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Michael McCaffrey

Phone: 613 897 0647

Email: michael@popieruns.com

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We all know that breathing is important.

In Chi Running Danny talks about belly breathing and he stresses the exhaling of air rather than the inhaling of air. It is true that if you empty your lungs they will just fill up. People often ask, “How should runners breath?”

First I would say when running you need to breath in a way that works for you. It may be that you will want to train or re-train yourself in healthy breathing, but this can be done at times other than running, or done for short intervals when running.

Danny talks about breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth when running. He even talks about in breathe for two strides and out breathe for three in his normal running. This may change for different efforts such as up-hills and down-hills.

Please note that this does not mean that everyone should breathe in for two strides and out for three, it is just a note about what Danny has said he does.

I have slowly changed how I breathe. This was influenced by the combination of my running practice, which became my Chi Running practice and the addition of Tai Chi Chuan to my daily routine. One of the focuses in Chi Running is breathing when I talk about this focus I typically suggest that you focus on your breath for perhaps a min and then just run for 5 min and then come back to your breathing.

I try to practice breathing several times a day for short periods.

In my Tia Chi Chuan breathing is part of every movement so as you raise your hands and body you typically breath in, as you lower you exhale, as your arms and body move backward you breath and you extend forwards you breath out. In Tai Chi Chuan we breathe in and out through the nose, we allow are belly to expand as with breath in and contract as with breath out. The exception to this is “Reverse breathing” during fast or explosive movements, which do occur in the Tai Chi Form I am learning.

During reverse breathing you contract the abdomen as you breath in and expand. (This may or may not have any application for the runner.)

During my Tai Chi Chuan practice I breath exclusively through my nose, and I have been experimenting with this during running. I use the on/off focus method that I have talked about in Chi Running focuses. I take fewer breaths when nose breathing, that is, each inhale / exhale cycle covers more strides. I do not find that I am getting short of breath, but I do find that it is not quite natural for me when running.

Some of you may wonder why bother, what, if anything is the benefit of nose breathing over mouth breathing. In fact, the interesting question is, “What are the pros and cons of each?”

The main advantage of mouth breathing is that it allows you to breathe in the way you probably breath when you do not think about it. This is not really the way we were designed to breath, but for some reason it seems to be the way that modern people breathe for the most part. It has the disadvantage that it dries the mouth, it does not take advantage of the filtering and cleaning of the air that goes on in the nose. It does not deliver nitric oxide to the lungs, blood and cells. Nose breathing also provides more resistance to respiratory muscles, which in turn leads to one of two situtaiton breathing harder or tolerating higher arterial and alveolar CO2. The body has a tendency to conserve energy and respond by doing the later. Mouth breathing can lead to Hypocapnia which is lower than normal CO2 pressure in the arterial blood which is implicated in many health related problems. Some of the side effects of month breathing are: constrictions of blood vessels due to CO2 deficiency, restriction of O2 release to cells (resulting in reduced oxigination of cells and body tissue), various emotional and physical stresses throughout the system, biochemical stress due to cold, biochemical stress due to dirty air, reduced autoimmunization effect and suppressed nitric oxide utilization.

Nose breathing facilitates the use of our own nitric oxide generation from the sinuses.

Nose breathing helps us to use our own nitric oxide generated in sinuses. Nitric Oxide seems to provide several benefits to the system including: destruction of virus, paracitc organizms and malignate cells in the airways and lungs, regulation of binding and relase of 02 to hemoglobin, Vasodialtion of arteries and arterioles, influences secretion of hormones from several glands and memory, sleeping, learning, feeling pain, and many other processes are possible only with nitric Oxide present.

Our nasal passages are created to humidify, clean and warm the incoming flow of air due to the layers of protective mucus. This thin layer of mucus can trap about 98-99 percent of bacteria, viruses, dust particles, and other airborne objects.

Having said all this, it is also clear that for the “big race” most will be pressed to continue nazile breathing throught the extra exerction of working for a personal record. The time to practice nazile breathing is in your day to day activities, and for running, in your training runs. Also there is some benefit from breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth with persed lips when you are not able to maintain complete nazile breathing. As with other diciplines, and focus practicing in the non-critical situations allows us to naturally continue best practices when we find ourselves in critical situations.

In Chi Running / Walking we are encouraged to practice the various focuses in our regular practice and our daily activities, this helps us to naturally fall into these practicies when we are working under load.

In Tai Chi Chuan, we practice proper movement through the form, proper breathing, proper balance, etc. It you practice a form that involves on the martial arts side of Tai Chi Chuan, then you also learn to martial aspect of the movements, both at slow and fast tempos, you learn to apply the self-defense aspects of Tai Chi Chuan in various training practices. The idea is if you need these they are reflexive. Tai Chi Chuan has appropriate breathing patterns built into the form(s) as you advance, this include when and where to inhale, exhale and reverse breath. The idea of this practice is to make correct breathing reflexive and natural. This is also the reason to practice breathing through the day, and to make the focus on breathing a regular part of your Chi Running/Walking. This applies just like the focus on aligning the body, relaxing the legs, rotating the pelvis, etc.

A significant part of Tai Chi training, and many of the eastern disciples have to do with breathing and the benefits that can accrue from better more effective breathing. Chi Running is based on many of the practices of Tai Chi and as such, derives many of its benefits from embracing the underlying principles of Tai Chi.

I hope some will find these thought on my experience and practice of breathing useful to bring into their Chi Running, Running and /or Tai Chi practices as well as of some interest for your daily activites.

Good running and be careful out there.

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