Breathing for runners part 1

As a runner or athlete, you know that small problems can lead to a decrease in performance or difficulty with the training. Think of side stitches, an inefficient running posture or technique, regularly recurring injuries, quick acidification or physical fatigue. At Running Solutions, we now know that many of these complaints can arise from breathing problems. In other words, the way you breathe might prevent you from getting the most out of your training and competitions.

Breathing is not as easy as you might think. To know if you are breathing properly, it is important to understand the function of breathing well, as well as the consequences of a respiratory dysfunction.

In this article we explain how breathing works and we give you the tools to check whether your breathing is going well or not.

The function of breathing

Breathing ensures that oxygen (O2) enters the body and carbon dioxide (CO2) leaves the body. (see Figure 1) This process goes automatic and you do not consciously think about this.

Figure 1

Only when problems arise with breathing you notice how important this function is.

For example, if you get an attack of hyperventilation and gasp for breath, or if the side stitches become so intense during exercise that you barely get enough oxygen, you only feel the need for good breathing.

This situation is shown schematically in figure 2. In a normal breathing pattern (figure 2A) there is a balance between O2 and CO2. As soon as hyperventilation occurs, either noticed or unnoticed, the balance between O2 and CO2 changes. As a result of excessive exhalation, the CO2 level in the blood drops (Figure 2B). This happens at rest, but also during exercise. CO2 is a waste material in the production of energy. If the body makes an effort,

it will therefore produce more CO2. To keep the balance with O2 you naturally start to breathe faster. However, if you breathe in or out excessively, bring the balance out of balance and you will get into trouble.

Many athletes have breathing problems without being aware of it. These problems can occur during exercise as well as at rest. We then speak of a respiratory dysfunction.

Respiratory dysfunction

Respiratory dysfunction is a collective term for respiratory problems for which no direct cause can be found in the body. Breathing reacts incorrectly to a stress or sports stimulus. This can be, for example, an increase in breathing frequency as described above and / or the incorrect use of muscles that support breathing.

Figure 2

Hyperventilation may occur with an increased respiratory rate. This problem can be easily recognized during exercise or stress, as there is no control over breathing. However, hyperventilation is often unnoticed, both in daily life and in sports. This can have major consequences for the body.

Symptoms of hyperventilation can include: accelerated breathing, not being able to breathe deeply, pressure on the chest, lack of air, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, headache, tingling in the face or limbs, increased muscle tension, increased pressure in the abdomen, poor posture of the abdomen the hull and more. How many symptoms do you recognize yourself?

If a wrong breathing pattern has become a habit, we speak of chronic hyperventilation. This may mean, for example, that you breathe in and out too much at rest or that you do not control your breathing during exercise. Both can lead to deteriorated performance. In addition, hyperventilation can lead to sports injuries such as low back pain, muscle tension, upper body pain or muscle cramps. We will elaborate on this in the next blog.

How do you breathe?

We use different muscles for breathing. An important respiratory muscle is the diaphragm, the muscle under the lungs that supports the lungs and therefore breathing (Figure 3).

Together with the abdominal muscles, the diaphragm coordinates breathing. In addition, these muscles provide a large part of the stability of the spine. This is extremely important for runners. If the control of these muscles does not go well, they cannot perform their stabilizing task properly. The spine is coming

Figure 3

under pressure.

The diaphragm is insufficiently used for respiratory dysfunction. The supporting muscles in the neck, shoulders and chest are then used excessively actively. This creates a pattern where you breathe mainly short and high in the chest, instead of calm and deep. Breathing costs more energy and is more difficult to sustain.

In order to breathe in a controlled manner, you should therefore use the diaphragm well, both at rest and during exercise. You only need the supporting muscles in the neck, shoulders and chest during exercise.

Test yourself

Er zijn twee testen die je zelf kunt uitvoeren om erachter te komen of je een ademhalingsdysfunctie hebt.

Test 1: Nijmegen questionnaire for hyperventilation (dutch)

Complete this questionnaire of 19 questions. With a score of more than 18 points, there is an increased chance of a hyperventilation pattern. With 23 points or more, this chance is even 80%.

Download the questionnaire here

Test 2: Hi Lo test

Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribs and the other hand on your sternum. If you breathe in and move the sternum before your belly, chances are that you have developed an unfavorable breathing pattern.

See this video for instructions

Do you find out through these tests that you have an increased chance of a respiratory dysfunction?

Contact us!

Nice article? Then quickly read part 2!