From the moment of birth, when we draw our first breath, air becomes one of the most important elements of life. It is all around us, all the time, yet it is often taken for granted. We don’t consciously think about how much we need it every time we breathe in and out. Only when breathing becomes difficult do we take notice.
Do you get breathless during your run?
I remember my first race in Birmingham several years ago. I had not been in Alabama, but a couple of months. It was a 5k race, in June, and I just knew it would be an easy one. Little did I know, I would be faced with a shift in elevation than I was prepared for. Once the race began, not only did the heat affect my my performance, but once I reached the top of the first hill my lungs felt as if they were going into overdrive. My breathing became shallow and rapid. I thought that if I could pull in more air that I would be able to speed up the hill or maintain my pace. I was struggling. It was after this race that I learned the importance of training my lungs.
Author and runner Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run (2009), admitted he had a hard time breathing correctly while running. He points out that a professor of biology at the University of Utah, Dennis Bramble, discovered that “humans were the only mammals with the anatomical capability to take more than one breath per stride while running, and it’s this capability that makes us superior endurance runners.”
If you are running on a regular basis, you should understand the importance of proper breathing while running. Running doesn’t only involve the movement of the body; it also tests the limits of our respiratory system. If you apply the right breathing techniques, you will see a significant improvement in your overall performance.
So how does our respiratory system work? I did a little research and here is what I discovered. The main function of our respiratory system is to transport oxygen to various parts of our body so that our organs and muscles can function efficiently to sustain our life and support our physical movements. When we engage in physically demanding activities, such as running, our muscles have to work harder to enable our body to perform the required movements. They will need more oxygen to do the extra work. Your respiratory system will respond by delivering more oxygen to our muscles through the bloodstream. To meet the increased need for oxygen, our lungs have to work harder to take in more oxygen than air, and this is the reason why we have difficulty catching our breath while we are running. Interesting, huh?
Rajat Chauhan, an ultra marathon runner and a practitioner of sports/exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, recommended some breathing tips from an excerpt in The Wall Street Journal. Take long, deep breaths and focus on exhaling as well. If you haven’t emptied your lungs, how will you be able to breathe in? Contrary to a lot of expert advice, he highly recommends that you don’t breathe at any particular ratio to number of strides (as long as you are not breathing more than once per stride). Breathe at a rate that is comfortable for you. It automatically ends up being more strides than number of breaths. And his final words of advice, “Like everything else, it’s not so much the quantity, but the quality of breath, that is more important.”
In a nutshell, without air, we cease to live. Without God?
There are a lot of religious references to air, wind, and breath of life. How much richer our appreciation of such references is when we fully comprehend the reality. Like the air around us, we cannot see God. We can only feel God’s presence in our life, like a gentle breeze or gusty wind.
It would be nice to have stark reminders of God’s presence, but at the same time, God continually reminds us that the invitation is alway open to be aware of his presence. For instance, whenever we take time to pray, worship, or read God’s word, we can take a moment to breath in the Spirit of God and openly welcome his presence into our lives. Like the air we breather is readily available to us with every inhale, God is readily available and with us every moment of our life.
Psalm 150 is the last psalm in the Bible. The word psalm means song. The words of this psalm teach us about knowing the will of God and praising him for his love, compassion, and power. It is also assuring us of a place in God’s world, for we are called to follow him faithfully. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Since humans, as Bramble stated, are the only mammals “with the anatomical capability to take more than one breath per stride while running,” why use these breaths to also praise God?
Praise Him because He has made us (Psalm 139:14), for our hearts trust in Him and we are helped (Psalm 28:7), for His mercy reaches unto the heavens and His truth unto the clouds (Psalm 57:10), for His mercy endures forever (Psalm 106:1), for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is beautiful (Psalm 147:1), for He created everything with His command (Psalm 148)…even the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).
Did you know that you have warm and cool air inside you? Try this experiment breathing on your hand. With your mouth open, puff (warm), then with your lips pursed, blow (cool). This is a miracle! Thank you God for the air I breathe.
So I say: As we run, the more breaths we take, the more praises we offer to Him.