Stop for a moment, listen and feel your breath. It is something which most of us never think about. It sort of just happens. We breathe in, we breathe out. I challenge you to change this. I want you to breathe out, breathe in. When you begin to train your breathing you open up the potential for greater power and endurance. You also find your cadence, you tap into a calm strength in even the toughest situations.
In a recent post I shared with you Mark Divine's video on Box Breathing and how to begin to train your breath. Now to apply it to running, or any athletic event:
Put one hand on your upper abdomen, the other on your chest. Try this standing up.
Feel which hand is rising more with each breath you take. Then play around and see how it feels to cause your hand on your chest rise and fall more, then try to switch and make your hand on your abdomen rise and fall.
Runners often, without even realizing it, are chest breathing. Especially when their legs and lungs are screaming for more oxygen. At the crest of a hill, before the last kick to the finish. Shoulders get tense, breathing is shallow and rapid, posture gets hunched, arms too high, hands clenched. You just end up making your body work against itself.
Learn to Belly Breathe. Of course our belly isn't breathing, what does happen is you train your diaphragm to push down into your abdomen and your lungs expand. The diaphragm is a muscle and it is responsible for 80% of the work when you breathe. Expanding and filling your lungs allows you to use to use more air sacs and better feed your working muscles. Belly breathing allows for maximum expansion of your lungs and maximum intake of oxygen.
better breathing = more oxygen = better performance
Breathe out, Breathe in. Breathing OUT is something I find to help immensely when I am starting to struggle or feel my body can't keep up. For the longest time I didn't think about why, I just found myself doing it and finding my "second wind". Breathing out clears your lungs so more oxygen can come in. That shallow, rapid chest breathing doesn't cut it here. Big breathe, big belly exhale. Exhale discomfort, pain, even doubt. Driving your breath out, powerfully and smoothly takes core strength. It is your abdominal muscles at work here, and it gets easier with practice.
I will leave you with three exercises to begin your breathing training and strengthen the necessary muscles. I discovered these through Peter Knapp, a former opera singer now voice and communication skills trainer. Do them daily.
1) The Schuss.
"Raise your arms high above your head then swing them downwards bending your knees. Straighten your knees again, swinging your arms up above your head. Breathe out as you go down and in as you swing up. With the downward swing, you're completely pumping all the breath out of your lungs, using the abs. With the upward swing, you're opening the ribcage, using the intercostals."
2) The Candle.
"Keeping a relaxed, upright posture, take in a breath and then blow out firmly, as if you were blowing out a candle, and do it for four counts keeping it strong and consistent until you've emptied your lungs. Feel the abs contract, and hold the contraction for a couple of seconds before inhaling again, relaxing the abs as you do so."
3) The Ffffffff.
"Take a couple of deep breaths with your fists pushing into your ribcage on each side. Feel the beginnings of an outwards movement. Now put your top teeth quite firmly on your bottom lip as if you were going "Ffffffffffff ..." and breathe in. Feel how hard the intercostals have to work to get that breath in."
Give these a week, doing them daily and play around with your breathing on your runs and workouts. Next Friday I will take you a step further. Would love to hear your feedback and of course any questions in the comments below.