MarathonSkating.com Marathon Secrets
The following information comes from Week Two of the Marathon Secrets Two-Hour Marathoner program of MarathonSkating.com.
Secret Two: Proper Breathing: Improve your breathing techniques for improved performance.
Breathing seems obvious. Your body just takes care of breathing on its own. If you need more air, you suck in more, correct? Wrong. First, most of us breathe in a less-than-efficient way just standing around. Second, many of us don’t breathe deeply or often enough during exercise. We will address these two points in this week’s Marathon Secret.
Breathing at Rest
Breathing involves bringing air into the lungs. The shallow chest breathing that we seem to do naturally only brings air into part of the lungs. Instead, the goal is deep abdominal breathing, which brings air into the entire lungs.
Try this exercise. Lie on the floor with your hand and your stomach and breathe normally. Is your chest expanding and your abdomen retracting with each breath? If so, you are practicing shallow lung breathing. Now, try breathing to fill up your abdomen, using slow deep breaths. See how your abdomen rises? Without going into the scientific details, trust us that this is a more effective breathing method.
Breathing while Exercising
You have probably heard of VO2 Max, which is the maximum ability of the body to process oxygen and is crucial to successful endurance athletes. While a VO2 Max score is somewhat inherited and somewhat due to training, part is also due to how effectively you are drawing air into your body: breathing. In other words, breathing has an important role to play in your athletic performance.
The first step is to practice the abdominal breathing while exercising that you just practiced while at rest. The key, of course, is to remember to actually do this while exercising. It is a bit contradictory that in the heat of exercise we sometimes forget to breathe! Think about doing situps or pushups at home; sometimes you actually stop breathing because of the effort while you should be breathing more deeply. Practice this when you are doing fartleks or other skating exercises that require you to expend great effort.
Switchside & Count Breathing
Like in everything else, our body tends to be dominant on one side. This is true in breathing also, in a way. Most runners and skaters always exhale when their foot is striking on one side, either the right or left. Try this out when you are skating. Do you breathe when your right leg is stroking or your left leg is stroking? Most people don’t alternate.
For whatever reason, many athletes find that switching to the opposite side on the exhale helps their performance. Try exhaling on the right side for one minute or 20 strokes and then switch to an exhale while the left leg is stroking. This is not always easy to do!
Another trick in breathing is to count how often you stroke for each breath. This will depend, of course, on your exertion level. By counting, however, you 1) become more aware of your breathing and 2) can consciously change it. If you are currently breathing in every time your right leg strokes and breathing out every time your left leg strokes, try mixing it up! Breathe in more deeply and twice as long (every second right leg stroke) and out with half the time (the next right leg stroke). For more advanced breathing exercises, try breathing in and exhaling every three strokes, which will mean switching from left to right.
Both switchside breathing and count breathing are great ways to become more aware of your breathing patterns. They also keep your mind occupied during hard races or LSS practices!
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