Breathing. You're doing it right now without even thinking about it. Put a little thought into the action, and you just might find yourself soaring through your next tempo run. When you're going the distance running, swimming, cycling, and even rowing you need to power your muscles with fresh oxygen. To do this, you need to breathe deeply. Unfortunately, most of us are just breathing into our chest and not fully utilizing our lungs. Cross-training with the noncardio workouts of yoga and Pilates can help. Along with strength and flexibility, these forms of mind-body exercise help you learn to breathe deeply and effectively.
Basically, your lungs are just a bit smaller than your rib cage, but we all tend to breathe in just the top third of the lungs. One reason is that, like all muscles, the intercostals, which run between the ribs, can get tight and inflexible, limiting the expansiveness of your lungs. With a little training and some stretching, you can breathe to your full potential and increase your endurance.
Learn a supersimple breathing exercise, simply read more.
Here is a supersimple way to start breathing into your lower lungs.
- Sit upright in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Align your head over your pelvis while maintaining the natural curve and keeping the spine long — this is no time for slouching.
- Place your hands on the sides of your low ribs with your thumbs pointed back and your index fingers forward.
- Inhale into the back and sides of your ribs, filling your entire lung with air, not just your chest. Don't let your shoulders rise to your ears, since this causes unnecessary tension in your neck. It helps to remember that your lungs are three-dimensional and to imagine them expanding like a balloon filling with air, from the bottom up and outward.
The Pilates stretch mermaid is great for opening up the sides of the body, between the ribs, and concentrating on breath. Next time you're in a child's pose or a downward-facing dog, use this idea of breathing into your back ribs to open up your intercostals. Then bring it to your next cardio workout.