Although an independent reflex action when at rest, breathing can be controlled to slow down when relaxing and sped up during physical exercise. In this article, we will show you how to use it to enhance your running performance!
The right way to breathe is through "abdominal" breathing: the abdomen fills first as you breathe in, followed by the lower thorax and finally the upper thorax. You breathe out by pulling in the abdomen. This way of breathing will displace a greater volume of air with each breath, making it more efficient and reducing tension in the upper body.
As for breathing rhythm, you should take a longer time to breathe out than breathe in. This method is more effective at emptying the lungs, thereby renewing the air more effectively when you next breathe in. For example, breathe in over the space of 2 strides and breathe out over the space of 3 to 5 strides depending on your pace and how you feel.
When running, there are 4 easily observable effort zones associated with your breathing:
- "Talking" zone: A pace at which you can keep up a conversation with the people running with you.
- "Questions/answers" zone: Your running and breathing pace speeds up. You can ask brief questions and give brief answers.
- "Silent" zone: As you accelerate further there is no way that you can speak.
- "Fast breathing" zone: At this pace, you are approaching your top endurance running speed and your breathing reaches its maximum pace and amplitude.
Your breathing should already give you a good idea of your running pace and you can use it to help you control your training speeds. The basis of a good training session relies on a significant amount of endurance training; you should therefore seek to spend 80 - 85% of your training time in the "talking" zone. This means jogging pace at a very comfortable breathing pattern. The rest of your training (15 - 20%) should be carried out at the 3 more intensive levels.
Jogging with a comfortable breathing pattern should therefore be the basis on which you build your training sessions. At these paces, you burn fat off more easily, develop your network of small blood vessels, and improve the capacity of your muscles to capture oxygen in the blood. During sessions of intense activity when your breathing pattern will be much faster, you will develop the capacity of your heart and lungs to transfer more oxygen to the blood and your active muscles. These two adaptations will allow you to gradually increase your running speed during the course of your training programme, while remaining in the "talking" zone.