Our trusted friends and sharers of natural movement wisdom, Sarah Young and Jenn Pilotti, who created the three-part video series on glute exercises for runners, are back with the second installment of “Breathing Exercises for Runners.”
Breathing Exercises for Runners, Part One
by Jenn Pilotti and Sarah Young
Humans can go about a month without food, about a week without water, and three minutes without oxygen. Given this, it is curious that breathing is something most of us give little thought to. Breathing is crucial to survival, and if you are a runner, it is crucial to performance and injury prevention.
In order to breathe properly, and optimally, your ribcage and pelvis must be aligned. By maintaining this alignment and breathing from your diaphragm, you will be able to activate your transverse abdominus, internal obliques, and pelvic floor muscles. With these muscles in a position to ‘fire’ you be less likely to leak energy, your spine will gain stability, your body will be better positioned to transfer ground forces, and you will begin to achieve true core strength.
The first installment of “Breathing for Runnners” covered, in more detail, the basic anatomy and mechanics of breathing, the importance of nasal breathing, as well as some entry level breathing exercises. If you missed this installment, please follow this link http://naturalrunningcenter.com/2013/10/20/breathing-exercises-runners/ and begin there. If you have read the first part of the series and have been working with those exercises, then this section is for you.
In this video, Jennifer demonstrates breathing exercises designed to enhance the alignment of your ribcage and pelvis as well as access your deeper core muscles (i.e. transverse abdominus, internal obliques, and pelvic floor muscles). Watch the video, try the exercises, and see what improved breathing can do for your running. Below you will find the text version of the exercises from the video.
1) Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place a yoga block (or tightly rolled up towel) between your knees and squeeze it. Focus on the squeezing movement being initiated from your pelvis. This will help to ‘close off’ your pelvis’. Imagine drawing your hip bones (ASIS: anterior superior iliac spine) together gently. This will help engage the pelvic floor.
Now extend your arms straight up towards the ceiling. Focus on your shoulders staying down and wrapped around your ribcage. Think broad back.
While in this position, inhale through your nose. Now exhale through your mouth and feel your ribs drawn down. Repeat with 3 to 5 breathes and feel your back moving closer to the floor on each exhale.
2) You will begin this exercise on your hands and knees. Once there you will drop to your forearms. Now walk your elbows closer to your knees. In this position you will externally rotate both shoulders, feeling your shoulder blades sliding down towards your pelvis. Maintain external shoulder rotation for the duration of this exercise. Now breathe in through your nose and exhale through your nose. Feel your belly expand sideways. Inhale though your nose again feeling the space between your shoulder blades, ‘puff up’, and your belly expand sideways. Take 3 to 5 more breaths and on each inhale feel your upper back, ‘puff up’ and your belly expand laterally.
Now extend into a plank position. Feel the load on your elbows. Breath in and feel your upper back lift up. Maintain plank position and repeat with 3 to 5 breaths. Keep lifting the upper back to the ceiling. You should feel the muscles in your abdomen as well as your serratus anterior working.
3) Next you will lie on your back on the floor. Knees and hips bent at 90 degrees with your feet on a chair. You will squeeze a yoga block between your knees imagining the squeeze being initiated from your pelvis. Your feet will be dorsiflexed (toes pointing towards your head) while you gently press your heels into the chair. Your arms will be extended straight up towards the ceiling. Keep your head in contact with the floor. Inhale and then exhale while reaching for the ceiling. Repeat for 3 to 5 breaths.
4) For this exercise you are back on your hands and knees again. Externally rotate your shoulders and feel them slide down towards your pelvis. Maintain external rotation. Breathe in and ‘puff up’ between your shoulder blades while feeling your index finger and thumb pressing downward into the floor. Imagine squeezing a block between your elbows. Maintain this position for 3 to 5 breaths. With each inhale ‘puff up’ the space between your shoulder blades a bit more.
Now extend into a plank position. Feel a ‘big, rounding lift’ between your shoulder blades that increases as you inhale through your nose. As you exhale through your mouth feel your ribs draw up to the ceiling. Focus on your index finger and thumb pressing downward and your elbows squeezing an imaginary block. Repeat for 3 to 5 breaths.
5) Now back to your hands and knees. Take your hips back to your feet. Child’s pose. Inhale and exhale through your nose. Feel your breath expand into your belly expanding it laterally. Repeat for 3 to 5 breaths.
If you have any questions about these breathing exercises, feel free to contact Jeniffer Pilotti, M.S firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Young, M.S. email@example.com