Running is more than building muscle. Proof of that is watching those Gym rats with bulging muscles that can't take a flight of stairs without getting winded. The positive benefits, with running, to the cardiovascular systems, are in a class by itself. Lance Armstrong found how difficult this sport is when he barely broke 3 hours in the New York Marathon in his first attempt.
The more you run, the better the body becomes at delivering oxygen to the cells. In this chapter, we will learn how to increase that ability further through the concept of Belly Breathing.
Unfortunately, this may only be more beneficial to people with stronger running backgrounds. Newer runners may not have the lung capacity, capillary system and stomach muscles to make this approach effective. For those who fall into this category, this may be a page to visit later down the line.
To understand the primary technique observe how you currently breathe during a run. Most people draw in the air with the help of the lungs. The lungs expand on the inhale. On the exhale, the lungs will compress.
In Belly breathing, you will be using your stomach muscles to help your lungs push the air out. Belly Breathing helps clear air out of your lungs, which provides greater capacity for fresh air. So instead of forcing the air in, we are instead trying to push the air out.
Initially, I was not sure how or if this could be taught. Many runners, over time, pick this technique up naturally. However, after observing some other fairly accomplished runners that seemed to be breathing harder than they needed to, I realized many decent runners could use this technique to help improve their running.
The greater amount of oxygen delivered throughout our body, the better the body will function. One of the by-products of running is the ability to deliver oxygen to the cells. By increasing that ability, we can run even faster.
To do that without training harder, we will practice in using all of our lungs. With Belly Breathing, the idea is to get rid of all the foul air and then fill the entire lung with fresh air.
So the goal is to expel the air when we contract out stomach muscles. Interesting enough, the best way to illustrate how to do this is in the lying down position. So lie flat on a comfortable surface. Then totally relax. In this position, it is natural for the stomach to be in rhythm with the lungs. As you breathe out, your stomach also contracts. As you breathe in, your stomach muscles will slightly expand.
Now on the exhale practice tightening your muscles on the contraction phase. The object is to force a greater volume of air out of your lungs. After you expel the air, completely relax. The air will naturally flow back into the lungs. By doing this, you will increase the total volume of fresh air. In essence, you are increasing your lung capacity.
Now after you have done this a few times, practice contracting your stomach muscles slightly before the contraction of you lungs. This will help you remove even more air. The goal is to push the air from the bottom of your lungs first. By doing this, you will help to get a greater volume of fresh air into the lungs on the inhale portion.
This is the basic principle of belly breathing. It is harder to do this in the standing position. So the next exercise is to do this while we are running. However, do not try this moment you start your run.
Instead, run at a light pace for a half mile or so. When you are in a totally relaxed state of mind, start contracting your muscles just like you did while lying on the bed. The object is the same. You want to force that extra oxygen out. After the exhale relax your stomach muscles on the inhale portion.
After practicing Belly Breathing a few times on the flats, it is good to practice the technique on the hills. Running up hills places a greater demand on the lungs. It is easier to breathe harder and deeper when going up a solid hill. So practice with the tips we have given, but every once in a while give a greater push. If done correctly you will hear the whoosh of air coming out of you mouth.
Fresh air will then rush back into the lungs with minimal effort. At first it will take some concentration, but with a lot of practice, after a while, Belly Breathing will be natural as normal breathing. Just like regular breathing, you will not have to focus on it while you are running. You will find Belly Breathing will be as easy as riding a bike.