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We often take the process of breathing for granted, but have you ever thought about how it can influence your run or perhaps improve your ability? Our bodies use a process called aerobic respiration to generate energy during activities. This process requires oxygen so wouldn’t it make sense to be aware of our intake of oxygen and to make sure our oxygen intake is sufficient?
As humans begin to exercise abruptly, we almost immediately increase our respiratory demands to meet the metabolic needs of our muscles. According to Human Anatomy & Physiology, this is process is called hyperpnea. This is not the same as hyperventilation which is characterized by alkalosis. The process of hyperpnea gradually increases the body to a comfortable rate and then maintains a steady state.
During exercise, runners rely on a few muscle groups to allow the expansion of the thoracic cage (known to layman as the rib cage). The muscle involved in this area is the thoracic diaphragm—the muscle below your lungs, separating the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity, and the intercostals which are between the ribs. During vigorous exercise runners recruit more muscle groups to achieve the greater thoracic volume. The muscles included in this region are the sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes which are located in the anterior neck, the pectoralis minor of the chest, and the postural muscles of the back (erector spinae).
With this information it’s important to make the most of your run by focusing on the tips below.
A few simple breathing techniques.
- Diaphragm Breathing
Focus on breathing with your diaphragm. Commonly known as Belly breathing. This will allow you to continue with deep breathing to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide freely.
- Relaxing your Upper Body
Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed to allow the accessory muscles of breathing to optimally function.
- Posit Posture
Focus on your posture. Keep your shoulders back and your chest open. This will also aid your breathing and reduce muscle fatigue. Maintaining good posture will come naturally by preserving a strong core. This includes the musculature of the abdomen and back.
- Monitor Breathing
Try to monitor your breathing, once you are well established in your run, take note of your breathing pattern. Is it steady and rhythmic? Breath in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth can help manage your breathing patterns.
Running is good for our overall health. Both your mind and body benefit from a good run. It is imperative to understand how the demands on our body change as we exercise vigorously. In doing this, runners can optimize their workout and make every run a good run.
Source: Marieb, E., & Hoehn, K. (2010). Human Anatomy & Physiology (8th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings