Sometimes I forget to breathe...
November 13, 2009 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to forget you are breathing while exercising?

I want to start off by saying that I'm not in bad shape. I can't run mini-marathons like I used to, but going for a small jog isn't what I would call difficult either. I would attribute my problem to poor fitness, but it just doesn't make sense.

Recently I decided I wanted to get back into running. Soon after I started I plateaued well below the distance I was hoping to reach. I changed up my exercises a bit hoping some different types of cardio would help, but I still couldn't get past that point. Analyzing my problem I realized that breathing was my major downfall. I would start off with a nice breathing pattern and then about a half a mile in either drop the breathing pattern in favor of a quicker pant (mind you, I'm not really "tired" yet) or just stop breathing all together. It's not asthmatic or anything like that. The best description I can give is I just... forget. I do this with weight lifting as well, although there I find it more normal because of the shorter spurts involved. Reading/asking around I've found some people who claim this is normal and some people who think I'm nuts. Is this normal? And, related, is breathing a full time job when running? I don't remember it being a problem before...
posted by semp to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Do you listen to music or the like while exercising? Have you tried exercising without it and instead consciously focusing on your breathing? I know that I sometimes fall into breathing in rhythm with the music, which can be problematic if the rhythm is too slow or too fast.
posted by jedicus at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: I don't know about normal, but I totally do this too, forget to breath or not do it as much while jogging or working out. I had to mentally remind myself to breathe and develop a rhythm to do so (right foot down, breathe in, left foot down, breathe out) and after a while it became more natural, though occasionally I still forget.

A friend date a girl in college who was a swimmer and use to pass out sometimes because she forgot to breathe.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on November 13, 2009

My high school weight room (which also included stuff like treadmills and stationary bikes) had a list of safety advice up on the bulletin board, including one item reminding people to breathe while exercising. So I don't think this is super-unusual.
posted by phoenixy at 1:17 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was wrestling or weightlifting I did this all the time. You basically have to train yourself to breathe when you're concentrating really fucking hard, almost to the exclusion of concentrating on the exercise itself. Like, breathing first, other thing second. It took me a few weeks for proper breathing to become second-nature without literally thinking "breathe, you idiot; you're going to pass out." Good luck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:41 PM on November 13, 2009

Seconding Optimus Chyme. I wouldn't rule out asthma entirely, though. I had a similar problem and was diagnosed with mild asthma. My inhaler really does help, in a more subtle way than I would've imagined before I used it.
posted by hamsterdam at 2:28 PM on November 13, 2009

My karate instructors regularly have to yell "Breathe!" at new students. They're thinking so hard about what their hands are doing that they start to turn purple.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:17 PM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: I did this when I was fencing. in retrospect, I think that it was me engaging my core muscles. doing it made me a little bit faster, a little bit stronger. until I ran out of oxygen, of course.

and to anticipate your follow-up question: I'd recommend looking into yoga. breathing properly, and learning to breathe properly, is absolutely key to figuring out how yoga teaches you to use your body. I'd need to know more about you to make that a more detailed recommendation than that. I did Scaravelli yoga, once upon a time, and I really enjoyed it. there's a lot of breathing involved, and it encourages an intuitive awareness of your body that's really useful for figuring things like this out.
posted by spindle at 6:12 PM on November 13, 2009

Try this: run with earplugs halfway in (not all the way, as you'd miss honking cars and whatnot). You'll *hear* your breathing, and concentrate on it. Try to time your breathing with your footfalls - in, in, out, out or out, out, in, out, out, in.

Or try singing harmony with your ipod. Three beats of singing and you'll be gasping.
posted by notsnot at 6:43 PM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: I had this exact problem for all my life up until a few months ago. I would either forget to breathe while running, or breathe too quickly (trying to match my footfalls or the song in my head, etc.) Almost invariably I would get a stitch in my side or just out of breath from my fast breathing and would have to stop running. It basically made running an unpleasant experience for me for my whole life.

Then, a couple months ago, I started running again for fitness sake, and figured out that I had to consciously think about my breathing pattern and keep it at a good, relaxed rate. I'd say it took a good month of really focusing on my breathing while running before getting to a point where i don't have to always need to think about it, but I am always on guard, as I will often slip back into bad habits when I'm not careful.
posted by i less than three nsima at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2009

while running I match my breathing to whatever I hear. This means that I can have some pretty spastic breathing if I'm not listening to music. Listening to music that was 120-140 bpm was my solution, but I've been running for quite a few years and even without headphones it's second nature now.
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 7:53 PM on November 13, 2009

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