Every runner, whether you’re just starting out or have been running for many years wants to improve performance.
You train harder, add more strength and conditioning drills and maybe even some cross training cardio, like spin or body pump. Maybe you even get some massage to work out sore legs or hips, but you maybe neglecting an important key that can lead to better runs and better race results and not even know it.
What is it, you ask?
I’m talking about diaphragm and intercostal massage.
The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle that sits at the bottom of your rib cage. It expands and contracts with the intercostals (the muscles between each of your ribs). The diaphragm.connects with many muscles and structures in the body including ribs 7-12, psoas, QL (quadratus lumborum), L1-L3 of the lumbar vertebrae as well as the internal, external and transverse obliques making it an important core stabilizer.
Proper breathing technique should start in the abdomen to expand the diaphragm working up to expand and fill the lungs, unfortunately as adults we tend to exhibit a more shallow breathing pattern.
This is often due to an increase in the amount of sitting which compacts the diaphragm and ribs or filling the lungs first to avoid expanding the abdominal region.
This is problematic because a tight rib cage makes deep breathing more difficult and sometimes painful. Shallow breathing also takes more breaths to get the same amount of oxygen into the blood.
A greater increase in blood flow means more oxygen rich red blood cells circulating through your heart and lungs, which does help increase performance since stronger cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory function helps you run longer and faster, but as this increased circulation pumps through the body, your diaphragm works harder as your lungs rise and fall with quicker breaths.
When you don’t use your diaphragm properly in breathing, it also causes the short intercostal muscles to work harder or spasm.
The diaphragm then becomes somewhat lazy. This can result in poor abdominal and core control, soreness around the front and back of the rib cage and loss of performance.
Luckily, there are some pretty easy ways to fix this.
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing: Proper technique takes training and practice, just like running a race. Practicing 10-15 minutes a day on proper breathing technique will help you become more effective until it becomes second nature. Check out the video below on how to perform diaphragmatic breathing correctly.
Massage therapy: If practicing diaphragmatic breathing feels difficult or restrictive, you may need to take it one step further. Working with a massage therapist to release restrictions in the soft tissue of the intercostals and the attachments of the diaphragm, can help increase the effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing.
Try some of these techniques before your next run and see if you notice a difference. Want to work with one of our therapists? You can book an appointment online here or call the office at (603) 370-9193.