Running is an activity that people love to hate — even otherwise very fit people love to complain about it or avoid it. Nothing makes a CrossFitter squirm more than adding a run longer than 800m to a WOD.
For obvious reason, I find this fascinating. And when I probe and drill down into this with people, what comes up mostly is the breathing — many people report that it feels like they can’t get their breathing to settle and it feels like a long, uncomfortable fight to get enough air in.
Even after 15 years of running, it still happens to me from time to time — particularly after training my shoulders and upper back hard or when I’m stressed. I have days where my breathing feels really tense, making hard for me to settle into my easy training pace because the effort it takes to breathe feels so much harder and my breath feels super shallow and unsatisfying.
Obviously, it’s possible to have a breathing condition that requires medical care but if you’re otherwise pretty fit and healthy, the key may be looking at your postural and breathing patterns.
Most of us know that the primary breathing muscle is your diaphragm but you also have a number of accessory breathing muscles all around your rib cage, shoulders & neck. How these muscles work together can have a profound effect on the efficiency and ease of your breath.
Your nervous system controls which muscles fire. In times of stress or if you’re not good at breathing lower into your rib cage with your diaphragm (which is really common due to poor posture inhibiting free movement of this powerful breathing muscle as we sit at our desks or scroll social media), your nervous system can fire the accessory breathing muscles higher up on your ribs to help. Often this dynamic leads to the feeling of labored, inefficient breathing — which you may not notice in your daily life but becomes particularly noticeable when the effort increases due to activity or stress.
Over activation of these smaller muscles as well as postural habits can lead to tension developing here in the accessory breathing muscles in the chest, ribs, upper back, shoulders & neck — which makes it feel like it takes more effort to breathe than it should.
Interestingly, I’ve also found this dynamic to be the case in myself and in my patients who deal with anxiety. For all of us, I’ve found self-myofascial release to be a helpful tool when looking to breathe easier.
So I’ve created a simple practice designed to reset the tension on your accessory breathing muscles to help you breathe easier and more efficiently. It’s free for all my Yoga for Durability online class subscribers along with more than 40 other practices (as of the date of posting this).
Are you ready to breathe easier and feel less tense? The monthly subscription is only $10 per month (less than the price of a single studio class) and you can check it out HERE.