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Breath on the mile

It’s well documented there are many health benefits running brings, and among those there’s the all important mental health positives. There’s the space to clear your thoughts, think objectively about problems; there’s the buzz you get at the end of completing a run, and the sense of achievement you get when you drive a bit harder, breaking last week’s best. Even seeing other people running past and sharing a knowing nod or half wave is rewarded with a boost to your stride.

Overall, running is like no other activity I do. It’s certainly the most time I get to spend completely alone and in my own thoughts.

If mental benefits are included in running, then why do I find a mental barrier to getting going, going a bit further, or running a bit harder?

If I am struggling during a run, for me it generally comes down to a split of:

  • 50% overcoming the challenge mentally 
  • 20% oxygen (or lack thereof)
  • 20% correct fuelling 
  • 10% the actual muscles doing the running

(This is completely unscientific, an oversimplification and guess based on my recent runs.) And yet it’s the muscles I focus on in my training and preparation.

Fuelling is generally ok, I’m fully onboard with carb loading before a race. It’s the Saturday night beer and pizza the night before a long run that usually does me in!

So now I’m focussed on my breathing. My Garmin watch reckons my V02 Max gives me a fitness age of someone twenty years younger than I am. But it’s getting a good lungful in that I struggle with.

Left unchecked, my breathing through exercise is shallow, lung-driven gulps of air. I’m trying to change this by focussing on diaphragmatic breathing, and filling my lungs completely with every breath. However, with the space to clear my head and think objectively about my problems, I always unconsciously default to my former breathing style.

So now I need to break the habit. I’m doing more breathing exercises outside of running, which in itself is relaxing too. But I can’t seem to transfer this consistently to my runs. It may seem drastic, but I’m now considering tattooing my hands and arms with the word “Breathe” over and over again to help remind me when I’m out!

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11 thoughts on “Breath on the mile

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    1. I used to swim every week as part of my cross training but ended up giving it up when the gyms closed with lockdown. I’m a poor swimmer and at best spent the time thrashing about avoiding sinking rather than properly swimming! Far too many moving parts for me

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      1. I think you have to learn as a child – I remember the occasional school trip to a nearby lido but they were much more ‘not drowning lessons’ than they were ever swimming lessons.

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  1. Breathing right is very important to a good run, I find. When I’m struggling in a long run and starting to get a bit breathless or my stride a bit choppy, I lift my head up and mentally refocus on my breathing for a few minutes. Slows everything down until my stride starts to get steady again and I soon forget I’m even breathing & my pace starts to pick up inspite of myself. I make sure I’m fully stretched and hydrated before I go out on a run with a bit of a banana included for energy.

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    1. Thanks for that, good to hear your thoughts on the right breathing. This is pretty much where I’m at too. I just get frustrated when I forget to concentrate on breathing correctly and realise I’ve micro-puffed my way through the last couple of miles! And of course, where would we be without the humble banana!

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      1. Yeh, it can be frustrating no doubt. 👍 And can effect your running negatively if we get too caught up with it. Just breathe steadily and you’ll start to run steadily too! 👍😁 Yes indeed, thank goodness for bananas. 😛😂 Yeh, I used to run Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. And found there was too long a gap for me before my next run the next Monday so I decided to split the weekend in half and do a run Saturday evening. 😁

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