Breathe Runner, Breathe!
Spring is here! Birds are chirping, grass is greening, and people are running all sorts of crazy as they stretch their legs and find a stride. Some people love “people watching” at the mall or the airport. I do my best people watching on the road, and I have seen some things that make me tilt my head in wonder. There are as many running compensations out there as there are colors of KT tape. So how do we start figuring out where the line is between tearing that hamstring on the next step and and just personal style?
We start simple.
1. Does it hurt? If so, that is definitely not normal. Sure, we all have runs that hurt, but every run hurting is different.
2. If it doesn’t hurt, but it is harder than you think it should be, let’s run a check-list:
Did you warm-up? Not just cold stretches, but did you give your muscles, joints, and fasica any idea you were pushing them center stage in the next ten minutes?
Are you running a different terrain or elevation than usual? As in, you typically run the streets of your flat neighborhood but you saw a group run on fb at Trexler, got social, and are now scaling 1000’ vertical feet?
Did you pick up the latest runner’s world and decide to go with the shoe of the month, which took you from your usual cushiony HOKA to a minimalist shoe with no adaptation time?
Are you way out of your mileage zone? You missed three weeks of you half training, so you shoved all of it into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week?
Treatment for all of these things is simple, too. If you fall into one of those #2 scenarios, you just need to use some common sense to get out of it. Take off the Merrell Vapor Glove!!! Don’t make up for three weeks of running in three hours!
And if you are in the first category where you have pain more often than not- see a professional. Want my bias? Start simple! If you are walking around without terrible pain, you are probably safe to get a screen by your PT before running into the orthopedic doctor. Unless of course your pain is from a tree that crashed down trapping your leg and making the only way out of Trexler a ride on your friend’s back. Head on into the ER in that case.
Here is my last subject on the topic of simple things. It is about your breathing. And how your breathing effects your running. Yes, you. Yes, I know you think you breathe just fine thank you very much, never had asthma, no chronic bronchitis, rarely ever sick. Etc. But chances are, you aren’t breathing as well as you should or could. You can continue to stay focused on the next great pair of running shoes, amazing glute work-out, and cross training magic bullet you want, but if you have chronically tried to improve your time or your distance, or you want to run without always having some little ache or pain that moves all around your shoulders, back, or low body, you are going to do yourself a favor by looking at how you breathe.
Signs that you may have breathing dysfunction include, shortness of breath (okay, duh, but at an easy pace of running, do you notice that breathing is harder than it should be?), sleep disturbance, muscle and joint pain, chest tightness, hyperarousal, anxiety and depression.
Also of note, the diaphragm, our primary muscle of breathing has fascial attachments to the psoas, the pelvic floor, the lumbar spine and the rib cage . Any one of these can be in dysfunction and affect your breathing, or vice versa. It is worth considering if you just can’t get to the next level. Subtle restrictions in oxygen consumption are magnified at the tissue level and create problems that are rarely think to associate back to the way you breathe.
What’s the answer? Start simple. ( here is that fun legal disclaimer- if you have or suspect that you have an underlying clinical breathing problem, see your MD) Otherwise, exercise your breath machine. Check out you tube or your local yogi for some breathing exercises. Get familiar with your own breathing patterns, and see what you can do to improve them. If that fails, seek a professional who can lend some insight.