practise a similar movement while standing. You can use your hands against your stomach or diaphragm as a prompt to the correct action.

Gradually build until you are ­doing sets of 10 deep breaths, and you can increase the feel and power of the stomach raise/diaphragm pull down by increasing the weight of the book.

When you are finished the session, do not rush to get up as the new breathing may make you a bit dizzy. As the training progresses, you will find a new, slower rhythm to your breathing and find benefits in everything you do. This exercise will also contribute to better core development. Remember that core strength is key to an efficient running style. With a little help from Madiba, your life and running will take on a new breath of fresh air.

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