Well, Shut Mah Mouth

REST DAY, my body told me as I woke up this morning, keeping me firmly under the soft, warm covers. After yesterday’s 14-mile run and 55-mile bike ride, inactivity was reasonable, even logical. And my coach had put nothing on the schedule, so I was home free. And yet…I am training for an ultramarathon next month, so a recovery run was in order.

According to active.com, recovery runs build aerobic capacity and support muscles. It also promotes mental toughness; if you can get yourself out the door and run while fatigued, it will help you at the end of a race. I held out until after lunch, then out I went for five miles.

This is the kind of recovery my body had in mind fpor today.
This is the kind of recovery my body had in mind for today.

Recovery runs are supposed to be done at an easy pace, to avoid overtaxing muscles and negating the benefits. For me, that’s 9:00 per mile, give or take. After a day like yesterday, going slow should be welcomed by the body. Right? Not mine. When I can cruise comfortably at a 7:45 pace, doing steady 9:00 miles gets old fast. Before long I slip into a more “natural” pace, which is too fast for a recovery run. But I have discovered a way to keep things under control – by using my nose.

Bonus: Click here to see how my nose once earned a “black belt” by defeating a glass door.

Normally I am a mouth breather while running, as are the majority of runners. This time I kept my mouth closed. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you’re the type, as I am, who tends to generate mucus while running. But nose breathing has a couple of distinct advantages. Sometimes while running, I slip into shallow chest breathing, which is less efficient at getting oxygen into the lungs and clearing them of carbon dioxide. Nose breathing forces me to breathe fully from the diaphragm.

Definitely not the time to nose breathe. (Finish line, Road Ends 5 mile trail race.)
Definitely not the time to nose breathe. (Finish line, Road Ends 5 mile trail race.)

The other benefit is that it sets a ceiling on my pace. I can run comfortably at 9:00 while nose breathing. If my pace sneaks up to faster than 8:30, I have to switch to mouth breathing, which provides the signal that I’m going too fast for this particular run. For today’s run I didn’t look at the pace setting on my watch. I let my nose lead the way, letting it tell me when I could speed it up a bit, and when I had to slow down. I averaged a 9:05 pace, with a range between 8:50 and 9:10. Success!

So I have a new training technique when I need it. But does that mean that nose breathing is better than mouth breathing, as some have argued? The best advice I’ve read on that subject is: Just breathe, and do so in a way that’s comfortable for you. Sounds good to me.

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