You look awesome without a shirt on, don’t you? That six pack is your pride and joy. But those high volume crunch routines you are doing are probably having an adverse affect on your running performance.
Why? Those nice tight abs are restricting the movement of your diaphragm, an organ used specifically for breathing. When you breathe your stomach is supposed to move in and out, tight abs make that movement difficult.
The lungs sit on top of the diaphragm, when we inhale, and if our diaphragm is in good health, it normally contracts, and the dome of the diaphragm flattens downward against the viscera, which allows the lungs to expand to receive fresh air. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes upward against the lungs, helping to expel used air. In other words, when we are breathing the dome of the diaphragm first contracts downward during inhalation to allow the lungs to expand more fully, and then relaxes upward pushing on the bottom of the lungs and, along with the secondary breathing muscles, helps the lungs empty.
If you have a tight abs, ones that don’t easily and freely expand outward as you inhale, the diaphragm has a more difficult time moving downward because it is being resisted by the contracted abdominal muscles. When you relax your belly and allow it to expand as you inhale, the diaphragm can more easily contract downward. Then, when exhalation takes place, the diaphragm begins its upward movement of relaxation and elasticity aided by the natural movement of the belly as it returns toward the spine. All of this is called natural diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing. If your diaphragm is weak, however, or if your abdominal muscles are contracted or held very tightly, you will have less diaphragmatic contraction and movement downward during inhalation and thus less diaphragmatic elasticity and movement upward during exhalation.
? As an experiment to see how your belly influences your breathing, suck in your belly now and try to inhale deeply (be careful not to do it too strenuously as you can hurt yourself). Then relax your belly, put both hands on it, and allow it to expand as you inhale. Notice any differences. The fact is, with your belly held very tightly there will be much less downward movement of your diaphragm on inhalation since there is so much resistance from the abdominal muscles and viscera to this movement. And, if there is little downward movement on inhalation, there will be little upward movement on exhalation. So you will feel a lot of tension and effort in your breathing, which will often become less efficient, shallower, and faster, driven mainly by the secondary breathing muscles of the chest. ?
You love that 6 pack, and your running? Address the diaphragmatic muscles with a few breathing exercises 3 times a week, and you will create a nice balance.
? This was culled from an article by Dennis Lewis.