If novice runners were swimming the way they ran, I would say that most would need to be rescued from the water.
One of the biggest pitfalls of running without any advice or coaching is the lack of efficient breathing.
For those just starting to run, it can often be a big turn-off the sport as one just becomes prematurely exhausted.
For those who are already competent at running, efficient breathing can give you the edge to help you perform better or at least make you feel more comfortable in achieving the distances and times you want.
Think about it, runners are always talking about their favourite brand of shoe, energy gel and so on, which to my mind, is clearly marketing hype, almost to the degree of brainwashing.
Rather, what should be discussed is the somewhat mature and perhaps “uncool” topic of breathing.
Firstly, I will say this, what technique works for you may not work for others. But the universal key word here is focus.
If you feel out of breath it is already game over
You will slow down your running pace. Think of your body is like a woodwind musical instrument. Imagine if you are playing a long verse on flute without any breaks. Without any preparation, you will stop mid-verse and gasp for a breath.
Running is similar, however, unlike woodwind instruments, the realisation comes far too late. You must pre-empt the exhaustion.
Before starting your run, take large breaths, opening up the lungs. Watching elite athletes at the starting blocks, they are often seen to be calm, breathing slowly.
One of the simplest techniques when running is to breathe “in” twice and “out” once, having an “in-in-out” rhythm works to compress air into the lungs. If anything, this odd technique certainly makes you focus on breathing.
There are other methods out there, some which involve more sophisticated right/left leg breathing intake or output. Rhythm and concentration is essential.
During races, these simple techniques will become invaluable. I have seen many who “blow-up” during the race at the start after becoming too nervous, and failing to breathe properly after the starting gun has been fired. During pre-race and the first 3-5 kilometres of running, stay calm and focus on breathing and you will be surprised how much easier it is to run.
If you really want to see how important breathing is, try holding your breath for 5-10 seconds whilst running at your normal jogging pace. This will demonstrate how quickly the body deteriorates without oxygen.
You should be in control of your breathing, no excessive panting or short of breath. Definitely no stitches in the diaphragm or chest area when running: stitches are a clear indication of lack of proper breathing.
Swimming, yoga, altitude training like mountain climbing and running higher grounds or even taking up musical instruments which involve breathing are also alternate activities to improve lung capacity.
These are just some ideas. Give some a try, and find out what works for you.
Focus on a breathing technique, integrate it with the running form mentioned in earlier posts and the combination will help you build your running with confidence.
Now, who said running was boring?