You would think everyone would know how to breathe properly, but no it seems not. After Ironman NZ I went to see the Doctor about my toe which is a compressed or trapped nerve, it will slowly calm down without running and cycling over the next couple of weeks, so as I am not training for the next 2 weeks hopefully that will be solved by itself. So at the end of my consultation I asked if I could please ask one more question. I have always gotten stitch the last 12km or so of the marathon. It's not like a normal stitch in my ribs but a stitch lower down in my stomach muscles and so I have never thought it was stitch but stomach cramps which had something to do with hydration or nutrition. It hurts quite a bit and slows me down a lot, and often it is still painful the day after the race. So far it has only ever lost me a place once, Hawaii 2008 I moved from 7th to 8th because of this, and it is likely to happen again if I do nothing about it. The Doctor said yes it is stitch and said, I was watching you at the race. You breathe very superficially in time to your quick running step and this is probably the problem and referred me to a physio who specialises in breathing techniques.
So I went in to see the physio and I found out some really interesting info. As I am pretty sure I am not the only person out there that breathes incorrectly and who suffers from stitch, I thought I would share some of it with you. I breathe with the upper part of my body instead of the diaphragm. This type of breathing apparently wastes 30% of your energy when running compared to 5% for diaphragm breathing. (So can I really save 25% of my energy by learning to breathe properly??). Of course if you are running up a hill or running fast then you need to use the upper chest to breathe, but when running a marathon you should not be breathing with your mouth and chest. I also breathe too fast and don't breathe out far enough (at rest not sure about when exercising). This leads to not having enough carbon dioxide which leads to the body and muscles not recovering properly after exercising.
Then when I think about the days leading to competition and the fact I can't really sleep in the 2 days leading up to a race, breathing is the answer to that too. I have always felt really hyped up before a race and this is the bodies natural reaction to a big stress, eg when you are about to be hit by a car your adrenalin kicks in and you feel ready to take action. So before a race I feel a little like this but of course not to the same extent. But my breathing is faster, my heart rate, racing thoughts etc. So I have always battled with this, Brett always telling me to take deep breaths etc. But the problem with the deep breaths is A: I'm not breathing out far enough and B: Breathing from the chest and mouth is only going to make a person more pumped. If you can calm your breathing down then all the other stuff will calm down too, and then maybe sleep will be possible for me!!
So, so far I have only concentrated on changing my breathing at rest. I have to do some breathing exercises which will become automatic after 6 weeks or so. Also another big change I have to make is to my posture. After hours and hours each week of being in the aero position on the bike my shoulders are pushed forward. This apparently is the reason I am finding it difficult to breathe with my diaphragm. By pushing my shoulders back I can open up the whole breathing area. So I have lots of stretches to do for that too.
Then I can start to look at my breathing when running etc. The stitch issue it looks like will be solved by breathing with my diaphragm and changing my breathing pattern so that it is not always in time with the same leg.