How to breathe well when you’re running.

Breathing while running is an art. As you run more, breath becomes more organic and balanced. Breath is not easy when we start running. Our lungs and heart are being challenged along with every muscle in our body. Once we become consistent with our running breath does get simpler.

I always teach breath work with my runners. Little changes to the breath can make huge performance gains on the road.

Let me tell you a story:

Years ago I would create the strength and conditioning programs for the 2 track and field groups in the city. These athletes ranged from 16-18 years old and they would come to the clinic every Saturday morning for 6 months. I would create the strength training programs, watch their technique and progress them every 3-4 weeks with a new progressive training plan.

I trained this one girl who seemed to be super tight in her rib cage which was effecting the way she worked out. I asked her to come see me for some one on one physio treatment to see if we could improve her rib cage rotation and posture.

She would see me once a week for treatment and I would supervise her training on Saturdays.

After 2 sessions of working on her ribcage, she came in on the Saturday and said, “I had a personal best this weekend at the track meet”. I was happy to see her make progress! The next week came and once again she reported she got another PB at a race. She also then told me she was starting to love running again as this boosted her confidence after a plateaued training year.

My physio brain was on fire. What was happening that every week she was running better and better?

I realised by improving her rib cage mobility, her lungs could expand further, she could get more oxygen to her hard working muscles, and she could rotate her ribs better which would drive her legs better.

mmmmmmmm. I am onto something here.

That was the beginning. My curiosity thrived and my running coaching and physio brain has not looked back.

Rib cage mobility is essential for good running form and technique.

DO you feel stiff in you mid or upper back? Do your ribs feel tight and stiff? Is your neck and upper shoulders tight when you run? Is it hard to take a big breath out?

Does your chest do all the breathing?

What can you do to improve your breath?

I have mentioned the “Hill Breathing” technique – this breath is THE BEST breath to have in your back pocket. It only takes 5 breaths and is perfect for those runs where you can’t catch your breath, are anxious, are doing hills or a speed work out and need to catch your breath before the next repeat. Hill breathing is perfect for when you are stiff and tight, feel as though you have poor posture, or have chronic upper shoulder tension.

Also, I often talk about the “3 strides for each breath” technique. With each inhalation, move through 3 running steps, exhale for 3 steps then inhale for 3 steps. Practicing this breath work during your runs can help ensure enough oxygen is entering our body and not creating a hypoxic zone, creating early fatigue.

How to do Hill breathing.

I want you to sit or stand. I want you to kindly take a soft breath up your breast bone. When you reach the end of the inhalation and are at the top of your shoulders, exhale and allow the breath to fall down the back of your body. I call this breathing hill breathing as it is similar to tobogganing. It takes work to walk up the hill, but when we get to the top of the hill, our breath should just fall softly down the back of you.

What I am hoping you will notice is when you relax into the third breath, your shoulder blades should gently fall down your back. By the time you get to the fifth breath, you should notice your weight moves further back onto your heels as your rib cage stacks over top of your pelvis. This alignment is essential for running efficiency.

Give these 2 breathing techniques a try. And if you have some stiff ribs, come see me at the clinic and I can help! Book Online | STILL PHYSIO

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