Give running the 1-2 punch

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

During the past month, several of my clients have mentioned participating in 5K running events and half-marathons. It seems that theme-based races have become quite trendy; St. Louis now boasts everything form the Rock and Roll Half-Marathon to the Zombie Run, with the Color Run also gaining in popularity.

I always encourage clients to participate in such events. Not only are they fun and challenging, but also an excellent way for individuals to cross-train.  While I enjoy running, it is not currently part of my own workout regimen.  However, I am always incredibly impressed with endurance athletes, and give them all the accolades they duly deserve.

While some recreational athletes think running is a fabulous way to stay fit, especially considering the minimal amount of equipment required — good shoes and open spaces — there are many aspects to keep in mind to ensure a safe and satisfactory run. Proper breathing is probably the most overlooked aspect of outdoor running. While exercising on an indoor treadmill, the around you remains a constant temperature. Once you hit the great outdoors, however, your respiratory system must contend with everything from air pollution to the subtleties of changes in wind velocity, temperature and humidity.

The rate of respiration, too, can make the difference between an exhilarating run and a fatigue-producing exercise. Rhythmically breathing in a 2:1 pattern, two foot-strides per breath, takes significant stress off the respiratory muscles and reduces fatigue as compared with a 2:2 breath pattern (inhaling for 2 steps and exhaling for two steps).  According to research conducted at the University of Utah, inhaling and exhaling on the same foot every time places considerably more stress on the leg, foot and ankle. Dr. Dennis Bramble, Ph.D., reports that “the 2:1 ratio used by most experienced runners may well reduce the workload on the respiratory muscles, especially the diaphragm, and promote stamina in endurance runs.”

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With the onset of colder temperatures, there are certainly other considerations to keep in mind when preparing to run outdoors, such as appropriate layering of clothing, hydration, pre-run nutrition and of course a good hat to preserve the core body temperature. Focusing the mind on appropriate respiratory strategies too may seem challenging at first, but over time and with practice it will soon become as automatic as, well…breathing.