No lamb, no garden, no immaculate conception but there IS something about me.


Everything you ever wanted to know about breathing (and my cat's manipulative barfing)

This morning I got up, put my clothes on and went running. It's the first day I've done that in a long time where I didn't lay in bed for an hour reading or immediately start working or grab my phone to see who said what on Facebook and who is engaged now and whether or not I like their ring (I'm picky. So sue me. Take a minerology class sometime and see if you aren't). Granted it was spurred by my cat Trixie who, in protest to the fact that she finished her food 8 hours beforehand and I had none left to give her, woke me up at 1am dry heaving at the foot of my bed to prove that she was suffering and neglected. Please don't think for a second that cats don't have the ability to plan and manipulate because THEY DO. As soon as I shut her outside of my bedroom she stopped but I still felt guilty so right after I woke up I went running and picked up food on my way home. Which, of course, she proceeded to inhale and then hork all over my living room rug. Really, these moments are the fabric of my life.

Anyway, my run was good although not nearly as glorious as yesterday's run in 60 degree weather. Yes, 60. In upstate NY. In March. Amazing. But it was still a good run and I am glad that I went. I was looking forward to tomorrow's to do some speed work but when I checked into my hotel I was told that the fitness room was closed for renovations. Cue the "womp womp". Then when I got to my room the tv would turn on but not change stations so it is stuck on the Oprah channel which was all about reinacting Whitney Houston's death scene. I have angered some gods somewhere for sure. So instead of running tonight (like I wanted) I ate the creme filling out of the complimentary Oreos that were left for me (because the calories are in the cookie and not the creme, everyone knows that) and whined to everyone with my BBM pin who would listen. Because that's how I roll.

During my run today though I was thinking about breathing and how important it is to being a good runner. If you don't breathe properly you aren't getting enough oxygen in which negatively impacts your endurance. Hemoglobin is a component of a red blood cell that carries oxygen. If you aren't bringing in much oxygen in the poor little hemoglobin can't carry the super awesome oxygen around through your body to help with the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is how your body makes energy. More simply, the more oxygen your body has the more energy it can produce. This is why some runners (who are cheaters) will take a drug called Erythropoetin (or EPO). EPO is a hormone that produces red blood cells.The more red blood cells you have, the more hemoglobin there is and the more oxygen your body can pick up so the more energy it can make which can make you run farther and longer and faster.


I'm sorry, sometimes I can't stop the science nerd freight train from rolling through and next thing you know BAM! I've lost my crowd.

So, yes, breathing is good. Without breathing properly your body simply can't make enough energy to sustain itself through a long run. A lot of times people who are new to running will quit early on because they say they just don't have enough energy to go any farther or they get short of breath. The truth is that yes, some of it is building your base mileage but a lot of it is how you breath. Most people breathe with just the upper part of their lungs. Every few breaths your body will instinctively take a deep breath which will fill both lobes all the way down to your alveoli, the little guys around your lungs that bring the oxygen to your blood (and then to your hemoglobin and yadda yadda...ya got me?). Things are different when you excercise though because if you breathe at a shallow rate your body is getting oxygen to the blood but not as quickly as if you took deep breaths to get to your alveoli every time. Therefore you are using up your energy much faster than your body can make it so you tire faster.

How do you fix this? First work on your breathing when you aren't running. In my formidable years I was somewhat of a music nerd. By somewhat I mean that I could sing more songs in Latin and Italian than I could in English and knew every word to the entire score of every major Broadway show. I know, you're thinking about how amazing my 16 year old self had to be and I'll tell're right. Anyway, one thing that my voice instructor used to do during my lessons would be to stand behind me, lock her arms around my chest and suppress my diapragm and make me sing an entire song. Yes, it sucks every bit as much as you think it did. But what it did was teach me how to breath from beneath my diaphragm which is key and I have never had an issue with breathing since I became a runner because it's something I was already used to.

To do it without Attilla the Hun assualting you just try taking a deep breath and paying attention to where the air goes. You can even try holding onto your diaphragm to push the air down (it's in the middle of your chest). When you inhale you will see that it doesn't feel like the air is in your chest, it almost feels like it's expanding your stomach. It's a weird feeling and will make you light headed at first when you aren't used to it so practice a bit before you try it on a run. Also, this is a bit of an exaggerated practice, you won't be spending your time running taking super deep breaths. It's just to give you and idea of where you should focus your breathing.

When you're on your run try concentrating on how your breathing feels. If you are panting you are going too fast because your body isn't getting enough oxygen. If you can feel the air expanding your torso then that's good. Focus on breathing slow and steady. You can try the 2/2 rule of breathing of inhaling for two steps and exhaling for 2 steps but that is way too much thought for me. Also make sure that your posture is good. Relax every part of your body and keep your shoulders down which will help your chest rise and fall more efficiently.

Also, here is another point for me to tell you to stop running with music. By running with music your body will naturally match the beat and pace of the music which will just screw you up overall. Just say no to music! (say the former music nerd)

And for the record I never went to band camp because it didn't exist for us. Although I'm not sure I would want to after watching American Pie...

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