There is something I do before every single run and it takes less than two minutes.
It has been a game-changer for my running.
It is called 4-7-8 breathing.
It has been popularised by Dr Weil who is a leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. A believer that health care needs an approach that encompasses body, mind and spirit.
This is a particularly good technique to learn if you suffer from anxiety, get breathless on long runs or suffer pre-race nerves. I have found it helpful in other areas of my life too, not just running.
Improve your running – How to do the 4-7-8 breath
Beginners should do NO MORE than 4 rounds of this exercise – after 3 months I now do 8 rounds before every run but take time to really nail the four rounds first. More isn’t better when you start out!
- Sit comfortably on a chair with your feet uncrossed and hands gently resting on your lap.
- I like to do this exercise with my eyes closed – I am less self conscious and can really focus when my eyes are lightly shut but that is up to you.
- Rest the tip of your tongue against the soft fleshy part behind your upper front teeth (the tongue needs to stay there throughout the exercise).
- Exhale completely through your mouth, Dr Weil suggests making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for four counts.
- Hold your breath for seven counts.
- Exhale all the air through your mouth, with the same whooshing sound for a count of eight.
You have completed one cycle, now repeat from steps 5-7 for another three cycles.
When I first started this I really focussed on keeping each part nice and long and slow. It helped me get to grips with the separation between the 4,7 and 8 steps.
Improve your running – Breathing pattern when running
If you want to take this breathing experiment further then you can also experiment with breathing patterns whilst actually running. You have heard me talk before about slowing your runs right down…..well one way to do this is to using breathing as part of a calming meditation as you are running.
I know I am running at a gentle enough pace when I breathe in for four in four steps and out for four in four steps.
So I count them and see how far I can get when out on a long run.
When I first started out running I couldn’t breathe out through my nose but with time I have managed to inhale and exhale through my nose.
As you start out you will find it easier to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Imagine the beat of your steps
“ONE ONE ONE ONE” this is the inhale
“TWO TWO TWO TWO” this is the exhale
“THREE THREE THREE THREE” this is the inhale
“FOUR FOUR FOUR FOUR” this is the exhale.
And so on.
I do most of my running at this breathing pace and in this pattern. Once a week I do a timed 5k run (parkrun) at a much faster tempo and this is my race pace. This means I have to breathe in for two and out for two!
Breathing patterns whilst running make all the difference to how far you can go – when you are relaxed and breathing easily and calmly it completely changes the enjoyment of your running.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on.
To see Dr Weil demonstrating the 4,7,8 breath watch this video