The benefits were not immediately apparent. On the contrary, I actually found myself slowing down in my runs – especially on hills and inclines. But my patience (this time) eventually paid off and after about two weeks I noticed I was able to run longer with less effort and – best of all - with far less joint pain or muscle fatigue at longer distances. I really cannot explain the fact that in the past month I’ve managed to run a 45 mile week, a 50 mile week and a 60 mile week, the last of which included a 2 hour 5 minute run! This mileage is almost double what I’ve been able to run the past 3 years due to injury. Training wise I’ve done nothing differently in the past month except nostril breathe during my runs (and my bike rides and spinning workouts) about 85% of the time. Furthermore, I’m running the same routes 3-4 minutes faster than I was a few weeks ago without making a conscious effort to do so.
Warming up takes a little longer in the unusually cold weather we’ve been having lately – the first mile or so I tend to run slower and my nose runs a bit as it warms up, but the pace gradually increases to where I’m running faster and longer. Another unexpected side effect of nostril breathing is that my mouth doesn’t get as stiff when I’m running in cold weather. I guess keeping it closed keeps it warmer.
Switching to nose breathing throughout the day has allowed me to maintain a state of relaxed alertness even in stressful situations as long as I remember to switch to breathing through my nose. I find my energy levels much more even throughout the day, my muscles less sore, my sleep more sound. It’s also made me more in-tune with my body – perhaps I’m listening to my body more now that I’m not talking as much.
I finally succumbed to a head cold this week after everyone around me had been sick. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to maintain my training while reducing the duration and intensity of my workouts. Nostril breathing with a stuffed up nose is more challenging, but I’ve found that it also helps clear out the sinuses.
As I look back 18 years ago: between 1995 and 1996 I ran 5 marathons trying to qualify to the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials. Each race was slower than the last and each race took more out of me. Perhaps if I’d had more patience in applying Douillard’s advice back then I would’ve run faster races with less effort. I did eventually qualify in for the Trials 2000, but it might have happened sooner if I’d kept my mouth shut!
Anyway, if you want to see if nose breathing can help you achieve peak performance – or you want to feel better when you’re exercising, or you’re just curious, – I encourage you to give it a try. But be patient…..the benefits are worth the wait.