Lately I feel running is a three-pronged activity.
It is a mental challenge, just you and the pavement pounding away. As I rehab I have to continually remind myself, I am challenging the runner I was yesterday, not another runner, and not the runner I was six months ago. Each day is about going farther, or faster, or enjoying the run more than I did the run before.
Running is a physical activity. I am rehabbing and still going to physical therapy twice a week; I am building the muscles back. I am paying attention to every little ache and possible pain to ensure that I am not pushing too hard or too fast. I am stretching early and often, and I am icing at first signs of possible inflammation – shin splints beware I will not be sidelined by you. Things are going well physically. I’m happy with my progress. I have the strength, but unfortunately I don’t have endurance.
Endurance translates to breath support. The third prong of my running stool is breathing. Physically my legs feel like they could run another 5 miles at the end of a run. Mentally I remember when 8 miles was my favorite running distance to go out and conquer. But, my breath support is just not there. Not yet anyway, and it is driving me insane. I am huffing and puffing at the end of 5 miles like I use to at the end of 10 miles, yet my legs feel great and my mind absolutely wants to push onward.
Faced with this frustration I turned to Google. Better breathing equals more oxygen for my muscles, and that equals more endurance; how do I improve my breathing? I would love to report that I found some quick, sure-fire, easy fix to improve my breathing – I did not, all require effort and time. However I learned some interesting things.
- 80% of the work of taking a breath is done by the diaphragm. Strengthening your diaphragm will therefore improve your endurance. Many Pilates moves help directly strengthen the diaphragm. Runners’ World has a detailed tutorial on specific Pilates moves to try at home. Active.com recommends these same Pilates moves, as did other sites.
- Runners need to be “belly breathers” for their best results, not “chest breathers.” Run a fast mile, then stop and place one hand on your abdomen and one had on your chest, then watch. The lower, or belly hand, should move with each breath and your upper hand should remain still.
- Open your mouth when you run. Your mouth is bigger and therefore more effective at taking in oxygen than your nostrils. Also, keeping your mouth open relaxes your face aiding in your ability to breathe deeply. Don’t forget to brush your teeth after your run as running with your mouth open isn’t great for oral health. Also, running with your mouth open is not recommended in dry, cold air.
I’m not sure I going to become a fanatical Pilates convert, but I definitely plan to try some of these breathing techniques to help improve my runs. Persistence and perseverance will also go a long way in aiding my rehab. I’m going to try it all and let you know how it goes. Endurance building here I come. Anyone else out there have some tips?