“Try to get your breathing under control !”
That’s what Steve told me as we were running round the third lap of the Bierathlon last weekend, connected by a plastic beer crate containing 8 full and 2 empty beer bottles. We’d been running pretty hard on the first lap, pushed straight into the second without drinking, and then having drunk the first beer as fast as possible, we set off hard again. It was a bit faster than I’m used to running and I was panting like your mum.
Yesterday, I had in mind to do some intervals. A couple of weeks ago I’d done progression intervals from 5:00 per km down to 4:00 per km but it had got too dark to continue. I originally had planned 6 x 1km intervals for yesterday but a long meeting squished the time I had available so I ran 6 x 500m instead and decided not to progress them, just to run them hard – not sprinting though – and see what the times were like. I kicked off with a 1km warmup and finished with a 1km cooldown.
The first interval I set off as usual and by 300m I was panting pretty hard again, and it was then that Steve’s words came back into my head : “get your breathing under control“. So I wondered if I could just slow my breathing down and still run at the same pace.
The second interval I went off running the same cadence and stride length as before but used immense concentration (and this was hard to control) to breathe slower and more deeply. It seemed to work – I actually had no need to huff and puff, this kind of breathing gave me enough O2 and shifted enough CO2 out of my lungs that I could sustain the effort during the interval and did not end up totally out of breath like the first one.
I repeated this for the next 4 intervals and it worked every time. So maybe this is a breakthrough – I ran 3:45’s on average during these intervals and found it manageable. Previously I’d found that pace to be unmaintainable and so for me ‘fast’ meant running in the 4:10-4:30/km range and ending up out of breath.
It was difficult to decouple my old breathing rhythm from this cadence – I think because I started running very slowly originally in 2012 I’d dropped into a habit of breathing every couple of steps. My old slower self had a lower cadence and perhaps a longer stride length and I’d kept the original breathing rhythm despite getting faster legs – I guess this might have lead to me hyperventilating a bit or something.
So I’m now going to try and run a bit longer at pace and see if controlling my breathing pattern as I did in these intervals can be sustained. If it can – and I’ll need to train myself to do this – I think I’ll be in a position to make a bit of a jump in sustainable pace and use that to hit my speed targets in this and the next year. I’ve also decided to upgrade to a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor so I can look a bit closer at what my body is doing when I run.