Movement Efficiency

Barefoot Running combined with Nose Breathing

This week in the Financial Review (28/10/10) there was an article discussing the research that had been done on Men and Women who had run the London Marathon with an emphasis on those who had experienced heart problems.

The people who had experienced heart problems in the data from race records were all men.  The researcher pointed out that due to increased testosterone levels in the blueprint of men, compared to women, meant that the increased ability to build lean body mass and work harder, had the consequence of often exceeding the ability of their heart to adapt.  Combine this with determination and will-power over-riding an ability to listen to the subtle messages arising in the body and you have the causes and conditions of chronic problems.

What this triggered for me was the question; How do we know when were working hard enough? and; Is this measure reliable?

I read this article having just conducted a barefoot running combined with nose breathing class.  In the class, Mitch, Ben and I were working on movement awareness and postural stability combined with all breathing happening through the nose in moving and recovering.

The Bohr effect states that the lower the partial pressure of CO2, the tighter the bond between haemoglobin and O2.  Therefore it is the amount of residual CO2 present in the lungs and arterial blood that determines the efficiency with which O2 is released to the cell for production of energy.

Once over-breathing, (which occurs through habitual mouth-breathing) is understood to be problematic for retaining high enough residual CO2 (6.5% in the lungs and 40mm partial pressure of mercury in arterial blood) to ensure that O2 gets to the working tissue, the importance of nose breathing becomes apparent.  In stating this fact, I am not saying that one can immediately perform the same amount of work with nose breathing, but my recommendation is to begin to modulate your work-loads when you can longer recover your oxygen debt through nose breathing.  The reason for this is that we need to send a constant message to the respiratory centre in the medulla, to accept higher and higher levels of CO2.

The other area we work on in the classes is postural stability.  The way we did this was to direct our attention at keeping the diaphragm horizontal in relation to vertical.  The effect of this is that the head/neck/shoulders and pelvis align in relation to each other to create neural, biomechanical, and metabolic efficiency.

Postural stability is also challenged by moving in different ways while noticing the effect of this internally.  We combine internal observation with getting feedback from a partner, which all helps to generate dialogue.  This open space with multiple inputs creates a dynamic learning environment, where you are encouraged to experiment with the changes you need to make because of a shift in the perception of moving.  The power of proximal awareness cannot be understated in its ability to influence what is happening through the limbs and the dominant feature of proximal awareness is deep system stabilisation with breath awareness.

I also need to mention the role that bare foot running plays in changing our perception of what is happening as we move.  In the homunculus of the brain, the feet are third in significance after the face and hands in terms of afferent feedback from skin receptors.  The feet are also an essential part of the intrinsic stabilising system along with the transverse abdominals, multifidus, pelvic floor, diaphragm and deep neck flexors.  These deep informational areas makes up our deep stabilising system, whose job it is to provide stability regardless of changes in the task.  If there is a disturbance or latency in the deep system, then the consequence is a compensatory pattern which is non-preferred.

In bare foot running the fore foot is the first area to hit the ground, followed by the heel.  This creates a rotational pattern which disperses the landing forces registered at the level of bone and fascia.  This is achieved by reducing braking forces, without disturbing the direction of locomotion.  Next time you are walking up or down stairs, notice the pattern in which the foot lands to create the platform for decelerating movement, as in downstairs travel, or for the body to travel over the length of the foot as in upstairs travel.  This way of placing the foot down is the efficiency principle which is operating in barefoot running.

I am not suggesting that one should not run in good stable foot-wear, my message is that the cushioning in shoes has created a tendency to land too much toward the back of the heel.  This has the effect of creating big braking forces which must be registered through the iliotibial band and low back.  Bare foot running has us considering the role of the pelvis in absorbing landing forces, in relation to stride length and foot strike.

So to sum up, nose breathing can be a great way to ensure that you are adapting your cardio-vascular capabilities, while also working on the stabilising efficiency in the way you are moving.

Please check the calendar on the web-site for classes and the services section for the range of services I have on offer.  For 5 day Breathing Re-training courses using bio-feedback based on the Bohr effect, please contact Mark.

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