Monday, May 13, 2013

Breathing Patterns

No idea how accurate or scientific this is, but it is an interesting article.  

Summary:  timing of exhale impacts the amount of stress from a foot-strike.  If you can adopt a symmetrical breathing pattern, exhaling on alternate foot strikes (left, then right), you can protect against one leg's taking undue punishment.

The technique is to inhale for three counts (footstrikes) and exhale for two.  If you have to pant (last mile of a 5K), go 2-to-1.

Maybe it works.  The author trained himself from an impressive first marathon at 2:52 to a PR of 2:13, while apparently avoiding nagging industries of his youth.  (I find that statistic amazing.  It always seems as if elite marathoners were never ordinary.  This guy, Bud Coates, was at least only a little awesome before he became way awesome.)


  1. Do you find it odd that for swimming you train for a quick inhale and a slow exhale, while running it's the other way around?

  2. In truth, I've never thought about breathing in any sport (except for yoga, I guess). Swimming is of course constrained by how long your head can reasonably stay above water. Maybe the difference you cite explains why swimming is (for me) such a unique, and challenging, cardiovascular endeavor.

  3. Amen to that. What I think about when I think about breathing is, um, suffocating . . .

    And when I swim, I think about breathing a lot.

    Then my back tightens up, my lung capacity shrinks, a bit of panic sets in, heart beat starts to race, and then I have to flip over onto my back and wait until I calm down . . . In a pool it's embarrassing. In the middle of a lake, it's scary. In a race it's really, really frustrating.

    This was a serious problem in my early tris. It's still lurking just around the corner, even as I've become a stronger swimmer.

    These days, in my swim workouts, I devote at least one 500 yard set to experimenting with breathing patterns -- alternating sides, working on breathing to my left (which is not as natural), and asymmetric pattterns (right two, left two), or right-skip-right. My current favorite is right-skip-right-right-skip-right-right.

    Yesterday I played around with this doing 100 yard intervals, and found that if I did the first 25 on three breaths, then the second 25 skipping every other stroke, then caught my breath on the third 25 and then went back to every other stroke for the last, I shaved 15 seconds off my 100 yard time. . . That was a shocker.

    None of this has much to do with the tri swim leg, where the goal is to find a sustainable rhythm and breathing pattern, but I'm hoping that this will help me to find different ways to recover from those inevitable moments in a race when you go just a bit too far into oxygen debt, and have to catch your breath without losing it . . .