A few weeks ago, I invited a few friends to go for a night run with me. Initially, I was brimming with excitement – even the rain in the afternoon wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm. However, when we actually got down to pounding the city’s pavements, feelings of fatigue and frustration began to creep up on me, as if the vitality and vigour that I had held at the beginning of the run was being sucked out of me.
Turns out that I’m not alone on this! Even for active individuals, feeling defeated as we begin to tire out during a run is an experience that many of us know all too well. However, there actually exists a few secrets to running which can improve the experience and boost our performance.
For instance, concentrating on your breathing is one way to help ease the pain. According to clinical and sports psychologist Kristin Keim, “Breathing is a performance enhancement, especially for runners. In some sports, like swimming, breathing is inherent, but for many runners, breathing is an underutilised tool.” The great thing about this is that you don’t actually need to be running to practice your breathing techniques – a study conducted by Indiana University found that engaging in sustained daily breathing exercises can “significantly reduce the amount of oxygen these same breathing muscles required during exercise” and increase your endurance.
One such technique that you can practice is called circle breathing, which is meant to improve confidence whilst encouraging relaxation to enhance overall efficiency when you run. To practice, first inhale deeply through your nose, and hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling through your mouth. You should also feel your shoulders and back relax as you exhale. As explained by Keim, “[This exercise is] also an internal dialogue of breathing in positive energy and exhaling negative energy. That’s why when you exhale, you really need to push that air out.”
Another technique you can employ when you run is checking your posture. According to Katie Mackey, a professional runner for the Brooks Beasts, running is a sport that requires back extension, and can result in the diaphragm being stuck in a contracted position when you breathe in. This ultimately has an effect on the movement of other parts of your body, such as the ribs, shoulders, pelvis and hips. To ensure that your diaphragm and pelvis remain aligned when you run, you can practice by lying down on your back while lifting your legs on a chair. Then, breathe in deeply through your nose and allow air to fill your rib cage and intercostal muscles, before using your abs to push the air out as you exhale. This is meant to simulate the breathing pattern you should adopt when you’re running and enhance your performance.
When it comes to fitness, being able to overcome the body with the mind takes the form of an invaluable skill. Taking concerted steps to achieving your fitness goals and improving yourself to meet those goals is essential, even when it comes to something as seemingly intuitive as running. Through discipline and practise, you’ll be more than capable of giving other runners a true run for their money!