Just Breathe! Using Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress, Run Easier and Recover Faster: A Guide by Coach K

When I relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Front Range of Northern Colorado in 2015, I knew I’d have some adjustments to make in the respiratory department. Living at 5,000 feet above sea level, and regularly traveling to higher elevations to train and race, I could feel the strains on my endurance and pace. What I never anticipated was developing asthma—not from lack of oxygen, but from the particulates, pollutants, and ozone plaguing this part of the country due to topography and rapid growth. It was time to employ some breathing techniques to help me face these challenges.

Written by Coach Karen Peterson (coachk1964ATgmail.com)
Edited by Pavlína Marek

I’m among a substantial group of runners that have had to adapt to training with respiratory disorders. However, it’s not just us who can benefit from paying more attention to our breath! Science tells us that optimal breathing can help prevent lactate buildup, keep blood pressure under control, and help decrease stress and anxiety. 

There are some very cool resources out there for those who wish to inhale some knowledge (oof, sorry ;)) about breathwork. I recently took a breathwork class at my fave local yoga studio and learned about a few different techniques.

1. Pranayama

Pranayama, or yogic breathing, can be practiced outside your mat! Circular breathing is really satisfying but other techniques can yield noticeable results. In these times when it is often so difficult to stay in the moment, we all can also benefit from the meditative aspects of focusing on the breath.

Circular breathing itself is a method of breathing used by wind instrument players. Didgeridoo is one of the instruments that require circular breathing. According to a Swiss study that was published by the British Medical Journal in 2006, playing the didgeridoo can be an effective alternative cure for sleep apnea!

2. The Buteyko Method

I had never heard of the Buteyko method before, but the history itself of this practice is pretty fascinating. It’s nowadays used in physiotherapy and yoga. The breath re-training also contributes to curing several lung diseases like bronchial asthma. As asthma and anxiety sufferer, I was especially surprised at how quickly isolating breathing through my nose, and using the “rescue” technique of holding my breath for a few seconds at the end of the third breath, led to a feeling of calm. 

3. Bhramari

Last but not least, check out some fun options for playing around with breathwork. I have become a fan of the Bhramari technique during restless nights. This method can very effectively calm down your mind and ready you for a good night’s sleep. It’s often recommended as a nightly exercise and stress reliever.

As the saying goes, breath is life. We runners can do a lot without much effort to improve our respiratory systems’ performance, aid recovery, and reduce stress. When we’re not in a constant fight-or-flight, high-stress mode, we can also handle what day-to-day life throws at us much better. So breathe deep and enjoy your day 🙂

If you would like to dive deeper into this topic please email me at coachkaren1964(AT)gmail.com or hit the “ask a coach” button in your RUN365 app!


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