Running performance improves with deeper breathing

An article in the October 2016 edition of Runner’s World UK says you can boost your running performance with each breath you take. But you have to choose the right type of training. And that is training that gets oxygen to where you need it.

Improving running performance starts with your breathing

Breathing training will help you with this. It helps you to get oxygen into your legs and will help avoid breathlessness from the start. In fact Dr John Dickinson recommends you pay attention to your breathing before you even start running. Dr Dickinson is Head of the Respiratory Clinic at the University of Kent.

Warm-up your breathing muscles

A research study(1) has found that a standard pre-exercise warm-up routine will fail to prepare the breathing muscles for the rigours of exercise. And not warming up the breathing muscles will lead to excessive breathlessness as you start running.

Improve the muscles that inflate your lungs

Strengthening your inspiratory muscles is something that is suggested in the article. Because it is not possible to train the lungs or grow more alveoli (where gas exchange takes place), this is the one thing you can do. By training the inspiratory muscles you’ll be able to get more air into your lungs.

POWERbreathe IMT recommended in article

One of the author’s of the article suggests practising more efficient diaphragmatic breathing through inspiratory muscle training. It mentions ‘the popular’ POWERbreathe. POWERbreathe is an Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device. The article goes on to say how in studies POWERbreathe improved inspiratory muscle strength by 31% and inspiratory muscle endurance by 27%. It also states how POWERbreathe also improved recovery during repeated sprints by 7%.

How breathing better improves running performance

Research and trials(2,3) suggest that during heavy exercise, blood flow (and therefore oxygen delivery) to your exercising muscles is inversely related to respiratory work. This means that your inspiratory muscles are capable of stealing blood from your other working muscles. This in turn will impair your performance. Other research on inspiratory muscle training (IMT) and exercise performance reveals a reduction in whole body effort sensation. This means that after 4-weeks of IMT, people didn’t feel they were exercising as hard and were therefore able to push themselves that bit further. Because of this they were increasing their training intensity and ultimately their performance.

POWERbreathe IMT improves running performance

When you use POWERbreathe IMT to subject your inspiratory muscles, mainly your diaphragm and intercostals to an appropriate training resistance, they will adapt. They will increase in strength, power and stamina. And although running will strengthen your diaphragm to a degree, “you don’t get the results you get with inspiratory training”, says Dr Graham Sharpe. ‘The most accessible method is a device such as POWERbreathe’, the article says. Dr Graham Sharpe is Principal Lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University.

Research

1 Specific respiratory warm-up improves rowing performance and exertional dyspnoea

2 The influence of inspiratory muscle work history and specific inspiratory muscle training upon human limb muscle fatigue

3 Effect of inspiratory muscle work on peripheral fatigue of locomotor muscles in healthy humans

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Limitation to running performance – the role of respiratory work

Published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine this year was a study that looked into the occurrence of core muscle fatigue during high-intensity running exercise and its limitation to performance. Secondary to this was to discover if the work of the respiratory muscles contributed to this core muscle fatigue.

Key points from the study revealed:

  • A high-intensity maximum run may induce core muscle fatigue in runners. The core muscle fatigue, which may be partly attributed to the corresponding respiratory work, may limit their running endurance.
  • In support of previous notion, inspiratory muscles may share the work of core stabilization during intense exercise, while simultaneously increasing the demand for breathing.
  • Inspiratory muscle training incorporated into a running specific-core training regime potentially enhances the training effect on the core muscles in a functional manner to deal with the challenges faced during intense exercise.

Anatomically the inspiratory and expiratory muscles play a dual role in breathing and core stability during exercise but it wasn’t known if respiratory work during intense continuous running contributed to change in global core muscle function.

The major inspiratory muscle, the diaphragm, has been shown to be activated during non-respiratory activities including power lifting and bicep curls (Al-bilbeisi and McCool, 2000) but the interaction of core muscle and inspiratory muscle functions in core stabilization during intense continuous running has not yet been made clear.

So the purpose of the study below was to investigate:

  1. The occurrence of core muscle fatigue and its limitation to exercise performance during continuous high-intensity running to exhaustion
  2. Whether respiratory muscle work performed during intense running would contribute to the potential occurrence of core muscle fatigue. (The newly validated sport-specific endurance plank test was used for examining the changes in global core muscle function with fatigue.)

Study

The Occurrence of Core Muscle Fatigue During High-Intensity Running Exercise and its Limitation to Performance: The Role of Respiratory Work
J Sports Sci Med. May 2014; 13(2): 244–251.
Tomas K. Tong, Shing Wu, Jinlei Nie, Julien S. Baker, Hua Lin

Conclusions

Following the experimental trials, the study demonstrated that intense running to exhaustion does induce core muscle fatigue in endurance runners and that it may be partly attributed to exercise-induced increase in respiratory work.

Also, evidence from this study of the dual role of respiratory work in breathing and core stabilization during intense running suggests that “inspiratory muscle training incorporated into a running specific-core training regime potentially enhances the effectiveness of the core training in a functional manner to deal with the challenge faced during intense exercise.”

Find more published research on our Inspiratory Muscle Training Research blog.