With each forceful contraction, this key breathing muscle helps expand your lungs to bring in oxygen – a gas your muscles need to create energy, says Michael Jordan, Director of Research&Education at Fast Track Sports Medicine & Performance Centre in Virginia, US. As it works, you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, the build-up of which can cause anxiety and breathlessness.
Bringing awareness to your breathing builds more efficiency, a steadier pace, and a calmer mind, even during high-pressure races, says Boulder-based pro runner and coach Neely Spence Gracey. If you focus on solid breathing, “you’ll be able to push through fatigue and maintain form,” she says. Here’s how.
• Breathing Basics: Slow Down and Belly-Breathe
The most common reason new runners gasp for air? They haven’t regulated their response of ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’. This impacts their heart and lungs enough that they can’t run without reaching their ventilatory threshold, the point at which you can’t breathe deeply or quickly enough to fulfil your body’s demand for oxygen, says running coach Erik Bies, a physical therapist and clinic director at Movement Systems in Seattle. Once you near this point, your body’s stress response kicks in, causing you to panic and struggle even more.
Stop the Stitch
Stitches often occur when you