Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #3 – Become an oxygen monster

tired-runnerOxygen debt! We have all experienced it, that feeling as you go faster and longer where you feel like someone trying to squeeze toothpaste out of an empty tube. You squeeze and squeeze and squeeze, but nothing comes out.

To release energy to move our bodies forward, our muscles need oxygen, and the faster we go, the more they need. A coach I know well always says, “The guy who wins the race, is the guy who gets the most oxygen to his legs.” Our cardiovascular system adapts through training to improve this oxygen delivery, but your blood can still only transport what is available. So the first place to start is to make sure you are maximizing the amount of air that you are breathing in with each breath.

To do this you need to train yourself to firstly breath with your diaphragm (or belly) and not with your chest and secondly to then strengthen your diaphragm through regular breathing exercises (just as a singer would do in fact).

Where and what is your diaphragm? Your diaphragm is a muscle on which your lungs rest. breathing-with-the-diaphragmBy drawing the diaphragm down your chest is able to expand and your lungs fill with air. Now many people when they breath, try to suck air into their chest. This pulls the diaphragm up and actually makes the chest cavity smaller, limiting expansion of the lungs.

So how do you know if you are breathing optimally?

Try this simple test:

  • Run about a kilometer at a hard pace.
  • Stop and place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
  • If your top hand is moving up and out and your lower hand is moving in as you breathe in, then you are breathing with your chest.
  • If your lower hand is moving out as you breathe in and the upper hand is remaining fairly still, you are breathing with your belly.

To practice breathing with your diaphragm at home do this exercise:

  • First lie on your back and put your hands on your belly. Now just practice pushing your belly out and sucking it in.
  • Now –  press down with a fist around your belly button area to create some resistancediaphragmatic-breathing-exercise-while-lying-down
  • Breathe in and focus on pushing your diaphragm down. Your belly will rise as your lungs fill with air.
  • Breathe out slowly, your belly will drop.

For more exercises to further enhance your breathing you can watch these great YouTube clips from the Lorenzomojo1


Let me know how you go!

Coach Kathleen


About Coach Kathleen

Coaching since 2004, I have coached both young and old athletes from those achieving provincial and national medals in track, biathlon and cross country to runners running their first ever half marathon or marathon. I am a specialist in youth coaching and my coaching philosophy is to not only help each athlete achieve their best with their athletic talent but to guide each athlete in developing character and transforming their lives beyond the track. As an athlete I have competed at high levels across all the running disciplines, track, road, cross country and trail running as well as internationally in triathlon. I have a personal best of 2 hours 45 min for the marathon and have twice been part of the winning ladies team in the AfricanX trail race. Qualifications IAAF Athletics Lecturer Level 3 Distance Running Coach SAQ Fundamental Movement Certificate Personal Running Performances
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