Strengthen your thoracic diaphragm to become a better runner

This informative article published in Trail Runner Magazine (the UK’s No.1 off-road running magazine) talks about The Forgotten Muscle, your thoracic diaphragm, and how important learning to use it properly can correlate to increased stamina, quicker recovery and even decreased chance of injury.

It talks about how, as a trail runner, you strengthen your muscles with squats, lunges, plyometrics and core work, but neglect the muscle that’s capable of improving your balance, stability, efficiency and oxygen economy – your thoracic diaphragm.

With improved balance and running efficiency being two of the greatest benefits of proper breathing for trail runners, you can understand why not neglecting this muscle counts.

The article explains how, “When we use our diaphragm to breathe properly, it makes it easier for our blood to pull oxygen out of the air we inhale, which translates into improved running economy and endurance. Of course, as you become fatigued, it’s often necessary to rely on secondary muscles of respiration as well—but, ideally, the diaphragm should be the primary muscle used.”

Read the article The Forgotten Muscle to discover a few ways to help you become a ‘breathing ninja’, however there is one training method that gets directly to the core of improved diaphragm breathing, and that is Inspiratory Muscle Training with POWERbreathe.

POWERbreathe IMT can help overcome two obstacles trail runners face:

1. In the case of breathing, fatigue occurs almost exclusively in the inspiratory muscles and results in laboured, uncomfortable breathing and intense breathlessness. POWERbreathe targets the inspiratory muscles, improving their strength and stamina and reducing fatigue.

2. Fatigue of the leg muscles can also be a result of fatigue of the breathing muscles, because research has shown that fatigue of the breathing muscles may result in diversion of blood away from the leg muscles. This means that the supply of oxygen to the legs is reduced and performance is impaired. POWERbreathe reduces fatigue of the breathing muscles by targeting them directly to improve breathing strength and stamina.

With disciplined POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training you’ll improve breathing comfort too during running because POWERbreathe specifically targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, helping to eliminate breathing fatigue and improve running performance.

POWERbreathe athlete Gi Ka Man wins the ASICS Hong Kong 10K Challenge 2012

Terry Tang from Healthcare & Co., our POWERbreathe friends in Hong Kong, are delighted to share the news that their POWERbreathe athlete Gi Ka Man came first in the ASICS Hong Kong 10k Challenge on 4th November! Congratulations Gi Ka Man for a fantastic race time!

Gi Ka Man, founder and Head Coach of the Hong Kong running club, Runners Athletic Club, has been using POWERbreathe since 2009 and has been training with Professor Tong whose major area is in respiratory physiology but who also has an interest in health-related physical fitness.

Gi Ka Man is also the record holder for the Hong Kong half marathon – winning by a huge 35-second margin – 15km and 10,000km run.

Thank you Terry for sharing this wonderful news with us.

If you’ve been using POWERbreathe as part of your marathon training then we’d love to hear from you, and if you have a message for Gi Ka Man then please leave a comment here.

POWERbreathe User Trial: Phil Bradbury – The only way is up!

The POWERbreathe unit arrived just as I was about to leave for the station for a four day trip to Paris, so I stuck the box into my bag and left. Which meant I did not have the opportunity to view the DVD before I started using the unit.

I already knew a little about diaphragm breathing but the instruction booklet contains no pointers to how important this is in the breathing training regime. In fact it says when describing how to inhale through the unit, “Take in as much air as you can, straightening your back and expanding your chest”.  It mentions the diaphragm only once on the inside cover simply saying, the muscles used to inhale are primarily the diaphragm and rib cage. I mention this because anyone who cannot or does not view the DVD will almost inevitably use an incorrect breathing practice.

The DVD however explains it very well, so it is vital that new users watch it. So for the first few days I was not using the correct breathing practice, after I had viewed the DVD I started training again with a zero setting on the POWERbreathe unit.

As some of my sessions didn’t start particularly well in terms of the correct breathing techniques I now do what could be called a ‘warm up’. I do 15 correct breaths without the Powerbreathe, this reminds me how I should breathe and perhaps in some small way does prepare the muscles for some harder work when using the Powerbreathe. I find this gives me a much better start to the 30 training breaths.
I intend to use the Powerbreathe for ‘fitness and sports performance’, so I will gradually keep increasing the setting until I do find failure, but I am not rushing up the scale because I want to achieve good breathing practice, rather than just a high setting.

So after one week of consistent morning and evening training…..
1) I have moved the setting gradually up to TWO.
2) I feel like I am completing the training session with a better breathing practice.
3) I do have a feeling around the diaphragm area that suggests I have been training something, but as I do lots of other training this may or may not be due to using the Powerbreathe.

Phil Bradbury

Josephine Gull – Breathing training with the POWERbreathe starts now

I have recently started the winter training and with that comes longer runs with very short rests in between sets, so this seems like the perfect time to get really active with the POWERbreathe. To get me through the winter training strong, I will need everything I can get to stay on top of things. Proper breathing exercises during runs ensures a more efficient use of oxygen and conservation of energy and also helps improve running performance. In fact, this applies to any sports; it’s so essential that it applies just as much to your everyday life. I recommend everyone young and old, top fit and unfit to try it out now, with the days getting shorter and darker, challenge yourself to stay healthy and strong and come through the winter stronger than you entered. Embark on your very own journey and be prepared to be amazed.

Over the course of the coming weeks, I will keep a blog to share with you my adventures and successes as I face obstacles both physical and mental and the sweet taste of success (hopefully) when I smash my PBs in 2012 with the help of POWERbreathe. I started using the POWERbreathe Plus heavy resistance a while back already so below you can read what my journey with this amazing product has been so far.


In May I joined my father on a business trip to Tanzania and apart from my morning sprints on the beach, I spent quite some time in the swimming pool. I wanted to do everything I could to keep fit for the upcoming national comps and since I knew that my lung capacity in the past had been a weak spot, I decided to try to increase my lung capacity and mental toughness by swimming underwater. After only 2 days I began to feel the benefits; longer time and more distance covered under water, more relaxed during runs and more endurance in the weight room. I kept this up for a few more days and when I got back, my sprint endurance had increased remarkably and I was more relaxed powering down the home stretch. I decided that I wanted to keep it up, but with 3 club trainings and a competition every week, adding a swimming session to the training program was not a very good idea and over time it could be quite costly. I had to find another way and I remembered that I had read about POWERbreathe quite a while back, so I decided to search the Internet. I liked what I found and I ordered the POWERbreathe Plus heavy resistance.

Getting started

As soon as I got my POWERbreathe, I watched the instructional video to get an idea of how to use it. The getting started video was very handy, because as it turned out, I was among that majority who were breathing with their chest and shoulders instead of with the stomach. So, before I could even start with the POWERbreathe, I had to learn to breathe properly. Once I had mastered that (took around 30min.), I set my POWERbreathe to level 0 and started for real; even though it was just level 0, it proved quite a challenge the first time, because I still had to get used to proper breathing against resistance. I turned the knob ½ to ¾ turn at a time and stayed on that level for at least 2 sessions before I moved on. This was to ensure that I could easily handle the load before I stepped it up a gear, and the second I began breathing with my chest and shoulders, I turned it down ¼ turn to reinforce proper breathing technique.

Week 2-4

The transition from 0 to 2 was quite easy and took just under a week and with every breathing session I felt stronger, better postured and more enduring. Week 2 through 4 was spent getting from level 2 to 3 and this proved quite a challenge. Level 2 was still quite easy, but 2.5 is where it got tough and the days rolled by without getting any further. I then began to add a relaxing mid-day run to the program, which quickly increased the distance and speed covered with every breathing session. Soon I was up to level 3 and this was the toughest challenge yet, but even this one shortly after became history. At 3.5 I was feeling stronger, faster and fitter than ever and with the 4 weeks up, I went back down to level 0 and started to incorporate some simple stretch and core stability exercises. Soon I was at 1.5 and still handling the extra load with ease. I moved back up to 3.5 on the normal breathing training but a very stubborn cold put a sudden stop to both my breathing and running sessions. I gave it everything I had, but level 3 proved too much. Turning it down to level 2.5 was easy at first, but when the cold hit my throat and lungs, I was back down to 2. The cold is now gone and I am gradually working my way back up again.

More than just strength

I used the POWERbreathe not only to strengthen my breathing muscles and to improve my breathing technique, but I also used it as part of my warm-up and cool down. Warming up with the POWERbreathe helps me to relax my body, get my mind focused and get those lungs working. It also ensures that a certain amount of oxygen gets to the muscles from the very start to get them ready too. Cooling down with the POWERbreathe relaxes my muscles and my mind and the increased oxygen I take in as a result of proper breathing seems to speed up my recovery time.

POWERbreathe Trial – Rob Lunn Week 5: It’s been hectic to say the least…..

Hello sorry for the silence! It has been a hectic few months at Diverse Health & Fitness!

The last time I blogged I had just completed the Love Life Love Running 10k in Cannock Chase smashing my previous personal best time, I believe my POWERbreathe training played a huge part in this and also came in handy warming up before the event to get my lungs ready to perform.

A couple of weeks after the event I took a well deserved summer break! Unfortunately there was no room in my case for my POWERbreathe…………….

Although I did not use my POWERbreathe during my holiday, my training came in handy when snorkelling. This year I holidayed in Egypt famed for its reefs and exotic marine life, I have always had breathing difficulties underwater during previous snorkelling experience but this time my breathing pattern seemed much more relaxed. My POWERbreathe training will of only of helped this, allowing me to stay out snorkelling for longer periods of time which was great as there was some much to see under there, it is like a whole different world!

Upon my return from my holiday I had so much work to catch up on that it took me a few weeks to get back in to full training, but now I am finally here and I am looking forward to making further progress with my POWERbreathe training.

I have signed up for Mens Health Survival of the Fittest ( which takes place in Battersea, London on November 12th 2011, I have  5 weeks before the event to get myself back to peak fitness ready to set new records!

My POWERbreathe is turned back down the zero ready to go for phase II of my POWERbreathe training!!!

Rob Lunn

Personal Trainer

Running with COPD

When people are out running they can sometimes struggle when trying to draw in oxygen to cope with the demands the body is placing on them.  This would be normally be associated with someone who is physically out of shape. However, if the symptoms persist then it could be more medically related and it is advisable you contact your GP.

Whether you are a seasoned runner or new to running, breathing difficulties are quite common regardless of age or fitness so it is always advisable to get checked out as this could be a more serious condition such as COPD or asthma.

When out running, the respiratory system plays a critical role in the body’s proper functioning. During any type of vigorous physical activity, the muscles require a significant amount of oxygen. As a result, the respiratory system must work much more quickly and efficiently to deliver this oxygen. Air is pulled into the body through the mouth or nose, and then flows down the airways into the lungs. In the lungs, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. After this exchange, oxygen is transported to various parts of the body, while carbon dioxide is exhaled. Breathing problems such as COPD can be caused by a number of problems in the lungs or airways.

Some runners may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This refers to several different lung diseases, which make breathing an extremely difficult task, particularly if you are a keen runner. The three main conditions in the COPD category include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthmatic bronchitis – all as severe as each other. Sufferers of COPD have an extremely difficult time breathing, even while they are resting. However, if the person attempts to run, the symptoms will likely become significantly worse. To ensure safety, a person with COPD should consult a physician for advice on COPD treatment. There are various treatments available for COPD sufferers including:

  • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Taking medication to dilate airways and decrease airway inflammation.
  • Vaccinations against flu and pneumonia.
  • Oxygen supplementation
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation.

Taking advice from your GP or medical health advisor can help improve running performance if you are a keen runner or are looking at starting to run.

What is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT)

Inspiratory muscle training is defined as a course of therapy consisting of a series of breathing exercises that aim to strengthen the bodies’ respiratory muscles making it easier for people to breathe. Inspiratory muscle training is normally aimed at people who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD. However, many people adopt IMT as part of their sports training as this training is designed to strengthen the muscles used for breathing. This is done through a series of controlled breathing exercises. Studies have shown that regular IMT can increase a person’s endurance during cardiovascular exercise or sports activities such as running and cycling.

When a person is breathing normally, they typically use between 10 to 15 per cent of his or her total lung capacity. However, with Inspiratory muscle training, a person can typically increase the amount of lung capacity used. Deeper breathing uses a bit more energy but also allows more oxygen to enter the bloodstream with each breath while strengthening the breathing muscles. Strengthening inspiratory muscles by performing daily breathing exercises for at least six weeks significantly reduces the amount of oxygen these same breathing muscles require during exercise, resulting in more oxygen being available for other muscles.

Why train the respiratory muscles

The respiratory muscles need to be trained because during exercise the body’s demand for oxygen increases and our breathing volume or ventilation must also rise to cope with the oxygen increase. For this to work numerous muscles surrounding the lungs need to contract in an exceedingly coordinated manner. As the intensity of the exercise increases, these respiratory muscles must contract more forcefully and more rapidly to keep pace with the body’s substantial increase in metabolism. This important role of the inspiratory muscle training has huge benefits for respiratory muscles, fitness and sports training as well as to help improve running performance.