My first sub-10-minute mile, or: The joys of nose breathing

My daughter is on her school’s cross country and track teams. She’s been given an inhaler to see if helps with what might be exercise-induced asthma. I looked this up, and it actually sounds similar to my problems while running – after running for X amount of time, regardless of speed, I have to slow down / walk to catch my breath, feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, no matter how hard I tried. The info I found said that a possible trigger is too much breathing through the mouth, since that doesn’t warm or moisten the air you’re inhaling. I decided to give that a test.

I went out for my around-the-neighborhood 5k run yesterday. Before I did that, though, I used the nasal decongestant spray that’s been sitting in my medicine cabinet, and I popped in my bite guard. I fired up Runkeeper and took off, doing my best to breathe in through my nose (biting down on the guard as a reminder) and out through my mouth.

I have RK set to update me every two minutes on my speed, time, distance, and heart rate, and found it odd that it gave me my first two alerts farther into the run than usual. I realized when the third one came up that I was going much faster than usual. I finished my first mile of the run in 9:40, a good minute ahead of my usual pace! I also noticed that I wasn’t suffering from the heartburn I’ve been experiencing lately.

It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of a hill (still over a minute ahead of my usual pace) that I ran into problems. I was so focused on my breathing this run that I wasn’t concentrating on my foot placement while breathing, and I started working on a stitch. I slowed my pace to stretch it out and get my stride right, and started mouth breathing out of habit. Almost immediately, I could feel myself needing more air the harder I tried to breathe. I got back to breathing (and breathing deeply) through my nose, and the feeling went away. I got my second mile in around 21 minutes (another great pace for me).

At the start of the third mile, I ended up in full panting mode, and not only was the breathing hard, but the heartburn and lurching stomach reappeared with a vengeance. Slow down, deep nose breathing, and it goes away. I finished in 33 minutes – a good time for me for walking off stitches – and logged a max heart rate during the run of 177 (I’ve never gotten above 160, so !!!).

So, long story short (TOO LATE!), learn to breathe through your nose. It helps.

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