| Article written on April 18th, 2016 at 02:40pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
We all know how important breathing is in everyday life. But, we often don’t realize that it can be trained to deliver significant results in our running and fitness program.
The diaphragm in particular is a muscle that functions to alter the pressure gradient within the chest cavity. As we inhale, the diaphragm should depress and expand as it allows more space for oxygen to enter the lungs. Once we exhale, the diaphragm rises and helps push air out of the lungs.
Essentially, we utilize the diaphragm’s muscular nature to create an environment where breathing is optimized. Severals things to realize is: 1. The diaphragm is a muscle, 2. It is not always functioning properly, 3. The attachment sites of the diaphragm on the skeleton are asymmetric. This means faulty breathing can cause a decrease in performance, dysfunctional movement, and possible injury.
Training proper breathing can be one of the single most overlooked aspects in preparation and recovery for runners. Not only does the diaphragm impact the exchange of gases, but it directly influences the nervous system. A ramped up nervous system can cause an increase in muscular tone, tightness, elevated cortisol levels, and poor recovery.
One drill in particular that I have found very beneficial is ‘Crocodile Breathing.’ To complete this drill (as seen in the picture below), lay face down with the arms overhead and the forehead on top of the hands. While focusing on a solid diaphragmatic breath, breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Throughout this process the lower rib cage should expand, while the lower back and hips rise and fall. Essentially, if you are completing a good breath, the belly pushes into the floor on inhalation which causes the above mentioned areas to rise up. If you notice shrugging of the shoulders or the upper back moving more than the midsection, your breathing is inefficient.
Adding crocodile breathing before and/or after your runs can be a worthwhile strategy from a preparation and recovery standpoint. Proper breathing mechanics is needed to run at high levels and also recover from your training sessions. I recommend performing this drill for 1-2 minutes in order to self-assess your breathing.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART