The first time I ever hit the track for a run, it felt like someone had lit my lungs up with a match and there was a burning fire blazing in my thoracic cavity, which had also incinerated my esophagus. Every few steps, I felt like I needed to slow down — my body was fine, but my lungs felt like they were literally on fire.
Related: How to Breathe When Running
Growing up with exercise-induced asthma, I never thought it'd be possible for me to run (and I didn't push the issue; it really didn't seem fun!). I skipped out on many a mile in high school PE, never pursued sports, and never dreamed of running a race; but here I am today, as a fitness writer, training for my fourth and fifth half marathons this Summer.
The secret? Strengthening your lungs. While there are several different exercises you can do to build strength in your diaphragm, one that stands out in particular is the Pilates 100s. This move targets your ab muscles, in part by paying a lot of attention to breathing. With practice, the end result will be a stronger diaphragm and greater lung capacity, meaning a more comfortable run!
Here's a breakdown of this core-tightening, diaphragm-strengthening, breath-controlling move. For more tips, refer back to our in-depth tutorial on the 100s move.
- Start lying on your back with your legs in Table Top position (hips and knees at right angles). Engage your deep abs to round your lower spine into the floor. Make sure you are not "pooching" your abs, which means you are just working the top layer of abs.
- Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor, until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades are just off the floor. Reach your arms toward your feet. Your arms will be about two inches off the floor.
- Pump your arms up and down with a small range of motion, keeping your elbows straight. Inhale for five arm pumps and exhale for five pumps. That completes one set or cycle. Repeat the cycle nine more times for a total of 100 pumps.