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Don’t forget to breathe

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. It seems pretty easy. I don’t mean to brag, but I have been breathing all my life. However, one of my doctors at the headache clinic I visit has been teaching me how to breathe even better. If you breathe deeply from the diaphragm you oxygenate your blood more quickly and you can reduce tension. It feels pretty silly to be sitting in a doctor’s office breathing in and out like I’m in a Lamaze class, but I do what they tell me and hand them my money.

I was on the treadmill yesterday, running as part of my training for my next race, and I started to concentrate on my breathing. Usually I breathe in for 3 steps and breathe out for 2 at the beginning. Then as I get more tired, I breathe in for 2 steps and breathe out for 1. As I was breathing, I thought about the headache clinic and all the deep breathing I’ve been doing. So I started to breathe deeper, sucking in all the oxygen I could to help power by body.

I ran for 20 minutes without stopping and it seemed a little easier than the last time I did that. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. I didn’t know relaxation techniques could help my running technique, but I think they have. Don’t forget to breathe!

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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17 Comments

roxie • October 8, 2009 at 9:43 am

Deep breathing is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It helps both the mind and the body. Good luck in your race training!

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Jess • October 8, 2009 at 10:02 am

Thanks for the tip – I may try this with my 10 mile run on Saturday! You’re such an inspiration – I love that you’re a *real* person who shares her struggles with us. Thank you for sharing with us!

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Dawn • October 8, 2009 at 10:38 am

Funny that it was my 12 yr old telling me this just the other week. His therapist had taught him how to breath deeply and so he has been teaching the rest of us. I definitely think it helps with stress and anxiety. Good luck on your next race

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Amy P • October 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

Check your local yoga studio and see if they do any breathing clinics there. I took one years ago and it was a huge help. I have asthma and the breathing exercises I was doing helped me to get it under control enough that I have not used an inhaler for 2 years.

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Caron • October 8, 2009 at 11:23 am

I swim for cross-training work and have been reading about breath control and I tried, just sitting at my desk, breathing in a 3/2 pattern and that wouldn’t work for me. I read earlier this week that the most oxygen comes in your exhale and so-and-so expert was recommending that you control your exhale. I may need to work on that, but I do use a controlled exhale in the pool. I’m just trying to piece all this information together. I always assumed atheletes just know this stuff, but they don’t. Most of us learn from each other. Good post!

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Katie • October 8, 2009 at 11:28 am

I’d be interested to learn more about deep breathing while running. I NEVER was a runner up until a few years ago, I HATED it. But then, I hit a plateau with my workouts. I had been working out for a long time, using elliptical machines, bikes, etc. just never treadmills, unless that is, i walked, and finally decided to just do it (as Nike would say). I found that after a few weeks, I started to notice the effects it was having on my mind, creating a great sense of well-being for me AFTER my workout sessions had ended. Within a few weeks, I was addicted. I’m not some long distance marathoner (although, i wouldn’t mind running further than the 4-5 miles i typically do each day), but I find that my breathing can sometimes be the cause of fatiguing sooner than anticipated. It’s not that I’m not in shape (i consider myself a tri-athlete) it’s just that darn breathing that can be a challenge. Has anyone heard of the affects Green Tea can have on the respiratory system? I’ve heard that it has a lot of benefits, especially for runners. If i can find the article i read recently on it, I’ll share. It was something about Japan having lower heart attacks than the U.S. and like 75 percent of them smoke compared to the U.S. where everyone is keeling over with one — they linked it to the amount of green tea the Japanese consumed. If anyone has more information on this product, let me know! Oh! And acai berry! i heard that helps with the joints?

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bobbie • October 8, 2009 at 11:58 am

My husband is an oral surgeon and he had a new assitant working with him the day that I was getting some work done. I noticed that she was turning shades of green and yellow and I knew she was going to fall over any minute. I told her to do some deep yoga breathing — deep one in through the nose and slowly out the mouth. Getting oxygen to the brain is an amazing feeling. She felt much better after a few deep breaths…. probably how your lungs and legs felt.

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Quix • October 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I find that a four count in and out feels best for me both when relaxing and while running (as long as I’m going at a pretty quick pace). But yeah, breathing is very important! My hubby almost stopped doing that while having an asthma attack in the car a while ago and let me tell you, it was not fun for him… :)

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veg_head • October 8, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I’ve always enjoyed breathing :) Deep breathing does help relieve tension for me, so does pulling on my hair really close to the scalp. It eases my headaches from staring wide eyed at the computer all the time and forgetting to blink or relax my face.

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Cynthia • October 8, 2009 at 8:21 pm

I like doing deep breathing… I need to remember to do it more often! It especially relaxes me before I go to sleep at night.

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Andy Lee • October 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I’m wondering whether anyone offered you a REASON for the headaches (one that seems to apply to the resulting disappearance?)? Although I generally love a good mystery, I like the kind that come with an ending at the end. And of those, I really like the ones where the next door neighbor’s autistic son did it with a lead pipe in the billiard room.

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PastaQueen • October 8, 2009 at 10:47 pm

@Andy Lee – I guess you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

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Dental Mesquite • October 9, 2009 at 3:25 am

Your book was intriguing. i wanted to have a copy..=)

cool post! breathing has lots of benefits. a simple inhale and exhale can take away stress.

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Karen • October 9, 2009 at 10:46 am

I used a Zen Buddhist breathing technique when I suffered from anxiety/panic disorder several years ago. I still use it today on the rare occasions I feel anxiety and have passed it along to others:

Place your hand on your lower abdomen to direct the breath deep into your body (no, your breath doesn’t actually go there, but if you breathe high in the chest, you defeat the purpose of the exercise. This encourages the breathing to remain low and relaxed.)

Breathe in for a slow count of five, hold for a slow count of five, then exhale for a slow count of seven.

Repeat – in for a slow count of five, hold for a slow count of five, exhale for a slow count of seven.

The next two breaths are taken normally, no counting, then repeat the cycle again.

But the *real* question is – does the breathing you’ve been doing help you, or is it too early to tell?

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psychsarah • October 9, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I’m smiling at this post. I will often present diaphragmatic breathing to my clients by stating “so, today I’m going to teach you something that you’ve been doing all your life: breathing” just to break the ice. It really does do wonders for so many things! Glad you’re finding it helpful for running.

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Daisy • October 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Learning to breathe properly helped me control hyperventilation. I was suffering severely years ago due to stress and anxiety. My doctor even told me it would be good for me to take up singing lessons, because it also focuses on breathing techniques. I thought it was best to spare the singing teacher that agony. ;-)

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Amy • October 11, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I learned about this process of relaxation breathing where you physically try to fill the bottom of your lungs first and fill upward. It’s like a massage from the inside out. Everyone at the table fell asleep shortly there after so I don’t remember what happened next.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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