Breathing. It’s natural and should be easy, right? Why bother talking about breathing when we do it every minute of every day? The reason I want to talk about it is because it’s one of the simple ways to improve your performance as an athlete.
When you breathe it is a combination of your diaphragm, rib muscles (intercostal muscles), upper chest, and neck muscles working together. In normal, everyday situations where there is no exertion needed it should be mainly your diaphragm and intercostals doing the bulk of the work. In times of exertion the neck and upper chest muscles kick in to aide in breathing.
The majority of people in today’s society breathe shallower than they should. This is due to the fact they are not utilizing their diaphragm to its full potential. When you lose the ability to use your diaphragm effectively, the neck and upper chest muscles then start to assist.
The loss of the ability to effectively use the diaphragm translates to loss of athletic performance. If you aren’t able to get enough air you aren’t able to push as hard or recover as quickly.
The best way fix this is to learn and practice abdominal breathing. If possible, find a practitioner who is familiar with this practice who will be able to teach you the proper steps. Below are a few things you can try at home as well. By practicing these few simple steps every day you can start to train yourself to breathe more deeply and more effectively.
- Start by laying on your back with your knees bent
- Try to anchor your spine to the floor by tucking the lower portion of your rib cage down
- Find the top, front portion of your pelvis by feeling your lower abdomen. You are looking for the bony parts that stick out front (called your anterior superior iliac spine)
- Move up 1” and in 1” and push in
- Breath in deeply, trying to force the air down into your lower abdomen where your fingers are land marked.
- Practice 5 minutes
Once you have mastered abdominal breathing in that position practice in other positions. Then apply it to your running. Especially when you are feeling winded, or are trying to get your second wind.