Belly Breathing for runners

The more you run, the better the body becomes at processing and delivering oxygen to the cells. But the lungs still has limits on how much it can hold. With Belly Breathing our goal is to increase the total available amount of oxygen. The good news, is once you master this trick, you wont use any extra energy. Belly breathing allows runners to increase the total usable lung capacity. Another benefit of Belly Breathing is to  help  runners  get rid of side stitches.   Side stitches often are the result of trapped air that isn’t being expelled. Proper Belly breathing eliminates this problem.

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. As runners exert more effort they work  to increase the volume of air. As this effort in increased further, the cadence of breathing increases. At certain point, it becomes difficult to expel all the used oxygen.

With Belly Breathing, we will be reversing the process. Instead of sucking or drawing air in,instead we will be using the 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. Again, So instead of forcing the air in,  we are trying to push the air out.

This allows a greater amount of oxygen to be delivered throughout the body.  One of the by-products of running is the ability to deliver oxygen more efficiently to the cells. By increasing this ability, we have the ability to run even faster.

So how does this work?

With Belly Breathing, the idea is to get rid of all the foul air and then fill the entire lung with fresh air.

The goal is to expel the air as we contract our stomach muscles. The best way to illustrate this is in the lying down position.

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 the air is expelled, 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 with a greater volume of fresh air.

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.

The next step is to practice pushing more air out. Push hard until all the air is emptied out of the lungs.

This is the basic principle of belly breathing. It is harder to do this in the standing position and even harder while your running. 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. No need to go to the extreme and push all air out of the lungs. The goal is still to remain relaxed.

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. Then relax!

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,most runners find Belly Breathing will be natural as normal breathing.

Get rid of side stitches

Once you get them getting rid of side stitches can be difficult.  There is a debate on the exact cause, but it appears their occurrence occurs under certain conditions. It is very possible there isn’t a single cause. But there are several clues to their origin. For example, once you get them, breathing deeper can make them worse. For some runners, pressing hard with an open hand under the rib cage can alleviate the pain. Ironically, making an effort to increase the tempo can also get rid of them. This is because one has to move oxygen out of your lungs.

Breathing is tied to cadence. At a higher cadence when the breath is somewhat shallow, it is possible that all of the used air cant escape the lungs. How this causes pain is unknown, but once that air is finally expelled the pain quickly diminishes.
This is where a modified version Belly Breathing comes in. Runners that have mastered this technique can attest they never get these painful stitches. So if you ever feel those first twinges, try a deeper push with your stomach to expel everything drop of air out. Relax and let air flow back in.

Once you get a handle on the side stitch continue the Belly Breathing, but in a more relaxed fashion.

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