Don’t we all just breathe? How could this be a skill?
I guess it’s pretty much the same as ‘we all eat’, and ‘we all walk’ but to do it in a such a way that it improves one’s life, it is something to learn, develop and practice, much like any other skill.
The first time someone told me to breathe in fact was a singing class! Yes! I was told all about belly breathing, filling the entire body with air, regulating exhalation and holding notes. Maybe I was lucky that my opera singing teacher put this is a priority, but it took a whole new meaning much later when I started yoga, swimming and then now running also!
The singing breath is about the size: singers need to develop their bodies such that they can store air ‘even in their legs’ I was once told, and to regulate how that air is used to support the vocal chords. Every fraction of second that can be added to a note is a landmark in a singer’s life.
Since my singing career pretty much stopped 2 years after it started, breathing kind of lost focus.
Then came swimming, and there the skill was different: it’s about regulating movement and air flow, but also about slow exhalation again: this way one can spend more time under the water obviously.
Yoga was somewhat different from all that: breathing was about energy. All types of breathing were practiced through pranayam and also during asanas: sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes VERY slow! Every movement had a breathing associated with it, so in a way breathing timed the body.
For the first time recently I heard about breathing technique for running. According to this article on Runnersworld most of us runners breathe in a rhythm of 2-in-2-out. I realized I was exactly doing that after reading the article.
The proposal by Coats and Kowalchik is to change that into 3-in-2-out, such that the foot strike is different at each exhalation, and the body takes in more oxygen in every breath. They suggested starting this at home, then on short run before doing it as part of exercise.
Having been my slowest self lately, I decided why not try it for my last run! My tempo was 5k and I figured I’m going from bad to worse, so there’s nothing to lose.
Lo and behold…. It was a new personal record!
Not only did the technique work nicely to make me think about breathing, but I felt physically stronger to breathe longer inhalations! Of course on my third kilometer it was harder to get all 3 counts in, and found myself reverting back completely by 5th kilometer, but the difference in my overall performance was incredible! I felt stronger, that I could do this for longer, and worry less about the left side ITB that never really went away.
I wish such small tricks were all bundled in a spot where runners can just benefit from this knowledge! I mean … what’s really more important than breathing???