I’ve been enjoying my running a lot more over the last few weeks – partly as I’ve relaxed a little and also I’ve been fortunate with aches, pains, niggles and injuries (long may this continue). I’ve been able to run in more organised races – the Big Half, the first half of the London marathon and yesterday the Cabbage Patch 10. One thing that I’ve found myself really tuning into is people’s breathing – or more specifically the sound of their breathing and the impact this has had on me.
This was triggered around August time. I ran Margate Park Run and was fortunate enough to run when a young women ran a new female PB. She was a strong runner & ran the course well. Early on in the run (around 1-1.2k in) she was running on my shoulder, before she moved past me and on up the course I was struck by how laboured / heavy her breathing sounded, which led me to wonder how much of a difference better breathing mechanics would make to her going forwards.
This lodged in the back of my brain to reappear at the Big Half, London and more recently yesterday at the Cabbage Patch 10. Yesterday was particularly pronounced as just after half way I had settled in with a small group of runners and a couple of them were breathing noticeably heavily and in a way that sounded worrying with such a long way of the race to go. Big gasping inhales / exhales – which would have been creating a lot of work for everything around the torso – and using up valuable fuel that could be better served supporting the legs / arms in running. Part of me wondered how aware they were of the state of their breathing, or if this is just something that has always been the case and so they accept it as a cost of running, a subconscious embrace of the toughness to run.
This in turn led me to have an even greater focus on my breathing, for short periods of time – which was in check and allowed me to then direct my attention elsewhere (avoiding forward lean, what are my hands doing, is my foot strike / elastic recoil just a little too much for this stage in the race).
I couldn’t get past the difference in the ease of my breathing and the challenge for others – and saw this as a direct result of the 3 years now of doing a vast majority of my running only breathing nasally. When I started running yesterday (and this at a lace that was faster than I would normally run breathing nasally) I had my mouth closed, this changed fairly quickly but felt good to know it was ingrained. One of these tools that you don’t see huge immediate short term results from, but definitely improves your cardio-respiratory fitness over a longer and more subtle timeframe.
I had noticed this last week an improvement in my easier running, as gauged by the pace I could comfortably hold whilst only nasal breathing. I’ve been using a couple of spinal mobilisation techniques before I run. both seem to have had a really positive benefit in allowing for greater rotation & therefore a more efficient running style. As I am running easy I keep breathing nasally – with better thoracic mobility my ribs are finding it easier to fill, the intercostals working more effortlessly. The end result is moving oxygen more effectively, shifting carbon dioxide out more effectively and ensuring that running is easier all round.
It’s reminded me of how important the simple things are: the small things, the easy but maybe mundane things that we can do little and often – such as running easy and breathing nasally – but don’t try or reinforce because the changes are too small to recognise. However little by little they build up (like a daily meditation practice) until one day they’ve made a big difference that you notice.