Obviously we live every day breathing and not thinking about it. Breathing is one of those bodily actions that is involuntary but that can be intentional. We go around all day breathing with giving it a single thought. But when we want we can force our body to take a breath. For the last two years running has been my regular cardiovascular exercise. (In 2013 I logged 1435 miles.) When you run you don’t have to think about breathing in fact most of the time you never do. It is only when we push to go faster or run up a hill that you notice your breathing. You notice because your body is craving oxygen and trying to rid itself of the energy making byproducts.
I just finished reading the book Runner’s World Running on Air The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter. The concept of the book is you can learn to control your breathing while running. The results are in greater air transfer in the lungs providing more oxygen for the stressed body systems used during a run. It is also proposed that controlled breathing results in less injuries.
The book doesn’t just propose rhythmic breathing but an uneven pattern of breathing. An example would be inhale for 3 counts and exhale for 2 counts. Other patterns are discussed in detail.
More air exchange, more oxygen Breathing on Air proposes that controlling the pattern of breathing and inhaling for a greater length of time puts more fresh air in the lungs giving the body more oxygen for energy production. Also more oxygen means you could potentially run faster.
Less injuries When running and breathing involuntary the pattern is usually even: inhale for 2 exhale for 2. This pattern puts stress on the body and especially on side of the body because we are always inhaling and exhaling on the same foot. The uneven pattern suggested by Running on Air alternates the both the inhale and exhale to different feet. The theory is that doing so spreads out the stress evenly.
After the reading the book I have decided to give it a try. My run today was at an easy recovery pace so I thought it would be a great time to try out the uneven pattern of breathing. As soon as I started I began to count 123 - 12. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t start by counting the inhale first. I quickly switched to 12 - 123 with the exhale as the start, it took concentration, but I could keep it going. After a couple of miles it became more comfortable…but not natural.
Run faster Another hypothesis of this type of breathing is that you will be able to run faster and it will seem easier. So with these promised results: more available oxygen, less injuries and faster times I am willing to work at it some more.
So if you see me out running anytime soon know that I am counting 12 - 123 over and over again. I hope this intentional pattern becomes more involuntary because counting 12 -123 for 26 miles could drive a person crazy.
Do you think about your breathing pattern when you run?