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Runners Improve Breathing for Better Performance

Runners know that the way you breathe is key to performance when doing athletic training or covering long distances. Exercising muscle groups that we use for breathing help many runners to perform better and not be totally out of breath by the time they cross the finish line. One problem that occurs, however, is that a lot of runners tend to breathe by expanding their chests rather than the abdomen. Improved breathing, not only for athletes and runners but for everyone, concentrates energy expended and wastes as little as possible. Breathing from the chest, however, which seems to come more naturally to us when we are actively exercising, tenses up the upper part of the body and causes the shoulders to rise and fall. That kind of expenditure of energy is better used in the effort you put forth in pressing forward on the run.

We can improve breathing and focus energy better by concentrating regularly on how to allow the abdomen to expand rather than the chest. When we inhale, the stomach should fill up and the belly should swell out a little. The chest, on the other hand, should remain relatively still. Breathing this way consciously, in measured increments or periods of times, is an exercise that will not only gradually improve breathing, but also build up the stomach muscles that we need to use in order to breathe healthily. If we really want to improve breathing and enhance performance—not only in track and field, but in the ways we expend energy just going through our daily lives— we will make the effort to take the time to learn how to breathe correctly.

Another factor that is important to consider is that when we seek to improve breathing techniques, we should not breathe in more oxygen than necessary. While practicing breathing by expanding the stomach rather than chest, our breathing can be slow and deliberate with long inhalations and slow exhalations, but a lot of rapid inhalations and bursts of oxygen into our system tends to work against us in a downward spiral so that the more we inhale, the more out of breath we become. This also is important to runners who may begin to breathe more rapidly during exertion, thereby diminishing energy.

The Buteyko method offers relaxation techniques and ways to retrain one’s body to breathe more normally and gives a detailed strategy to not only improve breathing, but to maintain an optimum level of health and fitness. Many people who have used the method report that negative symptoms due to breathing incorrectly tend to diminish within the first few sessions of training and developing normalized breathing has allowed them to live healthier and less stressful lives.

When you improve breathing, you improve your total health. The Buteyko Center offers a free breathing test online and a free report with our recommendations. The test will help you determine the efficiency of your breathing and level of improvement needed. For info, call (845) 684-5456.