Running and Breathing
Continuing with the series on Yoga for Runners, this time we worked on something as simple and yet as pivotal as breathing while running! I read (NO, this is not a book review) Running on Air by Budd Coates, a running coach and a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier. He has developed certain breathing patters and ratios for runners.
But to really figure out how breathing works for me, I decided to go on a two- week experiment on breathing while running! I ran with my mouth closed, hence breathing through my nose. I decided to run trying out various breathing patterns mentioned by Budd Coates.
Two weeks later, along with inputs and practice with Ritu (My Yoga master), I feel quite clear about answering the following questions that we as runners always need the right answers to.
- I go out of breathe while running. What do I do?
This happened to me a lot in the first one year of running! And then an experienced friend told me that one of the primary reasons for something like this to happen was that I was out of shape! I was, I had delivered a baby just 10 months back! Various experienced runners advised me build my endurance through strength training. I, of course, always chose Yoga over everything else. I was also advised to keep running consistently and build my endurance side by side. True to the advice, within 3 months of yoga with consistent focus on deep breathing practice and stamina building poses mainly being Surya Namaskars, I was able to normalize my breathing!
- Should I breathe through my nose or my mouth?
So I made a quick experiment last 2 weeks. I ran while breathing through my nose keeping my mouth closed! And no it doesn’t work! I felt I had slowed down substantially. And an observation that hit me after a few days of breathing with my nose while running was that it did not allow for me to breathe enough! Hence making me uncomfortable which meant it slowed me down.
- So, what is the best way of breathing while running?
Whatever you do, don’t breath from your chest. It’s also called shallow breathing. It can lead to serious hyperventilation and might give a stich to the runner in the rib area. Deep breathing is important while running because deep breathing means more oxygen to the muscles which helps the endurance and does not let you go out of breathe for a long time, which is what defines our ability to stay longer on the road.
I tried Coates way of breathing! And No! That didn’t work either! I felt I was too caught up on the breathing ratios and really just did not enjoy my running at all. At least not when I want to run fast! I do think it would help people who like to not get obsessed about fast running and enjoy running meditatively.
Finally, I now just let my body do the figuring out. But yes try not to breathe through your chest! Breathing from the belly does take time but figuring it out while running did not slow me down on long runs. And if you are sprinting –then you anyways get breaks between each sprint.
How does yoga help?
- Yoga helps you by practice. And it’s something you need to build. In all my articles I can’t stress enough that yoga is a practice! Not a session!
- Yoga follows the simple practice of breathing rhythm of deep inhales and longer exhales. You could begin by inhaling as long as the count of 3 (inhale as you count 1, 2, and 3) and 3 exhales (exhale as you count 1, 2, and 3). This is called 3:3. Gradually you move to 4 inhales and 6 exhales. And can go on to inhaling at the count of 8 and exhaling as deep and long taking it up to the count of 16. By deep breathing practice, we eventually get to a point where exhalation is longer than inhalation. Through this conscious practice on breathing you can learn to deep breathe.
- While running it’s difficult to make exhalation longer than inhale but it relaxes you down if you are trying to catch up on breath anytime during or after run.
- Inhale while you bloat your tummy / deflate your belly as you exhale. The idea is to take in as much oxygen as you can and remove the carbon dioxide. This is how it removes fatigue and helps you stay controlled while running.
- To practice breathing from your abdomen/belly, lie down and place your right hand on abdomen and left on chest. As you inhale inhale observe your right hand rising and falling at exhale. Left hand is as still as can be. This tells you breath is reaching deep down.
Practicing Pranayam breathing exercises also help a lot.
Having said, all the above, breathing while running remains a mystery to experienced as well as fledgling runners. What worked for her may not work for him! It may or may not become a second nature for the runner, but practicing breathing for 10 minutes 4-5 times a week has never gone wrong with any runner.
Do you really work on your breathing while running? Have any breathing techniques worked for you? If yes, please do share here.
Written and experimented by
Tanya Agarwal for Wellthy.Fit
Inputs and Practice Sessions by
(Yoga Acharya from the Sivananda Tradition)