Eurythmic showed up as the word of the day today. It means “characterized by a pleasing rhythm; harmoniously ordered or proportioned.” Its Greek root is eurythmía which means “good proportion, gracefulness.” (If it hadn’t shown up, today’s post probably would have been 13 feels like zero.)
It’s an appropriate word for today, as I was counting my breaths against my cadence. This was a fun run for me, so my breathing ranged from 3 (in) – 3 (out), an easy pace, to my favorite mid-effort pattern 3-2, to my tempo (usually on the uphills) breathing pattern of 2-2.
When I count my breaths against my cadence, I frequently recall reading a book called “Why We Run: A Natural History” by Bernd Heinrich. In this book, probably the most accessible and complete case for running as a persistence hunting activity (and adaptation) is made. This was a hard read (even for me… and I read a lot about running), but it had several interesting payoffs. One of them is around how we breathe on the run differently than animals. For example, deer have two main speeds: walk and sprint. This is because they’re diaphram is tied to their leg muscles (somehow… read the book if you want to know the details). People are not constrained by this, and for this reason, we can move at several speeds. To hunt a deer, all you have to do is spook it into a jog… where it can’t decide if it should walk or run away from you. Of course, you’ll be jogging after it for about 30 miles. Seriously. And you have to be a really good tracker. Which means you need a really fancy brain. And if you want to learn more… read the book.
Even though we can breathe independent of our cadence, it is easier to find a pace at which there is a “pleasing rhythm” with our breathing. Bernd goes on to propose that you’re even better off if your heart gets in on the action too, and you can find a rhythm where your heart, lungs, and feet are all running to the beat. I propose that you’re even better off if you can get your day and your training in on the rhythm too. At least, I like to think I’m striving towards that.
This is of interest to me right now, because I’m working on getting my cadence up to 180. Right now, it’s over 170, but decidedly not 180. When I switch to 180, it’s an effort. But I can kind of feel that if I could just keep my feet going that fast on auto-pilot, the whole running experience might flow along beautifully. Given my heart rate zones, 150 bpm against a 180 cadence might be about right for me to run down that deer. It’s something to look forward to as I’m counting “one-and-uh” against the seconds on the treadmill for 30 seconds every half mile.
After reading a couple of articles recently, I am becoming a convert to 3/2 breathing. It makes sense for balancing the stresses of running across left and right. On a recent long run over the Hospital Hill Half course, I managed to keep a 3/2 pattern most of the time. As it became more automatic, I was counting ONE two three ONE two ONE two three ONE two. It became natural to breathe in deeply with the left footstrike, exhale strongly on the right footstrike, then another deep exhale as the right hit the ground. Repeat. This made some of the miles long. Focussed my thoughts on my effort. And kept me at a fairly even effort. When I am usually tempted to push on the uphills, I was held back by keeping my breathing on pace. Then I was ready to push the downhills a little harder to keep from going to a 3/3 pattern.
Here is a great video from Runner’s World: Breathe Right to Avoid Injury