I had a first this weekend – winning a Parkrun, down in Margate. Margate Park run is such a friendly event, from the volunteers (props to the lady in the mobility scooter at that key 3k left turn) to all of the runners. I had a really enjoyable tussle with Jay (2nd) and Stuart (3rd and the founder of the Eastbourne Parkrun) followed by a long and wonderful chat post race, something I’ve not experienced in the same way at other Park Runs. As a tune up for next weekends London Marathon it prove invaluable, leg speed is there and the left hamstring niggle seemingly resolved.
As ever Go exercise to warm myself up, leading to a swift 3:17 for the first KM, but definitely aided me settling into a more manageable pace having primed my diaphragm and pushed oxygen into my muscles. This followed at the end by the Done exercise to calm my nervous system, let my stress response lessen and body recover. I followed up with an afternoon swim – the water a cool 17 degrees and so calm.
Perfect to soothe those aching muscles and help me feel so much better.
One thing that is was reinforced, yet again, was the key to better breathing for better running. I’ve spent some time over the last week reading around running coaching (playing my usual game of searching for the section on breathing and never finding it) and am constantly astounded by the gap in knowledge / education / direction that appears here. It is astonishing when you hear directly from a former world class athlete, “No, we never had any training around breath or breathing,” or from a long standing top level endurance coach “it’s not something we talk about.” One of the reasons it is so astounding, is the detailed knowledge of energy systems used (ATP-PC / Anaerobic / aerobic), with the key role that oxygen has to play in this equation. One thing that really does stand out is how incomplete this understanding can be. There is a great deal of very detailed and clear science / explanation around how important oxygen is for creating energy via the aerobic system, the level of ATP that this creates that then assists in energy to fuel running. Alongside which there is a similarly amount of clarity around threshold, lactate clearance, fatigue creation around this. However there is a definite gap around how you can utilise breathing to improve these energy systems. It’s almost as if the conversation centres around getting oxygen into the body and stops there. Which in itself is only half the story.
This leads me to ask key questions, ones that are prompted by Patrick McKeown’s Oxygen Advantange teaching amongst others:
- What is the best possible way to breathe to get oxygen into out blood?
- What is the best possible way to get oxygen from the blood into our muscles?
- How can we tolerate and process waste products at a higher level of exercise?
Each answer can go down deep scientific rabbit holes, all of which can be helpful, but for someone starting out what can they do to simply change:
- Breathe through your nose when running slowly – this will use your diaphragm, pulling air down into the base of your lungs, cleaning and warming it, taking it to the place where there is the most blood and the largest expanse of airsacs for the oxygen to reach
- Slower breathing during running or breath holds – oxygen leaves blood for muscle in the presence of CO2, the slower we breathe (or breath hold) the more CO2 builds up, the more time for oxygen to switch places with CO2 and fuel those muscles
- Doing more of 1 & 2 and using nasal breathing in recovery, works not only our diaphragm, but also helps increase our CO2 tolerance and that of the excess hydrogen building up at more intense levels. Our body gets better at buffering this waste and that allows is to push back fatigue.
All of above are effective.
All of above lead to better breathing.
All of above lead to better running.
It seems like a secret that isn’t being shared. Like anything all of above is a practice, one that takes time to learn and build. One I have found never gets that much easier, but remains effective and has seen my running move to a better place.
Try it – or get in touch with me and let me coach you through how to improve.