23 year old Oliver Gooch talks about his experiences of running over the last 10 years and how recently deciding to implement nasal-breathing techniques adopted from Patrick Mckeown’s ‘The Oxygen Advantage’, have helped to enhance his endurance and alleviate physical aches and pains that have held him back for years.
I’d like to share with you a recent experience of mine in regards to my running and exercise habits. For years now I’ve been a bit of an ‘on and off’ runner, finding it something difficult to maintain for any length of time, not through a lack of interest but a physical pain barrier every time I would try and do so.
Around the time I was 14/15, I managed to tear both of my Achilles ligaments (at the same time) as a result of playing too much school and club sport during a time where my body was naturally trying to develop. As a result in the following 8 years aches and pains have been something I have become accustomed to and struggled with a lot when it came to exercising. I had to completely give up playing football and would struggle to make it through a game of cricket without being well aware of it the following day.
Having grown up 5 minutes from the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline, running was a form of exercise that had continually interested and engaged me, being able to get out on to the beach or along the sea-wall for a 30-40 minute jog seemed as good a place to do it as any. But no matter how much physiotherapy or stretching I went through to relieve the discomfort I felt in my legs, I would quite often find myself frustrated only being able to manage 10-15 minutes of that 40 minute run, before I found myself in so much pain that it made it impossible to go any further.
This was something then that had always deterred me from running because it had a two-fold effect on me. There were the obvious aches and pains that resulted from me attempting to run, and the natural frustration that came from feeling I was constantly being held back from achieving the goals I wanted to – simply because my body wouldn’t allow it. It made it feel like going for a run was simply more trouble than it was worth, and therefore I found myself more frequently turning to home gym equipment such as rowing or bike machine’s to maintain my cardio fitness, and restricting my chances of impact injuries and discomfort. However, as pieces of home gym-equipment these naturally didn’t stimulate my desire to be outside and active, rather than in the confines of my home
And then, as we all know, around February and March time came the global outbreak of Coronavirus, and the ensuing social isolation and lockdown measures that came with it. With the government permitting individuals to only be able to leave the house for things like essential food shops and one form of exercise per-day, running once again became something I found myself coming back to, not only as a means of keeping physically fit but also making sure that my mental health was being looked after. It now more than ever represented an outlet for many including myself, to be able to leave the house and get a bit of freedom in a time in which that had been so abruptly taken away from us all. But still, as I began to run again, I was reminded of the same aches and pains I’d suffer which made me give it up in the first place, and I continued to be left in a state of frustration every time I attempted even a casual 2-3k run.
Then a friend of mine mentioned to me a book he had been reading by author and breathing practitioner Patrick McKeown, called ‘The Oxygen Advantage’. The basic synopsis of McKeown’s book is that for too long now, humans have been overlooking one of the most fundamental parts of how we live every single day, and that is how we breathe.
At first it seemed incredible to me to have how I breathe, something I and everyone else in the entire world has been doing since the moment we were born, called into question, and I therefore took what I was being told with a bit of a pinch of salt and a sense of cynical trepidation. But I also figured that it was something I could only but try and saw no real downsides to at least making a go of it.
And low and behold at the end of my first strictly nasal-breathing run, I found myself slightly overwhelmed by the difference simply focusing on shallow breath’s in and out of my nose made to both my endurance and preventing pain’s in my lower calf and ankles, areas where I would usually suffer. I was starting to and have been continuing to run greater distances than I have ever done before, and all without my legs feeling like they are really suffering at all.
To begin with I found it particularly helpful to leave my earbuds at home and just focusing on getting my pace in time with my breathing so this is something I would definitely recommend, and I am now starting to take more of a deep-dive in to Patrick McKeown’s work and the world of nasal-breathing to develop a deeper understanding of how it all comes together, and how I can continue to make improvements to my physical endurance and my general well-being simply through breathing techniques and practices. But simply giving it some consideration or research is something that I would whole-heartedly recommend to any runner, be it a seasoned 20k athlete or a former couch potato like myself.
Below is an attached video of Patrick McKeown giving a brief talk on the advantages and effects of nasal-breathing, and hopefully this should give you a good reference point to starting to try and alter your breathing habits and improve your running capabilities.