Getting the most out of your lungs

A brief moment of relaxation while the kids are sleeping.

A brief moment of relaxation while the kids are sleeping.

Most of the things I learned in Physical Therapy school I related to running in some way. So, when we got to the topic of oxygen and lung performance my ears perked up. Surely, I could use more oxygen while running! We learned that taking long, slow deep breaths allowed for greater oxygen perfusion than short, rapid breaths given the same amount of time. A simply concept we were applying to cardio-pulmonary patients, but it makes sense to apply it to athletics to get the most oxygen possible.

To take it a step farther, posture also plays a key part in respiration. Rounded shoulders don’t allow the rib cage to expand fully, thus limiting your lung capacity. If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting and computer work, you are more likely to develop shorten anterior muscles like the pectoralis major and minor that contribute to rounded shoulders, forward head, and neck tension.

So, what to do?! 

Think of your rib cage as a bucket handle. When you breathe in, your ribs should expand upward and outward fully. Take a few minutes and lie on your back with hands on your lower ribs to feel the expansion. Breath in through your nose deeply feeling your ribs rise outward and upward. Breath out through your mouth slowly and repeat. If you are only noticing your upper ribs and chests move, you are not getting a deep enough breath. Practicing deep breathing at rest just makes it easier to do while running.

According to Jack Daniels, PhD the most efficient breathing is a 2:2 cycle meaning that you breath in for two steps and exhale for 2 steps. Easier running does not require as fast a breathing and might be a 4:4 or 3:3 cycle. Faster running like at the end of a race can be more like 2:1, 1:1, or 1:2 (breaths: steps).  I often like to concentrate on my breathing at the beginning of a race to help me get in a good rhythm.

Secondly, while everyone else is torturing themselves rolling on their foam rollers for their ITBs, I generally just use mine for posture. I have a 36 x 6 inch one that I lie on with my head and sacrum(butt) supported with my knees bent and feet on the ground. I place my arms out, and it is a great way to open up my chest and shoulders while keeping my head and neck in good alignment with my spine. Do some deep breathing at the same time and you will feel great! If you have kids, beware, they will climb all over you making this not so relaxing.



Blake Russell

Runner, Wife and Mom. Enjoying where the running world has taking me and looking forward to the journey.

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