Unsolved mystery: breathing pattern and running cadence

I have been struggling with my breathing pattern and running cadence of late. 

Breathing Pattern

I am doing fine running with 2:2 breathing pattern, inhaling for two (2) foot strikes and exhaling for two (2) foot strikes. I am also doing fine breathing in and out using my nose. 

But whenever I run uphill or get tired or "hit the wall" at 30 km onward, my breathing pattern tends to go koo koo and hey wired. I start to get out of breath. And my mouth naturally starts to open wide grasping for oxygen. 

Where's my 2:2 breathing pattern? What 2:2 breathing pattern? It's like a frightened dog hiding his tail under running away to hide in a corner nowhere to be seen. I'm happy I could still catch some oxygen. Forget about breathing pattern!

Running Cadence

How about running cadence?

I am doing fine running with 180-190 steps per minute on pilot mode as long as I have the aid of music on my Sony or Trandscend MP3 music player. I'm doing fine running with 180-190 steps per minute as long as I don't encounter a hill or get tired or hit the wall. 

But when I don't have the music to keep me pumping and keeping track to the rhythm; or when I see hills in front of me; or when I get very tired; or when I hit the wall, my running cadence can drop to 170-175 steps per minute or even below 170 steps per minute. 

Don't you think I want to continue to run at consistent high running cadence? Well, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. During those challenging times in a race, I can say goodbye to high consistent running cadence. I'm happy I can still move my feet forward one after another. :)

Unsolved Mystery

Yes. I still struggle on how to crack this mystery. Who can help me? Please please please!

I have been talking to few seasoned runners. 

Tempo run

I am adjusting my training program to include 5 km tempo runs into my weekday running. I used to run 3 km, 4 times a week on a weekday plus a 30 km LSD run on Sunday every week. No tempo no internal training at all. Adding a 5 km tempo run into the training is refreshing for me. I was told that this might help me when I hit the wall in a full marathon next time. Good! Good! Good! I hate to hit the wall! Who likes the wall anyway, right? haha!

Belly breathing

I am also learning to breath from my belly (and tummy 😊) instead of lung. I'm still not very comfortable seeing my tummy get bigger everything I inhale during run. It covers my six pack!! lol!! But hey, I don't even have a six-pack abs!! So be it. I will continue to learn belly breathing, not belly dancing though!

Breathing pattern trial and error

In order to catch more oxygen, I also trying out 3:3 breathing pattern (inhale three foot strikes and exhale three foot strikes), 3:2 breathing pattern (inhale three foot strikes and exhale two foot strikes), and 3:1 breathing pattern (inhale three foot strikes and exhale two foot strikes). Nose or mouth? Most times only nose. Sometimes both. I'm still trying to solve this running mystery!

Listen to body more without music

I have decided to run without music during this mystery solving stage. I want to listen to my body more to see how it functions. If I can hear a little nut or screw in my body that can be tuned, I can then go and fix it. So yes, I do a lot of listening to my own body during run lately. 

A little experiment and discovery...

After about two months of low weekly mileage running, I finally went to run my longest LSD in two months time yesterday morning. I missed running long distance. Running 28 km yesterday made me feel so good!! I came back refreshed, energized with boosted confidence!! Of course, I have found the joy of running again! That's the most important aspect of all! Yohoo!!

During the 28 km LSD training yesterday, I applied a little new experiment. 

  1. Breathing pattern is top priority.
  2. Running cadence is second priority.
  3. Listen to body with no music.

For your information, I used to train and run using the opposite technique and mindset below:

  1. Running cadence is top priority with the help of music.
  2. Breathing pattern is second priority.
  3. Don't listen to body but to music / running cadence.

I really need to unlearn the learned and relearn the new.

You know what? I managed to apply this technique successfully for the whole 28 km - even during uphills at Bukit Tunku and double hills, even when I was very tired after 21 km. 

I focused on my breathing. I tried to ensure I could breath as comfortable as possible - even during uphills and when tired. And my feet movement should just follow my breathing rhythm. 

It worked. But I clocked a poor timing. lol!!

Mystery continues

Unfortunately mystery continues. I still haven't quite cracked the code yet. 

I want to breath comfortably despite uphills, long distance or tiredness.

I want to maintain high running cadence to avoid injury.

And I still want to run as fast as I can chasing my personal record occasionally. I won't do this in all the races though. A painful lesson learned running six (6) full/ultra marathons in first half of 2017. :) 

The search continues.... 

If I really manage to solve the mystery one day, you will know it. I will then have a little personal breakthrough in running a full marathon. That will be the time when I achieve my personal record. 

But for now, let me quietly get back to my drawing board, put on my thinking hat, tie up my shoe laces, and go out there and run for more experiments, trials and errors.

Until then, I'm happy with completing an injury-free full marathon. 

Sub 4:30 is awesome. 

Sub 4:00 is a bonus. 

Personal record is a Godsend.

Written by Vincent Khor on July 24 2017.


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