DEEP DIAPHRAGM BREATHING BENEFITS

At yoga class I have learned “Pranayama”, the art of Yoga breathing. Basically it is deep diaphragm breathing or belly breathing. There are many benefits to diaphragm breathing which I describe below. Recently, I discovered on my own a huge new benefit for diaphragm breathing described herein. It has to do with a condition (not rare) I have had for about 15 years called Tachycardia (similar to atrial fibrillation) both of which cause a sudden high rapid increase in heart beat up to 250 bpm in some people. In my case my heartbeat during an episode is lower about 120 bpm. An episode could be brought on by stress, caffeine, even decaff tea or coffee, dehydration (hot weather can cause problems I have found), or it occurs for no particular reason and it could last for minutes or hours. And many running athletes have developed or will develop this condition. There is a good chance I got my condition from running. Even if you don’t have this condition─some daily diaphragm breathing exercises daily have many healthy advantages.

To stop this high rapid heartbeat which could continue for hours, I normally lie down, relax, think calm thoughts, with feet above the heart, and/or take a prescribed pill, e.g., Propranolol (Inderal). I have been told that tensing the body might help to stop the high beat and slight weakness, but this is entirely useless. If it continues for about 3 hours (this is rare) I normally would go to emergency, but then they would keep me for about 4 hours while checking me out. I have missed some very important races particularly in hot climates (e.g., Los Vegas, Utah (Huntsman‘s Games), Sacramento, and Winston Salem (this year) ─when my heart would not return to normal before the race. In these cases, I would have deep concern that I would not recover in time before the race so the extra stress does not help recovery.

So I was very happy and elated to discover on my own that deep diaphragm breathing would return me to normal even after just 1 or 2 deep diaphragm type breaths in some cases, without the use of medication or at least considerably shorten the duration. I have found this method, done correctly, even works sometimes when I feel an episode coming on, stopping it before it takes over. I urge all people with Tachycardia or Atrial Fibrillation to use this simple technique described below to prevent or eliminate an episode to shorten the length of an episode. This also results in less use of medication which has some adverse side effects. If I use the medication (Propranolol also called Inderal I have much less energy for running on the day I take a pill. I call my method DDBST (Deep Diaphragm Breathing Stops Tachycardia.) It works for me. However, I do not claim it will work for everyone with this condition.

Also it has occurred to me that some meditation every morning including deep diaphragm breathing, putting one in a relaxed frame of mind, should help to prevent an episode during the day. One good recommendation for diaphragm breathing is 3 to 4 sessions per day and 5 to 10 breaths at a session─ or 5 to 10 breaths before sleeping and when you wake up should also be preventative for a Tachycardia or Atrial Fibrillation episode. For those without these heart problems perhaps refer this article to a friend or parent who might have this condition. Otherwise, see the major advantages of diaphragm breathing below which would be of interest to all.

THE METHOD. Diaphragm breathing or basic Pranayama is described below:

The diaphragm is dome shaped like a parachute of thin muscle separating the lungs and heart from the abdominal region. See the diagram below.

1. On inhaling deeply and slowly for about 3 seconds the diaphragm contracts moving downwards compressing the abdominal space below allowing the stomach to rise and allowing more space for the lungs to expand. This lowers the pressure in the lung area assisting inhalation. Don’t tense the stomach─ letting it rise naturally and gradually. Think and visualize the diaphragm moving downwards and the stomach as a balloon filling with air. See the attached diagrams. The chest or shoulders should not move or breathing is incorrect. The incoming oxygen provides energy and nutrients to all organs.

2. There is a short pause before exhaling.

3. On exhaling slowly for about 3 seconds or slightly longer─ the diaphragm constricts and moves upwards pushing out air, while the stomach and abdomen recedes naturally. See the attached diagrams. Think and visualize the diaphragm moving upwards. The CO2 and toxins exiting, detox the body.

4. There is a short pause at end of exhale.

In my method to stop Tachycardia or Atrial fibrillation the inhale is deeper than normal diaphragm breathing, and the pauses 2 and 4 above are slightly exaggerated. The exhale is slightly longer than the inhale but not overly long as this could cause a shortness of CO2 which in turn causes less oxygen to the brain, heart and other extremities. Stop the longer exhale if feeling dizzy or any other problems. Breathing is normally through the nose. During breathing if possible, make some breathing noise at top of your throat, not too load and not too soft; it is like a muffled ocean roar. This is considered an important part of diaphragm breathing. Some practise is recommended to master the correct diaphragm breathing technique. In early sessions start with lying on your back with a book on your stomach. Progress doing practise while sitting, then standing with back to a wall, slow walking, and then fast walking. When the technique is mastered in fast walking I suspect? it should become natural in running.

OTHER BENEFITS OF DEEP DIAPHRAGM BREATHING

– Calms the nervous system and improves your mood. Use it when stressed or anxious, before an important meeting, before giving a speech, etc.

– It brings in more oxygen to the muscles, heart and other organs making them healthier and stronger. More oxygen means more energy.

– The slightly greater exhale and more efficient lungs improve toxin removal. The contractions of the diaphragm stimulate the lymph nodes and increases toxin removal from the lymphatic system. (My DDBST works at least for me possibly because the greater movement of the diaphragm may be also exercising or stimulating the heart.) The increased toxin and healthier organs removal increases longevity.

– The greater access to the more efficient lower lungs compared to upper lungs results in greatly increased gas exchange or lung capacity.

– Athletic benefit. Use it just before a competition to calm yourself. “Every sport has a moment when your focus and concentration needs to be maximized.” (Okanagan Peak Performance Strength and Conditioning)

– Miscellaneous. Lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, strengthens intestinal and abdominal muscles, improves posture, improves sleep, and reduces pain. Some claim it reduces risk of heart disease and cancer. In a yoga session when a pose is stressful─ diaphragm breathing will make you forget the discomfort.

FINAL WORD

Deep diaphragm breathing is recommended as a good health practice for everyone, usually 10 breaths every day before sleeping and on waking. Or practice at any spare moment during the day is a healthy habit. Use it during meditation. During these sessions think of the diaphragm moving and also the many advantages of deep diaphragm breathing.

RUNNING IN SATORI BY E. W. FEE

In the Zen Buddhist tradition, Satori is an enlightenment of the spirit.

Enjoy the body flow;
Gliding… floating…
Effort free
With minimum energy.
Enjoy the now;
Enjoy the inner you.
The time is yours alone
To revel in—
As you breathe in
The beauty that is found
All around.
Let your senses ring;
Let your feelings sing;
Peace is on the wing
Feel the calm within;
Body, mind, and spirit
All in harmony;
That’s what its all about.
Let the body shout
Its silent vitality;
Let the mind run free;
In Satori:
Going beyond,
Becoming heaven bound.
Feel the dynamic meditation
And rejoice in the play,
The mystical dance of life,
Where the journey
Exceeds the destination,
The training more than the podium,
Or golden training is more
Than mere medals.

The photo is my age group world record 800m in 2:14.33 in spite of a roaring gale at the WMA Championships at Buffalo at age 66 in 1995 (still existing)—showing Mattson of Finland following closely in the first 400m. He said later he was “dead” at 400m. In Buffalo tested for drugs twice perhaps in view of my 3 world records, in the 400m, 800m and 300m hurdles. I was in the best shape ever except for some Plantar Fasciitis, and after 33 races that year, and a one-week tough training camp with strong Saugeen Track club teen-agers and coaches Geordie and Earl Farrell. Some of these New Orleans training camp days totaling about 17 miles. Tough indeed for a 400/800/mile athlete when I think back now, but definitely beneficial, building body, mind and spirit.

RUNNERS PRAYER BY E. W. FEE

Fear give me your fury;
Let me taste your torment.
Pain give me your worst;
Let me feel your fire.
Unleash these wild steeds
Of Fear and Pain,
So they may be trained and harnessed
To obey my commands.
Let me test my mettle
In the flame of training,
In the heat of battle,
In the cauldron of competition,
And the furnace of the fray,
So I may forge my body, mind and spirit
Like a sword in the glowing coals,
So they may be harder than steel,
Brilliant and fearsome.
And ever ready for my friendly foes.
This is my prayer oh Lord.

HOW RUNNERS DECLINE IN PERFORMANCE WITH AGE

The following abbreviated information is from my book, “100 Years Young the Natural Way (Body Mind and Spirit).

World Record Holders Decline in Performance % /Year from Age 35 to 62.5

Using data from World Masters (specific) Age Records 2005 edition. (I was honoured and very fortunate to be on the cover of this last edition of specific age world records.)

%/Year Men 1st column Women 2nd column

Conclusions:

  1. Increased performance loss per year as the distance becomes longer. Compared to long distance runners, sprinters show the lowest decline /year with age since they are doing a great deal of flexibility and anaerobic strength training, i.e., fast movements exercising the fast twitch muscles.
  2. Women decline significantly more than men at all distances

Author Dr.Vonda Wright examined the age related decline of athletes at the 2001 U.S. National Senior Games and also of American Masters track and field athletes for age 35 to 85. She concluded:

  1. Between age 50 to 75 for both men and women in both groups above there was about 2% /year decline in performance with slightly more decline for women.
  2. Between age 75 to 85 the decline was 8% /year average for men and women for the Senior Olympians , and for the American Masters record holders the decline was 4.1% /year for men for men and 10.3%/year for women.

World Record Holders Decline in Male Performance % /Year from 85-90

Conclusions:

  1. Sprinters decline in performance slower by a factor of 2, than middle distance or long-distance runners.
  2. Decline per year for world record holders at 85-90 is about 3 to 4 times higher than between age 35 and 62.5.
  3. World record holders decline in performance at a much slower rate than Senior Olympians. Hence it is reasonable to expect sedentary people will age much quicker than Senior Olympians, American National athletes and world record holder athletes.

MAINTAINING RUNNING SPEED WITH AGE

I had been thinking of writing an article on ways to reduce the drop off of running speed with age. Recently by good fortune amongst a pile of saved articles on athletics I found a great article on this subject In a January 2004 issue of 2004 Peak Performance.

Here is some of the good information mainly from the above article by Hamilton and his team of researchers and my own research.

Based on world record statistics: Aging diminishes muscle power sooner and more dramatically than endurance. So based on this and other reasons endurance runners maintain their endurance better than sprinters maintain their speed as they age. Regular resistance training can help sprinters offset this trend and diet can also protect aging joints.

Muscle fibre is lost at an increasingly fast rate as we age— between age 20 and 80 about 30% of fast twitch muscle fibre is lost. So it appears we should be working more on retaining muscle as we age and not less as is the usual case. E.g., As we age, fast twitch muscle fibre (for speed and power) declines faster than slow twitch fibres (for endurance). Our late distance runner friend Ed Whitlock had the idea and good habit to do more distance running with age to compensate for the increasing loss of endurance. See my recent (summer 2020) article on Facebook On Exercises to Retain Fast Twitch fibres. Basically, these are frequent fast and/or intensive exercises.

As age we lose more growth hormone which leads to reduced protein and increased muscle atrophy. Growth hormone is stimulated during intense short exercise with short intervals which results in increased strength and improved exercise performance. The more intensity the more growth hormone. To increase growth hormone the scientific coach Phil Campbell recommends 2 grams of glutamine powder (based on research and his own research) before an intense workout. I have this good habit.

To make matters worse with age creatine phosphate required for sprinting or short- term activity declines with age. However, the regular anaerobic workouts help’s replenish creatine phosphates. In a study reported by Hamilton: seven sprinters after just one week of placebo or creatine supplementation completed four consecutive sprints. Compared with the placebo sprinters the creatine sprinters increased their running speed by 1.4% and stride frequency by 1.5%, but not their stride length. Hence creatine supplementation is a good option for older sprinters to increase muscle power and contribute to lean muscle mass.

Stride length declines and contact time increases with age, but stride rate remains largely unaffected; this is widely known. This data refers to a study by Hamilton who compared age 35-39 sprinters with 90-year olds. For example 2.36 m per step at age 35 to 1.42 m per step at age 90 or 66% more steps for a 90 year old in a 100m race. The good news is: it is still possible to maintain a significant amount of speed with age. Hamilton found stride length declined at increasingly more rapid with older runners but stride frequency did not decline significantly with age.

Uphill training can help slow the reduced stride length and the increased contact time with age. The gradient will emphasize dorsiflexion (a greater toe-up position on foot strike which “will generate more work for the calf muscles on push-off.” “Hence due to stronger calves and ankles stride length is enhanced and contact time reduced when on the level.”

It is also important to stress dorsiflexion in sprint drills as the toe-up prevents landing on the toes which results in a shorter stride as you can easily imagine.) Also, Hamilton states lower limb and ankle strength are crucial for sprinters of all ages.” Also, the importance of stronger calf and Achilles muscles in producing longer strides is demonstrated from a more resent research study by Dr. De Vita and colleagues. They state that calf and ankle muscles age sooner than those muscles above. Stronger glutes, quads and hamstrings had less effect on stride length according to the DeVita study.

The Peak Performance article also describes the importance of the free leg as it leaves the running surface and is pulled through quickly and powerfully, folding up towards the butt as a short lever. (This requires strict attention in training during the ABC sprint drills during the warmup stage.)

Range of motion at the knee joint before the free returning foot is landed— is also important as this reduces with age from about 120 degrees to 95 degrees between age 35 and 90 thereby shortening the stride. The hill sprints combat this lower leg lethargy by creating greater leg drive. This increases the speed of the free returning leg.

Weight training will offset fast twitch fibre shrinkage— particularly training with 75% of one rep maximum according to Hamilton. Also training with less weight and more reps protects sprinters from injury.

Plyometrics, e.g., bounding and hopping are also very effective for enhancing stride length. Here the softer inner field is recommended.

Flexibility also declines with age as our soft tissue hardens and joints stiffen. I recommend daily stretching once or twice a day and if possible a weekly yoga session, and of course the stretching before and after training. It is amazing what 10 minutes of a daily habit can accomplish in the long term, for all. Maintaining flexibility with age is essential for sprinters.

A final suggestion. I usually finish a sprint workout with few short sprints with exaggerated strides—somewhat like reduced bounding. This requires more use of the calf and ankle muscles. If this doesn’t help, it still feels good.

And last but not least, a good proper diet will help combat degenerative or inflammatory Joint conditions. This is a big subject but worthy of investigation.

In summary the importance of the following to reduce the decline of speed with age was covered above. These will require frequent attention:

– Regular high resistance training

– Also lower resistance with more reps

– Regular fast and/ or intense exercise to maintain fast twitch fibres

– Supplementation with Glutamine and Creatine

– Up-hill running

– Strengthening of calves and ankles

– Concentration of proper technique, e.g., dorsiflexion, etc. during ABC sprint drills

– Plyometrics

– Diet specifically for joints