I know this seems like a dumb topic for a blog. The short answer is that I inhale and exhale just like every other respirating organism on the planet.
It probably won’t surprise you that this method has to do with rhythm. Just like my post about Voodoo being the best album to run to of all time, I’d like to talk about a rhythmic approach to breathing. Most of you probably breathe with an even rhythm of inhaling and exhaling when you run, but I found that when I was able to sync that rhythm with the cadence of foot strikes, it was like a drummer and bass player who were always at odds that finally learned how to play a groove (and groove like these two). It took some practice and concentration for sure, but as a result:
-My pacing is more accurate
-I feel much more relaxed and in control, regardless of my effort level
-I haven’t gotten any kind of cramp in two years!!
Of course, your breathing rate will change based on your effort level. That’s obviously the huge variable here. But whether I’m going out for an easy run, or I’m running a 5k, my foot strike cadence is roughly the same. When I started thinking about syncing breathing and cadence, the fact that there was only one variable made it easy to figure out how to ensure that my body was getting enough oxygen, while staying in time with my cadence. Always start these cycles when your left foot strikes the ground; think of your left foot as the 1, or down beat. Here is the secret broken down by effort level!
It’s very simple; you have three breathing gears.
1. Casual pace (warming up, cooling down, LSD, etc.): 1 inhale/exhale for every 8 strides, inhaling for the first four, and exhaling for the last four. Example:
(Strides) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 etc.
(Breath) I.n.h.a.l.e/E.x.h.a.l.e I.n.h.a.l.e/E.x.h.a.l.e etc.
(Foot) L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R etc.
2. Marathon pace (you’re working a bit, but not over 75% effort level – also sometimes sprinkled in certain long runs, fartlek workouts, etc.): 1 inhale/exhale for every 6 strides, inhaling for the first three, and exhaling for the last three. Example:
(Strides) 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 etc.
(Breath) Inhale /Exhale Inhale /Exhale etc.
(Feet) L R L R L R L R L R L R etc.
3. Half-marathon pace and faster (obviously, there’s a point when this is unsustainable, but hopefully it’s during the final sprint of a race you’re about to win): 1 inhale/exhale for every 4 strides, inhaling for the first two, and exhaling for the last two. Example:
(Strides) 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc.
(Breath) I N / E X I N / E X etc.
(Feet) L R L R L R L R etc.
This is probably not the easiest thing to look at/read and say “oh yeah, that totally makes sense”. It’ll take a bit of coordination and thought, so start during your easy workouts and gradually work up from there. Now that pretty much everyone is in winter off-season mode, it’s a great time to try this method out!