“Listen your breathing” is often a phrase I say to my athletes when we are running. Although breath control will not make you a faster runner, it can sure make running faster easier. Here is some information I found to back up this statement.
Often when you are running you hear people sucking’ in wind when working hard. When you’re pushing, it might seem like you could achieve “blastoff” before you can regulate your breathing. If you Focus on the pattern of your breathing, you may unlock a whole new way of bringing your running and your breathing under control. There are reasons to aspire to this. Once you get this coordination going, it “allows you to feel your running, and that ability to feel your running allows you immediate and precise control,” explains Budd Coates, coach and author of Running on Air. Using breath to manage a workout is like driving a manual transmission car—you’re in tune with the needs of your engine and can change gears accordingly to save fuel or to really put the throttle down. Bringing attention to breath can translate into “calm and focus”, the stress of doing a hard workout or racing can be more enjoyable. You can work through the drama that is going on in your mind and focus on the task at hand achieving that mind body connection allowing you to reach the next level. Choppy breaths make you feel like your exertion level is greater then it really is, more controlled rhythmic breathes can tell your brain “I’m not fatigued”, and allow you to go faster and not feel like you are going to die.
Ben Coates advocates a way to breathe differently. He recommends an uneven pattern, inhaling for three steps and exhaling for two, or, for faster runs, inhaling for two and exhaling for one. (When to switch between the patterns depends on your rate of perceived exertion, which he goes into great detail about in Running on Air. A book I recommend)
A strong core plays a great role in breathing patterns. That is why I always put emphasis on core exercises. Coates explains that the greatest impact occurs when your foot hits the ground at the beginning of an exhale, and the exhalation is when your core is at its least stable. When you inhale your diaphragm is contracting, the core is hard. If you run with an even breath/foot strike pattern, you’re always hitting the ground on the same foot at the moment when your core is relaxed and you’re a less stable unit. This kind of pattern might lead to injury. Coates suggests a different pattern to try. On a slow run begin with the three-in/two-out pattern. Try to remember your perceived exertion. Get familiar with what pace you’re going when you’re at a low rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Once you become familiar with your RPE you will have the information you need to breathe more effectively on slow and hard runs. One thing to remember is not to confuse this type of breathing with taking large gulps of air to get bigger breaths. Large deep breaths are not runner’s fiends; however regulated inhalations will get oxygen and blood to your lungs. When you are running and you feel that “out of breath panic”, it’s not that you do not have enough oxygen, it’s that the oxygen is not getting to the muscles that need it quickly. Greater fitness will help to improve this situation.
Changing our breathing isn’t something you can modify with one run. It’s something you need to get intune with over time. Understanding how your breathing in training runs at different speeds allows you to know your body better and achieve your goals. It will change your reactions to working hard and not feeling like your going to collapse. Remember controlling your breathing is one step to enjoying what you love to do, run. Pick up Coates book for further information on breath control.