Running is an aerobic exercise. But what does the word aerobic actually mean? In simple terms aerobic is defined as ‘with oxygen’. We need to breathe to get oxygen into the lungs. As obvious as this seems, many runners have styles of breathing – some have a shallowed breathing style and some have a laboured breathing style. In some cases this can cause muscle cramps, side stitches, poor performance and even premature fatigue.
It is important to note that if a runner suffers from shallow breathing then this can result in a state of anxiety. This can be counterproductive for those runners who are running for relaxation. Anxiety also causes physical tension which in turn can drain a person’s energy - resulting in less energy for your workout.
Here are some top breathing exercises from POWERbreathe
When most runners are out running they tend to only make use of the upper two thirds of their lung capacity. However, if the runner adopts a diaphragmatic breathing pattern of breathing, this will fill the lower part of the lungs and will enhance the runner’s aerobic capacity, reduce any muscle cramps and even reduce the level of stress.
Deep breathing exercises can be performed prior to a run or during a run. However, depending on when they are performed, there is a slight variation in technique. Prior to a run, take a deep breath in through the nose and hold for five counts. Then, slowly release the breath through the mouth. Holding the breath during a run is not recommended. Simply breathe in for five counts, and then breathe out for five counts. Keep in mind that it is not always easy to breathe through the nose while running. If this is the case, go ahead and breathe through the mouth.
One thing runners fail to realise is that while they are running tension is building up in their shoulders, wrists, hands and jaw. Exhaling during deep breathing exercise releases this tension.
Rhythmic breathing is something that is not easy to master. However, once you have mastered the technique you can coordinate your breathing pattern with your running movements. Most elite runners use this type of breathing to ensure they have an even rhythm to their running. These types of athletes use a 2 to 2 breathing rhythm which means they take two steps per inhale and two steps per exhale.
The Cleansing Breath
If when you wake up you feel congested, then this can de-motivate you to go for a run. If you are not seriously ill then using the cleansing breath technique will help open up the sinuses and clear out any congestion you may have built up, making it easier to go for a run.
This technique is used frequently in yoga. Using the two middle fingers of your left hand close off your right nostril. Breathe in four counts through your left nostril. Take your thumb and close the left nostril and hold your breath for four counts. Finally, release your fingers from your right nostril and breathe out for eight counts.
Repeat this technique a few times and you will notice the difference, so much so that blowing your nose will be easy.
Adopting breathing exercises such as these can be very beneficial if you are an avid runner. Not only that, if you suffer from any respiratory conditions regular breathing exercises can also help improve your breathing pattern.