Are you a new runner? Are your legs just fine, but you just can't seem to control your breathing? Are you frustrated by more experienced runners who appear to run with little effort and with unlabored breathing that seems as normal as if they were standing still? You’re not alone. Most new runners experience the same frustration. Just know that many experienced runners also struggled with the same breathing issues when they first started.
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Your body needs a good deep inhalation in order to get oxygen deep into the lungs where it can be transpired from the alveoli into the bloodstream. Better oxygenated blood means more oxygen getting to the muscle where it's used to make energy. More energy means more endurance. Breathing rapidly doesn't mean you're getting in the needed oxygen, because rapid breathing often means shallow breathing.
So how do you get in control and unlock your lungs so your breathing doesn't seem so labored? It takes practice. Breathing is such a natural thing that it feels quite unnatural to think about your breathing. But, spending a few runs focused on your breathing can ensure more enjoyable and relaxing runs.
A good breathing training technique for beginners to try starts with a walk.
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- Go for a one-minute walk. During the walk, focus on slow deep breathing. Concentrate on expanding your belly as you breathe. Keep an even breathing pattern during the walk. Pay attention to your stride. More than likely you're taking multiple strides during each inhale as well as each exhale. Remember that a good exhale will clear the lungs of CO2 making room for more oxygen. Also focus on good posture. Walk with a "tall spine." Keep your head up, but relax your shoulders. Slumped posture can actually decrease your lung capacity.
- Now, pick up the pace for a one-minute brisk walk while maintaining the same deep even breathing pattern. It may take a little concentration to keep your breathing rate from increasing as you pick up the pace, but you'll be surprised how easily you can actually control it by just paying a little attention to it.
- Now, pick up the pace for a one-minute slow jog. Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern. This may be a little more challenging, but you can do it. Pay attention to the number of strides your taking with each inhale and exhale. (To count a stride, just count each time your right foot hits the ground.)
- Finally, pick up the pace to a one-minute run. Focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern you've been keeping since the walk. Take note of the number of strides your taking for each inhale and exhale. They may not be the same.
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