As you might know, in preparation for my marathon, I went and got a medical examination to check if training for a marathon (and ultimately running it) would be advisable. My auto-immune disease should not form a barrier for working out at all, but it never hurts to get a check. If you are curious about what those tests are like, check out the article from October in the running section!
One of the main results from the test (besides me being totally cleared for marathon running – YAY), was that my breathing was very shallow and quick, 44 times per minute during easy pace running. As you can imagine, this could have a negative effect on my performance, and if anything would make it feel a lot harder than necessary because I was breathing like an idiot :).
To improve this, there are several exercises you can do at home, but you can also opt for (guided) resistance training. That is exactly what I did and I would like to share my experience with you!
I used the guided training offered by the Sport Medisch Centrum Amsterdam, which consists of a five-week program most effective for running and cycling. The training period started with a basic breathing test, checking my maximum volume and power when breathing. The examination had been done three weeks before that, so we used that data for the insights of my breathing in running. After that, the physiologist explained to me how the breathing ideally works: start with expanding your stomach, then allow your ribs to expand and end with the rising of your chest. Then exhale as long and deep as you can.
To train your lungs, it helps to add resistance (just like training your arms gets more results when holding dumbells) and we did that with the Power Breathe K5 and the digital program connected to it. The training screen looks like this:
You can choose to look at all four parameters, or pick one/two. For me, the Flow and Volume were most relevant, so I trained with the lower left screen. It shows the consistency in the flow of your breathing, where the line would wobble up and down, and the volume in where the line ends.
My trainer would give me the resistance values I needed to put in, and I would do 30 breaths twice a day. In the beginning, it was quite hard! I struggled to keep my breathing calm and I got a little dizzy after a couple breaths. Luckily, this is normal in the beginning and after removing the nose clip and breathing normally for 20 seconds, I would continue. Every week, I sent my exported data to the physiologist and he would give me feedback. In the beginning, I focused on breathing as hard as I can, but that didn’t help me at all. He explained how to improve my flow and told me when to up the resistance.
After 8 weeks (I got sick during the 5 week period and you are not allowed to train then), I handed the device back and we did a new running test to see if I had improved. I was a little nervous, because due to my injury, I hadn’t been running for six weeks. This showed in my lactate levels. They were almost doubled from the first test, and I ran half the time I did the first time. But on the bright side, I saw some remarkable results in the breathing!
My previous capacity was at 1.8L (which is very little, apparently), and now I scored a neat 4.1L – that’s more than double the capacity! I hoped for a positive results, because during the past few weeks, it felt like I was breathing way deeper and more efficient. Great to see that feeling was legit! But what about the frequency? I used to be at 44 times per minute, super fast and shallow. Right. The post-test showed an average of 21 per minute. I was really surprised by this, because I felt like I was not entirely in control of the pace of my breathing. The running test was hard, so I felt like I needed to breathe more often. No need to worry though, the results were great.
The trick with this five week program, is that you learn how to breathe, and train your lungs to adjust to this new habit. By starting with a resistance of 18 and ending with a resistance of 40, I gradually improved without too much effort. To keep up the good effects, I ordered a more simple version of the Power Breathe K5 for individual training a couple times a week. It just came in, so I will review that in a week or three!
By the end of March, I plan to do another medical exam and hopefully, all scores will be improved by then! During my daily runs, I notice that I am more aware of my breath in a good way. I don’t feel like my breath doesn’t get ‘below my chest’ anymore so to speak, and I don’t get as tired. Double win :). In the coming weeks, I will work on getting used to it and hopefully, get better at it without even thinking about it.
So do you struggle with your breath, or do you also feel like your legs could go on, but your fitness is just giving out, even though you train often? Maybe this could make a change for you too! If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me of course!! And for now, enjoy your day and workout!