Think Before You Breathe

Have you ever wondered why you get so winded when doing long intervals of cardio? It may not be because you aren’t in shape, but rather that you aren’t breathing properly.

Here is a test: Do something to get your heart rate up, like jogging in place, jumping jacks, or whatever it takes to get you huffing and puffing. Do this until you start to feel winded. When you stop, place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. Take a few breaths and monitor which hand seems to be moving more. If you noticed your chest-hand moving significantly more than your abdomen-hand, then you are like the rest of us chest-breathers out there who have been breathing incorrectly for years. If you noticed your abdomen-hand moving more, stop reading this and go celebrate with a cookie.

Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City, NY says every time you breathe in, “your belly should fill up like a balloon.” She says that chest breathing causes your shoulders to tense up, wasting energy. (I know I chest breathe, because my shoulders and neck are always sore after a run.)

Thankfully, there is a reasonably easy way to tighten and tone muscles, while learning how to belly breathe. The solution: Pilates. This popular form of exercise has been known for helping control the breathing while strengthening the core. Even 2004 Olympic marathoner Colleen de Reuck said her twice a week Pilates routine has led her to better breathing while pounding on the pavement.

Belly breathing can help a runner push through the tough stuff, like hills.

So if you did the test above and found that you are a chest breather, but don’t know if you’re feeling Pilates, try this neat tip posted by a commenter at the bottom of the article.

“I am a clarinet player, and this is how they teach you to breathe (belly breathing, that is) when starting a wind instrument. I carried this over to my running about a year ago, and boy if it doesn’t make a HUGE difference. If you’re having a difficult time belly breathing, practice breathing in deeply “saying” the following vowel sounds: “Ohhh, Ahhhhh, Eeeee”. This helps fill up the lungs form the bottom (oh) middle (ah) and top (ee) and helps you distinguish the difference. I hope every distance runner gives this a shot if they aren’t already!”

Healthy Tip of the Day: If you feel you turn into a total couch potato when you get home from work or school, try slipping straight into a pair of running or walking shoes. You won’t feel as comfortable plopping down onto the couch if you have shoes on and will be more likely to feel like you have something left to do. Don’t forget to put those shoes to good use and head out for a walk, though!

If it helps, keep your shoes right next to the couch so you have to look at them before you decide to sit down.

[For the full article on breathing techniques]

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