A lot has been written about nutrition and what to take during endurance
events. However, energy is produced in the muscles through an intricate mix
where both nutrition and oxygen meet in the cells to release energy. If you don’t have enough oxygen, you begin to build up with lactic acid, and that has an adverse effect on your performance.
In order to get the good stuff- oxygen- in, and the bad stuff-carbon dioxide-out, we need to get our breathing right. So :
1. Breath with your mouth open.
Your mouth is hopefully bigger than your nose, and so you will get more air through it. Running or cycling with a slightly open mouth also relaxes some of your facial muscles which means that you will burn through a little bit less oxygen in that area.
2. Keep the windpipe as straight as possible.
Runners should not bend forward mid spine. This will collapse your sternum and also increase resistance through your wind pipe. Cyclists also need to make sure that they have as straight a line as possible. Don’t hang your head down. In doing so you will restrict the amount of air you are able to get in. You should be able to trace a straightish line from your belly button up to your chin.
3. Don’t take short little breaths from the shoulders.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Both your abdomen and thorax should expand as you breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing will also help you with your posture. The less bent you are, the more air you can get in. The more air you get in, the faster you will go.
One of the things you can periodically do to test yourself, is to imagine that you are breathing from your belly button. This will ensure that you are taking good deep breaths.
Task time: Lie on your back with your knees up. Place one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen. Now begin to breath slowly and deeply.
4. In the words of Taylor Swift, “Shake it off…”
A lot of runners and cyclists will allow tension to increase in their shoulders while running and riding. Getting movement back into your neck and shoulders will both relax your body as a whole and discourage you from heaving air in by lifting your shoulders. So, give your neck and shoulders a shake.
5. Get a beat going.
Runners need to try and inhale as their feet strike. As your foot strikes the ground your diaphragm drops. Breathing in at that moment will ensure that more air enters the lungs as your thoracic cavity expands. Your posture will also improve if you practice this. Please don’t try and breath in every time your foot strikes the ground. You run with a cadence of roughly 180 strikes per minute. Your lungs were not designed to work at that rate. Simply get into a rhythm that will give you enough air for the speed that you are running at.
6. Running and cycling with asthma.
Many runners and cyclists have asthma and have not been held back in their sport. The treatment of this is beyond this blog. I would,however, encourage you not to brave it out on your own, but to seek medical advice from your doctor. I add one small caveat here, try and get to a doctor who is an athlete.
The easier your breathing becomes, the more relaxed your movement will become.
More air equals more energy and a better performance. Wish you lots of happy runs and rides.