What would you say if we told you that you could improve your running performance, no matter what your goals, without adding mileage, intervals or gym workouts? And, as an added bonus, you’d improve your health and your performance in any other sport you participate in. That’s the result of training your respiration. Most runners assume that they are great breathers, because they breathe a lot and often very hard. Putting in a lot of mileage with bad running form doesn’t make you a better runner. In fact, it may make you a worse one and the same applies to breathing. Breathing dysfunction isn’t as easily identified or felt as running dysfunction, so it may go unnoticed. And, if other runners seem to be running more easily than you, you may write it off as a lack of genetic or natural gifts.
Most of us don’t think much about training breathing specifically, after all it’s a non-conscious function, right? It just happens. And yet all of us have consciously controlled our breathing from time to time, like seeing how long we can hold our breath, and even made improvements there. Anyone practicing yoga will know the emphasis on controlling breathing for specific benefit or in coordination with movement. And as a runner, you may have heard about syncing breathing with your running cadence. There are hundreds of systems designed to alter your breathing. They pretty much fall into two categories:
- They are designed to help you control your breathing for a purpose
- They help you achieve better breathing by doing drills with focus and control that “magically” transfer to better autonomic breathing.
There are elements of both goals in our respiratory training course. We want your autonomic breathing to be as efficient as possible when you are running. We want to get our brains more comfortable with “air hunger” so we don’t over-breathe. We want to be able to run farther and faster without incurring respiratory distress, it’s associated fatigue and the desire to quit.
Just as there is good form for running, there is also good form for breathing. You should be able to move all the muscles involved in breathing through full ranges of motion with good posture. And because breathing muscles are also involved in running, you want to synchronize your breathing and running patterns so they are synergistic.
But it doesn’t stop there. You want your breathing muscles to be strong, fast and have endurance. Your brain will favor resources for breathing movement over running movement and direct blood flow accordingly. When that happens, you quickly tire, so it may feel like running muscle failure when in fact your locomotion muscles aren’t getting the blood flow they need because your diaphragm has “stolen it”. So, you want to make sure that breathing muscles are strong and don’t tire easily. You automatically improve endurance by gaining strength. Breathing often involves lifting and expanding your chest. Good diaphragmatic breathing and making sure that muscles between your ribs are supple and relaxed will make the job of inhaling easier.
Most runners know that breathing is (or at least should be) a non-conscious activity while running. What they don’t know is that you can train your non-conscious breathing by practicing conscious breathing techniques. The essence of that practice is that you want to be able to control your breathing in various ways and under various conditions. If you can’t, you are experiencing air hunger to some degree and likely over-breathing. The key is developing an ability to resist the urge to breathe when you don’t need to. The ultimate goal is to breathe just as much air as you need and maintain the right balance of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) without the need for conscious control. And the key to that is reducing threat (unproductive stress) and training to tolerate air hunger.
There are specialty breathing techniques that runners should know. For example, how to regain control of your breathing quickly during a run should you lose it, how to use breathing to enhance post-run recovery, how to optimize breathing for various parts of your run, etc.
Finally, to be a great breather you need to have a solid understanding of how breathing works and what kind of desirable changes can be achieved by adjusting your breathing in different ways. While we strive to give you a fairly complete library of assessments and training methods, there is always the likelihood that you can and will discover something that works exceptionally well for you – if you understand the principles of breathing.
To see what great breathing looks like, click the following button.
Why You Should Consider Respiration Training
You can make training gains equivalent to high-intensity interval training
- At home or in the office
- With far less time spent
- With less recovery needed
You can delay fatigue and run with less perceived effort
- Reduce the risk of respiratory distress which can consume 12-16% of your available energy Breathing easier makes running seem easier
- Reduced blood lactate concentration
You can use different breathing techniques as tools to address immediate needs
- Warm-up, Cool-down
- Improve sleep
- Improve recovery
- Calm your breathing, mid-run
You can run more efficiently
- Better posture leads to improved form and lower energy consumption
- Stabilize your core and keep it stable for longer – a key to good running form
Breathing is rarely trained and could be holding you back
- There is almost no respiration training available for runners
- Breathing with less effort will make running seem easier
- If you have breathing dysfunction, you are only reinforcing it by running
- High-intensity respiration training involves many of the muscles of the torso. This could be one of the best core workouts you can do.
- Reduce the likelihood of “stitches”
- Better lymphatic drainage and removal of waste
It is not always obvious how poor breathing translates into symptoms or running performance. To see if you might be have breathing issues and not know it, click the button below.