I began the hottest day of 2015 so far with a run along Hove seafront and a dip in the sea. Up at 5.30; running by 6.15; shivering in the sea by 6.50. Not a bad way to start to the day, considering it’s expected to hit 27C later on.
Of course, that’s chilly by Saharan standards, and in 2018 I will try to run 150 miles across the desert in six days. Given that a slow 30 minutes along the table top flat promenade at a pace of about a mile every 11 minutes is all I can muster at the moment, I’ve got a very long way to go.
A couple of weeks ago I began jogging again, after about 18 months of injuries. In that time I’ve had endless physio (still ongoing), three nasty surgical procedures and a shed load of codeine. I’m nervous about more injuries, so have adopted Budd Coates’ rhythmic running programme.
It’s been a bit like learning to run again. Or breathe again, depending on your point of view. The idea is simple: with every three steps you inhale; with every two you exhale; repeat. If you want to run faster, inhale for every two steps; exhale for one; repeat.
But teaching yourself to do it is a real chore. For weeks, I’ve been counting the three-two, two-one and two-one-one-one (that’s for when you want to really leg it – more on that another day) rhythms under my breath as I walk around the office, to the shops, around the flat, etc.
Finally, it’s stuck. On this morning’s jog I realised it had become second nature. Without thinking about it, I was inhaling for three strides; exhaling for two. By doing this, so goes Coates’ theory, I reduce the risk of further injury. Again, the reason for this is simple.
When we exhale our muscles relax, says Coates, and when we run, every footstrike puts all those joints, muscles, sinew and miscellaneous mushy stuff we’re filled with under considerable pressure. Relaxed muscles will not absorb impact efficiently, according to Coates (see the disclaimer below).
So, if we just plod along with no thought for our breathing (my natural ungainly running style), Coates reckons the chances are that our breathing will come to match the rhythm of our footsteps; we’ll be exhaling with every right or left footstrike, increasing the chances of injury down that side.
Rhythmic breathing means exhalations are alternated between the right and left feet, spreading the load and lessening the chances of injury. That’s the theory at least. And given that all my injuries have been down my left side, rhythmic breathing has got to be worth a shot.
This morning it felt good, even if my blood was a tad low when I started (a couple of hard boiled eggs as I was leaving helped level it). I was jogging on autopilot. Every five minutes or so I checked in to make sure my breathing was still in rhythm and sure enough, my exhalations were alternating between right and left.
The run and the swim were a great way to start the day. And this blog, for that matter.
Disclaimer: I have no medical training. I am not a doctor, a physio or a sports therapist; I doubt they’d even give me job handing out oranges at half time of a football match. I am just a type-one diabetic and former fat bloke with a stupid idea. This blog is my account of following that idea to its conclusion. Do not attempt anything similar without seeking prior medical (and psychiatric) advice.