Breathing Techniques to Enhance Performance

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PHOTO CREDIT: Diana Swanevelder

As runners we often overlook simple things such as breathing and posture, which can be a much cheaper fix than new running gear. Starting a run, our breathing is still controlled and we can even work in a conversation or two. Unfortunately the moment fatigue kicks in our respiration rate (breathing tempo) becomes irregular and posture slumps. If your body does not recover soon, all your energy will be depleted leaving you exhausted. Running in this condition creates a great risk for injury and a side stitch becomes inevitable.

An upright posture is required for optimal performance in any physical activity. A young fit athlete can be transformed into an elderly person with rounded shoulders, curved back and shallow breathing when affected by stress.

In order for us to breathe correctly, our bodies need to recover to a resting state where healing and growth is possible. Babies are the ultimate example of this as they successfully manage to breathe from their tummies. Abdominal breathing activates the diaphragm which facilitates full lung expansion and maximal oxygen utilisation.

Practice the following:

  1. Lie down comfortably resting one hand on the stomach.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nose to get expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest.
  3. Exhale through pursed lips to control your breathing.
  4. Rest and repeat 10 times before every run.

Mastering this technique will enhance your posture and performance in the long run. Apply this while running as well, and you can kiss the dreaded side stitch goodbye!

Article by Lené van Heerden (Physiotherapist)
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