Every runner I know is always looking for the perfect fuel combination. Carbs, proteins, water and so on are all vital for training and racing in optimum form. Above and beyond water and nutrients, the thing every runner (and non-runner for that matter) needs is air. Efficiently getting sufficient oxygen to your muscles throughout a run is ultimately what will dictate how well it goes.
The book “Running on Air – The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter” is published by Runner’s World and is written by runner and coach Budd Coates and writer Claire Kowalchik. The book describes in great detail an approach to running developed by Coates over his lengthy running and coaching career which he refers to as “rhythmic breathing”.
The rhythmic breathing approach is described in great detail throughout the book and there are anecdotal stories from runners of various levels, all of whom describe their experiences with rhythmic breathing. There are also training schedules for all experience levels and race distances which are all tied into rhythmic breathing.
There is a wealth of technical information within the book and at times it is almost overwhelming, especially when you are used to thinking about training and effort in terms of pace or heart-rate. The major difference with rhythmic breathing is that it is very qualitative in nature – meaning that it is based on feel rather than quantifiable numbers.
The core message I took from this book was just that – the core. According to Coates, the runner’s core is at its weakest point at the start of an exhalation. If this is true, then repeatedly exhaling on the same foot means that you are increasing the likelihood of injury on that side – be it knee, hip or whatever. It’s a compelling argument and one that makes sense. If there truly is a measurable difference in the support your core is giving your legs at different stages of breathing, then repeatedly stressing the same side is a game of runner’s roulette.
The idea of training based on effort is not revolutionary in itself but this book certainly puts it in a different perspective. Time and again I have heard (and said) “Listen to your body” – “Running on Air” gives you a specific way to do this not just between runs, but during them.
Since reading this book, I have tinkered with rhythmic breathing and while it is an adjustment, once you get used to it, it definitely becomes more natural. I can’t say whether or not I am getting any faster at this point, but it certainly a useful way to track your effort and keep an even pace. If you’ve been prone to injuries on one side of your body or even if you’re just looking for something new to add to your training repertoire then this book is worth checking out.