[This article was first published on MindBodyGreen on August 6, 2016.]
I'm a runner. I love to run. More often than not, I feel like I can run forever.
Once I get past that first mile and settle into my pace, my body, my music, and my breath, I am in my happy place. I run for quiet. I run to think. I run to come up with things to write about. Sometimes, though, my runs aren't so great. Something hurts, I feel heavy or, like today, I can't catch my breath.
While I was running and found myself short of breath, I started to think about how many clients I have who often feel as if they can't get enough air. They get winded very easily. They can't slow their breathing down after some cardio or a short, intensive burst of exercise.
So they often ask, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I catch my breath?"
If you are otherwise healthy and have been given the OK from your doctor to exercise, here are my thoughts on why you may be so out of breath.
1. You just aren't breathing.
Seriously. I cannot tell you how often I have to remind my clients to breathe. Whether performing chin-ups or running sprints, you can bet that more than once a day I say, "Are you breathing?" Not only is it important for you to breathe while exercising for obvious reasons, but it's important to breathe for some not-so-obvious ones as well.
If you exhale while pulling up on your chin-up or pushing up on your push-up, you will be able to move through that exercise with greater ease. If it's still difficult for you to remember to breathe, here's a trick I use and coach others with as well: Exhale. Exhale so you can hear yourself exhale. If you exhale, you have to inhale.
Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. That's breathing.
2. The weather is messing with you.
"There's no bad weather; there's only bad gear" is a sentiment many a hiker, runner, skier, or other outdoor activity pursuer may utter at times in his or her life.
But when it comes to breathing, there is indeed bad weather. Some people have trouble breathing smoothly and deeply when it's humid, others when it is very cold. Know yourself and know what conditions work best for you. If you have trouble breathing in hot weather, slow down your runs, work out inside, or make another adjustment for the elements.
Don't blame yourself; blame the weather.
3. You're training too hard.
This may seem obvious, but the harder you work out, the faster you will need oxygen.
You have to train to train harder. If you are at the point at which you can't breathe, then you've gone too far. It's much easier to start easy and increase your power, your speed, or your weight. It's way harder to decrease it. The work is already done. If your first mile is your fastest ever, you can bet the next one won't be. But if you warm up and build up, working toward the heavier weight or the faster mile, you will make it. And you will have the air to breathe while you do it.
And here's a bonus tip on how to make it easier to breathe: Practice.
This, too, might seem obvious — but it's overlooked. Take some time each day to really breathe. Lie down on your back, close your eyes and your mouth, and breathe in and out. Fill your belly with air, and slowly exhale all that air. It will expand your diaphragm, allow for more oxygen flow, and it will feel really good. I promise.