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Every Breath You Take

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Over Ambition Technique Tension

There are a number of warning signs that a runner is struggling in terms of distance or speed over the ground. Perhaps the calf muscles are aching or the arms are beginning to feel like lead weights. But the most audible signal is the heavy breathing, even panting, as the chest heaves up and down in a vain attempt to suck in yet greater amounts of oxygen into the body.Why is this happening? Well, it's either over ambition, or tension, or even a combination of the two. The bottom line is that if you in effect are fighting for breath, then it is simply not an indication that you are giving your all in pursuit of sporting excellence; rather it is the classic symptom that you are not doing it right. Breathing is natural, running is natural - being out of breath is definitely not.

Classic Method

Over ambition is not a sin, rather a mistake that all too many runners make at the beginning of their schedule. Yes, you're going to feel the odd ache or pain as the muscles and tendons begin to get back into shape. And making progress up a steep gradient is going to put some strain on the lungs as they learn the joys of expanding again. But don't overdo it. Make things easy on yourself and your body, and take the road back to fitness one step at a time. The classic method to ensure you are doing this is to talk while you are running. Of course this is best achieved with a running partner and not only provides an accurate gauge of performance but also makes exercise time an enlightening and more pleasant experience.

Even when running solo, you can still talk over the challenges of the day to yourself, although it might be an idea to keep the volume down as passers-by or fellow gym users may think you're losing it. Talk from start to finish and if at any point conversation is becoming a little difficult, simply slow down; on the other hand, if you're nattering away ten to the dozen, it may be an idea to speed up slightly before your partner loses the will to live, or puts on a half-mile spurt to give their ears a rest.

Inhale Deeply

Tension can restrict breathing, so always ensure that your posture is right and that your arms and shoulders are nice and loose. They are there to provide equilibrium and rhythm rather than do the hard work. In terms of breathing technique, the shallower your breath, the less air will make it into the lungs, the less efficient your body will function and the more tense in the chest area you will be. Aim to exhale from and inhale deeply into the stomach for maximum benefit. And restricting intake to either the nose or the mouth has no advantages at all. Using the latter will not mean you are in danger of gulping down too much air - if that's happening you are not running efficiently and need to slow down and regain your breathing rhythm. Get that right and the rest of the elements should fall back into place.

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