Lose the Misconceptions; Save your Breath

I’ve noticed that last few times that I’ve checked my little stats page for the blog that one of the 3 phrases most frequently searched for that directs people here is “How to not lose your breath when running”.  I’ve never been a runner and have often quipped that I only run if chased…by something with very large teeth.  With that in mind though I thought I would take a stab at actually answering the question and provide some tips for keeping your breath during any activity.

The first thing I ran (har har) into while searching for information is that the first large step in learning not to lose your breath…is realizing that you might ALWAYS get a bit short-winded doing certain activities; no matter your level of fitness.  For example, it usually doesn’t matter HOW fat/thin/fit/in-training you might be; a long set of stairs will usually leave even the best of us a bit winded.  So first, you need to “lose the misconception” that doing any breathing techniques or any particular “tips/tricks” will somehow MAGICALLY make you able to race mountains or dance for hours without the occasional gasp for breath.  Even over time; while your threshold of activity needed to make you winded might increase; you will still not become some sort of breathing guru; capable of appearing at perfect rest while biking 35 mph. So step one is to stop whining about getting winded.  It happens.  To EVERYONE.  Move on.

SO!  Is it POSSIBLE to keep from getting winded, if not at all then at least perhaps not so soon?  Well the information out there is shady at best, misguided or contradictory at worst  So I thought I would share my own tips for how to increase my endurance; not only so I can play longer on my trumpet, but also so I can get through a longer dance choreography without panting so much.  Bear in mind that these would need to be adjusted depending on whatever activity you happen to be doing but the gist should hopefully be helpful.

  • First, take a gage of how long you CAN run, dance, play trumpet before you feel winded. Appreciate how well your body has done so far already.
  • When walking at a fast clip I find that getting a rhythm for your pace extremely helpful; not only in moving at a consistent speed but also to time my breathing.  Get a song stuck in your head that matches your pace.  This may help keep your breathing consistent; which is good for your body.
  • If you’re working on a dance choreography, think about when you need to breathe. It may sound odd but if you PLAN when to breathe while you begin to work on your dance routine; you will become adjusted to the idea of breathing at certain moments in the music; leaving you less likely to forget and start to breathe heavier later on.
  • Like anything, building a breathing stamina takes practice.  Just as you would not go from a slow walker to being able to run 6 miles in one go; don’t assume that 2 weeks of working out will have your lungs strong as can be.  Give your body time to improve; congratulate your body for any small improvements; small adjustments are likely all you’ll get!
  • Be conscious of your breathing at a normal, at rest, time.  Notice how you inhale and how deeply.  Practice inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, taking deep breaths to work on understanding what a full and deep breath feels like; so you’ll know if you’re GETTING a full breath during your activities.

There are no magic ways to increase your actual lung capacity.  But if you practice enough at whatever activity you happen to love doing; your strength will eventually build and breathing will become a bit easier.  But lose that mind-set which tells you that you should be able to dance just as long as your friend; climb as many stairs as your co-worker or run uphill like your sister without getting as winded as you do.  Our bodies have limits.  Learn to appreciate yours for what they are; work to build your strength within the limits you have.  Don’t whine about not having as large a “lung capacity” as someone else.  You also don’t have the same sized noses/eyes/fingers/thighs so, save your breath. You can put it to far better uses.

Any tips that actual runners have to share?  Have you found some “Secret miracle” that helps you breathe better?  Do share!


One thought on “Lose the Misconceptions; Save your Breath

  1. Well, I can’t say it’s working for me yet, but I’ve been reading recently that you should work out at lower heart rates to improve your aerobic fitness, which I think might translate to less extreme windedness during activity. Books to check out are “Training for Endurance” by Phil Maffetone and “Slow Burn” by Stu Mittleman. Basically, though, I’d say don’t push yourself too hard because you risk injury and you may not be getting the bang for your buck that you think you are in terms of improved fitness.

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