By Calvin W.
In the last post, Soothing the Savage Breath, I introduced the idea of rhythmic or cadence breathing when running, i.e., your breath rate synchronizes with your footsteps. Then I brought up the idea of even-pattern and odd-pattern breathing rates. With the even-pattern breathing that people commonly use, you inhale across a certain number of footsteps and exhale across the same number, e.g., 4:4, 3:3, 2:2, and 1:1. With odd-pattern breathing, you inhale across a certain number of foot and exhale across 1 fewer foot strikes, e.g., 4:3, 3:2, 2:1. Finally I brought up the idea of combining the 2 types to transition across a running effort.
Here’s how it works for the different kinds of running I do.
For an easy run, I start out with 3:3 breathing. Once I relax and fall into a steady, sustainable, not-too-aggressive pace, I switch to 3:2 breathing and maintain that throughout the duration of the run. This is the kind of effort and breathing pattern common to a long, slow run.
But there are many paces runners, not just long-distance runners, use when training. Efforts of other speeds also belong a training plan. (Or different levels of effort within a given running effort.)
Sometimes you’ll read or hear about 10K pacing in a marathon training run or even 5K pacing, e.g., for interval work. It should be clear that 5K pacing is pretty much sprinting. But neither is 10K pacing as slow as a long slow run. For me, 10K pacing generally translates to 2:1 breathing.
I say ‘generally’, because the more tired you get, the harder you have to breathe. When you’re getting to the end of a race, even if you’re running the same speed as you were at the beginning (which usually isn’t the case. Most people slow down) you’re most likely to be breathing 1:1 (in and out with successive footsteps). A 10K pacing of 2:1 means that the majority of my run is with that rhythm. I still go through the 3:3 and 3:2 patterns of a long slow run, but switch to 2:2 before the middle portion of a run and switch to 2:1 from about the 3rd quarter to the end. I finish with 1:1 breathing at the very end of a run, usually the last mile or so, when I’m working the hardest, but I’m most tired.
N.B.: I’m a negative splitter, e.g., I train (and generally race) by running the 2nd half faster than the first, effectively splitting the race in half so that the time of the 2nd minus the 1st is a negative number. To be even more precise, I try to run each quarter of a race faster than the previous, so that I’m constantly speeding up through the course of a running effort.
Whether you negative split or not when you run, the breathing progression that I’ve been describing will work for you, too. Positive splitters will experience some kind of progression of effort throughout a training or race effort that requires a comparable increase of breathing rate throughout the run.
Using this alternating even-pattern and odd-pattern breathing-rhythm progression has completely eliminated the ragged breathing that characterized my early running.
I’ve come to liken this progression to the gears on a manual-transmission engine. You can drive a manual using 2nd, 4th, and 6th gears, but it’s not optimal and the car won’t operate with the highest efficiency that way. You can also drive a manual using 1st, 3rd, and 5th gears. Using mixed pattern breathing has allowed me to progress smoothly from effort level to effort level with confidence and efficiency.
In part 3, I’ll talk about how breathing pattern can gauge effort.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The contents of this post represent the opinions and convictions of the author alone and not necessarily those of any associated entities. The author is not a medical professional and does not offer the included information as medical advice.
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