One of the more important aspects of running is the proper way of breathing. Running is not just about the legs and thighs and feet. It is also about the lungs and how to bring greater amounts of oxygen into the system efficiently. Unnoticed by many, even by the athletes themselves sometimes, the nature of your breathing during your running affects your performance. Those runners who can correctly deliver oxygen into their system are stronger than their counterparts who struggle when they are running because they do not know the technique.
One training technique is to breathe slightly slower than your body requires when you are not running. This starves your system for oxygen and forces the heart to beat faster. After a time, the body learns to compensate for the lack of oxygen so that when this technique is not in use, your body is already more efficient in processing your breathed air. This is demonstrated in swimming. Swimmers do alternate breathing which is breathing every third stroke. This
enables them to breathe on alternate sides without taking a breath with every stroke. At the start, their body demands more oxygen, but will learn to adjust to the decrease in oxygen. In time, the body becomes more efficient in processing the limited air. Runners who swim often have excellent breathing efficiency.
Sometimes, in long races (or even those short races) a runner may lose focus and is thrown out of his breathing rhythm. It could be caused by the simple forgetting to concentrate on the breathing or its pattern.
One way to avoid this is for the runner to time his breathing in rhythm with his steps. This is like the style of the swimmers who breathe at every third stroke. Runners who get to this state can keep running like a clock, with consistent pace and a great deal of efficiency. This concentration on breathing can also take his mind away from pain or soreness that may have developed at this stage and can cause him to quit the race.
One other technique that can be used when running is deep breathing. It has several benefits when correctly done and practiced.
It helps the runner to stay relaxed, which in turn, helps to decrease fatigue. The ability to relax decreases the chances of performance decline.
Runners who forgot to relax find themselves making inadvertent changes in form until they feel the resulting pain. Examples include clinching of fists too tightly and running with the shoulders too high to be effective. This type of poor form often results in muscle fatigue and soreness.
Deep breathing helps promote relaxation while running. This is done by taking a larger-than-normal breath and exhaling all the way out.
During the exhale part, you should concentrate on releasing all the tension in your arms by shaking them, opening up your hands and moving your head in circles. This combination of activities will give you an easy way to remain relaxed during the run and does not even need to break stride to do all of them. This is true to all the other breathing techniques in running – no requirement of great efforts but just as effective.
So practice these techniques this week in your runs. Check back next Tuesday as we look at Common Mistakes In Running.
Proper nutrition is important among runners for two reasons. One is to supplement their energy to achieve power performance. And two is to meet their nutritional needs. However, runner’s diet and proper nutrition are two of the most overlooked aspects of running that many runners, novices most especially, feel powerless and fatigued every time they run. When running, runners burn calories, or energy, and to be able to fuel their running, they need to replace the lost calories adequately. Taking the following, in the right amount and at the right time, will do the job.
A normal diet should consist of 40% carbohydrates. For runners, however, the number should be anywhere from 60 to 65%, the reason being, carbohydrates are a good source of energy. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose and are then stored as glycogen. When running, the muscles use the stored glycogen to keep them energized. Sodas and candies provide
carbohydrates, only theirs is the so-called simple carbohydrates or those that give energy for a short period of time. What the runners need are complex carbohydrates because these produce energy for long-term use. They can come from pastas, rice, breads, potatoes, and grains. Runners are recommended to take at least three grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight everyday. So a 120-pound runner should have 360 grams of carbohydrates daily.
Fats should make up 20 to 25% of the diet. Runners should take their fat requirements mostly from mono-unsaturated fats, or those that are liquid in form, as they are believed to meet sports nutritional needs effectively. Natural oils are good sources of mono-unsaturated fats. Foods with saturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as red meats, butter, and margarine, are also good, but they should be taken in very minimal amounts. Foods with omega-3, an essential fat, should be also included in the runner’s diet.
To improve muscle stamina, runners are recommended to take .5 to .75 gram of protein for every pound of body weight daily. Proteins are not only a good source of energy, they also help in muscle growth and repair of broken muscles. Protein, which should be 15 to 20% of a runner’s diet, can be acquired from nuts, eggs, fish, beans, grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Runners sweat a lot when running, a normal response to the muscles’ rigorous workout. But in order to prevent dehydration, weakness, and, in more serious cases, heat stroke while running, runners need to constantly replenish the lost amount of fluid. The problem usually is that runners replenish only half of the amount. To be adequately hydrated, they need to drink water before, during, and after running. And whether thirsty or not, they need to continuously hydrate themselves throughout the day.
Vitamins and Minerals
Recent studies pointed out that a runner’s diet should have the vitamins A, C, and E. All three have antioxidant properties that can rid of free radicals. Calcium, which strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis, and iron, which helps in the delivery of oxygen to all parts of the body, should also be included in the diet. Although most of these vitamins and minerals are obtained from supplements, foods are still the recommended source.
Although running is perhaps the simplest form of sport and exercise, it is highly susceptible to injuries. Running injuries are not uncommon among runners—novice or long-time. And if you’ve been running for a while, you most likely have experienced any of these common injuries:
1. Runner’s knee
Also referred to as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), runner’s knee is characterized by the tenderness of the iliotibial band (ITB), the connective tissue outside the thigh, and causes friction between the ITB and thigh bone. Runner’s knee results from overpronation, overtraining, tight ITB either naturally or due to lack of stretching, wrong shoes, weak hip muscles, and too much hill running.
People with runner’s knee feel pain and inflammation outside the knee. Pain is most pronounced when running downhill or on cambered surfaces, when knees are stretched, and even when simply walking upstairs and downstairs. At the onset of pain, running must be immediately stopped. Intake of non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID), cold therapy, and massage can reduce the pain. In severe cases, especially when the injury does not respond to any treatment or rehabilitation, corticosteroid injection is performed onto the site of injury.
2. Shin splints
Shin splints is a widely used term to refer to the pain at the front of the lower leg. The injury is commonly caused by oversupination, overpronation, intense running, bad footwear, running on hard surfaces, and poor ankle flexibility. Runners with shin splints experience pain inside the lower half shin, which usually extends to the knee, at the beginning of the run. The pain subsides while running but comes back after with a more stabbing intensity. Redness and lumps in the shin may also develop.
Treatment is centered around abating the pain, especially during the early stage when the pain is intolerable. It includes rest, massage, and cold therapy. Intake of NSAIDs is also advisable.
3. Achilles tendonitis
Because it is no longer considered an inflammatory condition, Achilles tendonitis is now often called Achilles tendinopathy. It is a condition in which the Achilles tendon, a band of tissues connecting the calf muscles— gastrocnemius and soleus—to the heel bone, is inflamed, and which may eventually cause degenerated tissue and scarring. Achilles tendonitis is generally caused by overworking the tendon, either by subjecting it to excessive pressure or forcing it to work under abnormal conditions. Factors include weak or tight calf muscles, excessive uphill running, overpronation, wrong shoes, abrupt changes in distance and speed, and weak ankle joints.
Achilles tendonitis is categorized into two: acute and chronic. The pain associated with acute tendonitis only lasts at the beginning of the run and may ease during and after the exercise. It doesn’t stay for more than a week. Chronic Achilles tendonitis, on the other hand, can go for weeks and months. Pain is consistent all throughout the run and when walking up or downstairs. Tenderness and redness may be apparent at the site of injury. Lumps may also develop.
Like other running injuries, Achilles tendonitis can be treated with NSAIDs. Massage, heel pad, casting, ultrasound treatment, and rehabilitation are also effective ways to correct the injury. In the case of serious injury, surgery is performed to remove the scar tissue.