"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Breathe In, Breathe Out .... It's NOT That Simple!

The Salem Lake Experimental Laboratory was in high gear Saturday morning. The most recent Runner's World edition arrived in the mailbox last week and I was particularly taken by one of the articles related to rhythmic breathing patterns. In part, I am always open to trying something new, especially if it might just be a 'magic bullet' to gaining a few seconds or improving endurance. And in part, because this one really seemed to make sense.

The article was introduced near the front of the magazine by way of the Editor's page. Since I read every paragraph, cover to cover, I filed this extremely interesting introduction away and continued on (you can read much of that page here: http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/take-deep-breath).
When I arrived at the actual article, I immediately knew this was a good one.

Qualifier: I now know enough to be dangerous. You would do well to find the article and read it in full yourself.  However, from what I have recalled and applied, the technique used is a rhythmic breathing pattern based on synchronizing your breathing to a 3:2 foot strike. Inhaling for 3 steps, or footfalls, and exhaling for 2. The benefits include:

  1. Oxygen Intake - The obvious, but running with more inhale breaths than exhale, increases lung capacity and endurance.  The breathing is continuous, and if done properly, moves in and out of exhaling and inhaling, and the amount of time for each creates the overall variance.
  2. Injury Prevention - Every time your foot strikes the ground, there is a certain amount of force applied absorbed by the extremities on that side of the body. As you exhale and strike, that force can be up to 3x your body weight. Most of us get into a patten of breathing that general results in exhaling on the same leg.  This increases our chances of injury and the additional abuse to one side of the body.  The 3:2 pattern guarantees that every other exhale begins on the opposite leg.  Ultimately, an equal number of exhale steps and much more balance. 
Now, before you begin to question the credibility of these recommendations, you should know that this guy Coates is the real deal.  Olympic marathon trial finalist in the early '90s and has completed a significant amount of study in this area of physiology. There are well known testimonies to this idea. 

Back to Salem Lake ...... there is never any time like the present to try something like this out. So I decided to try and run the 7 mile lake course with my new found rhythmic breathing form. What I learned: 
  • The article suggested to turn off the music when you are starting out learning this technique, the article was right. Wow, it was difficult to focus on everything going on; the number of steps, the inhale / exhale pattern, the opposite footfall.  Then throw in a change from Chris Tomlin to Run DMC, and it will mess with you. I took the earplugs out. 
  • About a mile in, I started to get it down.  It reminded me of the difference in going from panic to calm, controlled breathing that comes when you are advancing in swim lessons. 
  • I routinely had to catch myself throughout the run and begin a count off with the cadence of my steps.  Trying not to 'chop' my breaths, but to make it one smooth transition. I will admit that I had flashbacks to birthing class, more than once resisting the urge to yell out "push!"
The bottom line, does it really help? The jury is out. It certainly didn't hurt and I have committed to completing this cycle using the 3:2 method. I figure as long as I don't run out of air, I might as well take a chance with every little magic bullet I can find.  You know, my air isn't getting any younger! 

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