For the past two and a half months, my left achilles tendon has given me trouble. Not constant trouble. But enough trouble that I am writing about it. I eased back on miles run in my racing flats, but I increased my training otherwise. I knew I needed to work on my form, so I started focusing more on keeping my stride even, staying light on my feet, and maintaining a natural and relaxed arm swing. While all of this helped, it required what seemed like too much focus, and something still felt off. I would get done with a run, and within thirty minutes my left achilles tendon would tighten up, and my left hamstring and calf would ache. It felt like nerve pain was shooting down the back of my left leg. Rolling out with my foam roller and taking Magnesium Chloride Flake baths made the pain go away, but I was undoubtedly doing something to aggravate my left side on every run.
Last night, I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, and I came across a link to an article called ‘Running On Air: Breathing Technique’. This immediately caught my attention, because I have had allergic and irritant triggered asthma since age three. However, I was surprised to find out that this article was more about injury prevention than it was about relaxed, controlled breathing.
In the article, Budd Coates, M.S. shares how and why he came up with this breathing technique. He explains that the greatest stress to the body during running happens when exhalation begins as the foot strikes the ground. Consequently, if you start to exhale on the same side for your entire run, one side is going to take more of the impact. Coates’ breathing patterns are designed to balance out the stress.
I have given breathing patterns a try before but never with this in mind. I always used the inhale two exhale two pattern at a moderate pace. Since this is an even pattern, I always exhaled on the same side. I decided to give his easy running breathing pattern a try. Inhale for three steps, exhale for two. The article explains all of the steps to take to get to where you can run and use this pattern, but this morning before my 8.5 mile run, I decided to just give it a shot. This pattern didn’t come naturally to me, because I hadn’t practiced; however, I got the hang of it and started noticing things about my form that I had never noticed before. When I began exhaling as my left foot struck the ground, everything felt normal, but my timing was off on my right side like it was slightly slower.
By the time I reached mile three, I got the rhythmic breathing down, and my left and right foot strike evened out. I felt like I was using both sides equally. This was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I finished my easy 8.5 mile run, and I had no hamstring or calf pain. No nerve pain radiating down my leg.
This one run is not enough to be 100% confident in this technique, but it made a big enough difference this morning that I am so excited to be sharing it with you now. I am going to practice this technique, and I will share the results in future posts!
If you or someone you know deals with running injuries on mainly one side of the body, check out this article from Runner’s World. ‘Running On Air: Breathing Technique’
To read more of my form related articles check out…