WNA Blog




Wed 7 Apr 2021

Run Better to Avoid Injury, it’s all in the Breathing!

Health & Wellbeing
For many amateur runners, there is little thought given to how we breathe when running.

But that should not be the case.

Often inexperienced runners will not have a pattern to their breathing, in comparison, a more experienced runner will synchronise their breathing efficiency and pacing.

Studies have shown that one of the greatest points of impact while running happens when the foot strike coincides with the start of an exhalation (Bramble, D., PhD, and Carrier, D., PhD).

Long time running coach, four-time Olympic Trials qualifier and author of Running on Air, Brad Coates, theorised that if you begin to exhale every time your right foot hits the ground, the right side of the body will continually suffer the greatest stress when running.

So how should we breathe when we run?

Leanne & Fitness Tips Say:

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing is very important for staying injury-free. When running, our foot hits the ground with a force of impact equal to two to three times our body weight, typically at the beginning of our exhalation. This happens because as we exhale the diaphragm relaxes, creating less stability in our core. So here we have the greatest impact occurring at a point of reduced core stability… the perfect storm for injury.

Coates developed a method to combat this repetitive unilateral impact. He trains runners to breathe in odd patterns instead of even. For example, on an easy run you would breathe in for three strides and out for two, thereby alternating the pattern of foot strikes, exhalation and inhalation keep you injury-free.

Attention to Breathing – Mindfulness

Attention to our breath has always been an important part of Eastern philosophy. Taoism and other Eastern philosophies teach that to breathe fully is to live fully. In Hinduism, yoga teaches breathwork. The work of breathing draws life giving force into the body. This is possible by doing diaphragm breathing or ‘belly’ breathing. When you inhale, contract the diaphragm fully to allow maximum volume into the chest. This allows for maximum expansion of the lungs and maximum intake of air. This is the same as rhythmic breathing. Drawing the breath into the body in a controlled, focused breath and out again in the same manner.

This can be accomplished when running. First, aim to achieve focus and centeredness of your mind, and fitting your breathing in an optimal foot strike pattern. When you have perfected this awareness of breath, your mind and body both link and create a smooth pathway to understand the effort of your running. Learn to ‘belly’ breathe and fill your lungs to maximum capacity and exhale slowly. Train your mind and your breath to exhale on alternate foot strikes as you run.

With a little practice and some focused breath work, you will be on your way to injury-free running!


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