Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Breathing

Illustration from theexaminer.com
In a recent Runner's World article, authors Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik describe a rhythmic breathing technique they developed to prevent injury while running. It's a 5-count breath, where you inhale for 3 footfalls and exhale for 2.  The reason it can be beneficial to the runner's body is that it maintains a balance between the sides of the body experiencing the stress of footstrikes. According to research, "the greatest impact stress of running occurs when one's footstrike coincides with the beginning of an exhalation. This means that if you begin to exhale every time your left foot hits the ground, the left side of your body will continually suffer the greatest running stress."  The authors found that using this technique sped up recovery time and allowed them to run without undue stress or injury.

I've used this technique for months now, ever since reading the article. At first I had to make a conscious effort to maintain the rhythmic breathing, but it actually surprised me how quickly it became second nature. I make one slight adjustment to it, however: when I'm not actively thinking about other things, praying, listening to music, or catching up on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" podcasts, I say these words in the same rhythm as my breath: "Thank You, Lord Jesus; Praise You, Lord Jesus." The syllables of these words fit perfectly with the rhythm, with "Thank (or Praise) You, Lord" occurring during the inhale steps, and "Jesus" occurring on the exhale steps. This has also become second nature after using it so much, so I find myself thinking these words in time with my steps without even having thought about it. 

This breathing technique may or may not be preventing injury -- it's hard to say.  But I will say that it benefits me by keeping me going during long races, giving me something small to focus on when I feel like I just want to be done.  And it also helps me to remember as I'm running that I want every step to be a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.