One of my clients recently brought up this subject and I though it would be a good idea to write about it, specially now that the competitive season is getting close.
We can easily not pay attention to our breathing technique, just because it happens naturally, we don't make an effort to breathe unless we start putting our bodies through exercise, raising our heart rates, only then we notice that we might be out of breath.
For swimmers, it's a do or drown thing, we are out of our natural environment when we have our faces in the water, so when practicing the freestyle, butterfly or breath stroke, we have to get our heads out and pull in the air in through our mouths.
Now when we're cycling or running, hiking or at a class at the gym, we forget to work on the breathing form. Even at yoga, if the instructor doesn't remind us to breathe, we're only wondering how to hold one foot up on the standing tree pose.
Visualization is always a good way to practice and develop good form. Several times I heard the words “feel the air coming in through your nose, filling your lungs, all the way down to their bottom...” the bottom of the lungs? The diaphragm! “sheet of internal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage” Wikipedia. So we use this muscle to pull in the air. There are several techniques out there that explain what you should feel when you try to do this. An easy one is to place a hand a couple of inches above your belly button and relax your ab muscles when you breath in. Feel that hand being pushed by your belly as you breath in. Keep practicing until you really get that feeling.
Now that we have this one under control, start putting some rhythm into it, for this article I will focus on running, breathing in three times, with every step and out in two times with every step, creating a cycle of three inhalations and two exhalations, all this time thinking about pulling in that air to the bottom of the lungs! Why the three-two? Three in, because it is harder to pull in the air into our bodies, two because it's easier to push it out. There's also a belief that we can develop injuries on the leg that we land with the most air in our bodies (air weights), so with this cycle we alternate that side, not favoring one.
It will take you some time to start doing this naturally, but if you start practicing it, soon you'll find yourself thinking “1, 2, 3 – 1, 2” as you're out tackling those hilly runs