Beginner’s Guide to Running #4: Breathing

Breathing. You do it every single day, all day long, without having to think about it. But did you know that proper breathing makes a world of difference in your running performance? It seems so simple: inhale, exhale and then repeat. But what a lot of people, especially those new to running for sport, don’t know or even think about is the timing of it all. Aligning your stride and your breathing can significantly reduce your risk of injury and allow your body to perform at YOUR maximum peak level.

Budd Coates is an amazing runner, instructor and coach for competitive and non-competitive runners; Olympic hopefuls, and your weekend warriors. He is also the author of “Running On Air” This books is amazing for those looking to improve running performance. Budd describes how the sequencing of inhaling and exhaling along with footstrike can help improve performance and avoid injuries. 

Simply put, you should sequence your breathing so that when you exhale, you alternate which foot hits the ground with each exhalation. So how does it work and why? Well, let’s get into an anatomy lesson and break this technique down.

The Anatomy of Breathing

When you inhale, your lungs expand, and your diaphragm contracts. When you exhale, your lungs retract and your diaphragm relaxes. 

As your diaphragm relaxes, so does your entire core. When your core is relaxed it is at its weakest point. As your foot hits the ground, this is the point of highest impact to the body.

So…if you exhale during footstrike, your body is at the most vulnerable point when it needs to absorb the most impact, making running in this pattern consistently the perfect storm for injuries. “Running on Air” discusses techniques that you can easily deploy in your running in order to alternate and lessen the amount of impact that your whole body takes consistently, especially since this often happens on one side greater than the other.

If you tend to inhale and exhale in a pattern similar to your alternating foot strike, you are always landing on the same foot with every stride you take. This creates a lot of impact on one side and none on the other. You guessed it, that puts you at a higher risk for injuries. Most runners are methodical and ritualistic creatures, making these techniques easy for runners to implement once they are understood. Choosing even just one or all of the patterns that Budd teaches in this book, you can help minimize the risk of injury to your entire body.

Rhythmic Breathing Effort (RBE)

The technique that we are discussing above from Budd’s book is coined “Rhythmic Breathing Effort” (RBE). The first pattern he talks about is the 5 count, or 3:2.

“5” stands for the number of steps in the sequence: you inhale for 3 steps (left-right-left) and then exhale for 2 steps (right-left). This way, your first step on the exhale cycle will always alternate. Try it as you sit there. Inhale and march your feet left-right-left; then exhale and continue that alternating pattern…you will exhale with your right foot hitting the floor first, then left. Try another cycle, your left foot will hit the floor first when you start to exhale.

Amazing, right?! This will distribute the impact evenly from left to right and minimize stress to one side. This is just one of his many techniques. We recommend reading the book. You can also learn more by watching one of his short videos on the topic below.

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By |2021-04-22T15:16:32+00:00April 22nd, 2021|Running|Comments Off on Beginner’s Guide to Running #4: Breathing

About the Author:

Mary Smith, PT
Mary Smith, PT is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Baldwinsville Location.
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