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How To Improve Lung Capacity For Running.

By Alicia Sanders
Posted on 04 Apr, 2017

How to Improve Lung Capacity for Running
Interestingly, whenever people start a new exercise plan, they rarely do so prepared. Understanding that your body may not be ready for a lot of stress all of a sudden is the first step in creating a healthy exercise regime. Lung capacity is one of the most important factors you must consider before starting to do any exercises, especially cardiovascular. Your lungs are often not ready for what you have in mind, and you need to heed some crucial advice before you start a new routine.

We all strive to be in the best possible shape, but it can be increasingly difficult with the fast life pace to find enough time to exercise regularly. This causes us to neglect our fitness routines entirely or exercise irregularly and generally not in a proper way.

Running is one of the most efficient ways to maintain a great shape and strengthen our bodies, but most of the time we take it too lightly. We figure, "It's just running, how hard or complicated can it be?" This attitude is probably the worst attitude you can have when deciding on a running plan, and it is especially bad for your lungs.

In this article we will speak about lung capacity, its crucial importance for your general health and we will give advice on how to build it up gradually in order to have more stamina, more oxygen in your muscles and generally feel stronger than ever.


Lung capacity determines how long you will endure in any exercise
Your lung capacity will determine how long you will be able to perform and exercise, particularly cardio. Considering our unhealthy lifestyles, pollution, or sedentary habits and a lot of other factors, a lot of us probably have a lot smaller lung capacity than we should for our age and gender, which is extremely detrimental for our overall health.

How to notice reduced lung capacity?

If you have ever hurried somewhere or climbed a flight of stairs, followed by heavy sweating, panting and sometimes even awful muscle soreness, then you can bet your lung capacity is not very good. This is fairly simple to understand, but also very hard to accept.

You must remember - everything you have allowed to happen to your body is usually your fault, and your fault only! The health of your lungs is in your hands.

There are naturally a few exceptions where a person has this or that medical issue which has caused their lungs to suffer for it, but most of these cases are also able to build their lung capacity just like the rest.


Lung capacity and running

When you are just starting your running regime, you may be a bit too hasty (no pun intended) to get the results you want and you often disregard good advice. Maybe the summer is approaching and you wish to be in the best possible shape to show off your chiseled physique, or maybe you just want to feel better and healthier. Whatever the reasons, running is a high impact cardio exercise that burns a lot of calories and is very beneficial for you and your general health.

The first step when starting running is, however, building up your lung capacity in order for your lungs to be able to provide enough oxygen to your muscles. You will notice that if you are not in a good shape, you start breathing heavily and gasping for air very soon after you start running.

This is because your lungs cannot satisfy the oxygen needs of your muscle tissue, which makes you wheeze and your muscles burn. Because of this, you tire quickly, and have to stop to catch your breath. You need to realize that proper breathing is a learned skill.

There are, however, simple steps you should follow to build up your lung capacity and start running efficiently and keep at it longer and longer each time. This way you will be able to reach perfect health and shape in a shorter span of time.


Strategies To Increase Lung Capacity

Head for the hills
At a higher altitude the air is thinner and contains less oxygen, which means you lungs will have to work a lot harder.

Now we're not suggesting you have to climb Everest in your quest for a PB, but if you're lucky enough to live in an area blessed with rolling hills then taking your usual running route up a few hundred feet will do you some good.

Your levels of red blood cells and haemoglobin (the protein that sends oxygen round your body) will increase, and can stay at this topped up level even when you come back down to earth. Just be careful not to push yourself too hard, as this can lead to altitude sickness.


Have a wet workout
Exercising in water will add resistance and make your workout feel more difficult. Your body will have to step up to ensure your blood is getting enough oxygen, which will give your lungs a great workout.

Even doing something as simple as your usual weight regime or aerobic workout whilst standing up to your chest in water will have a noticeable effect. Swimming is also a great exercise to take up when suffering from injuries such as shin splints and Achilles pain that prevent you from running.

Research has also found that if you splash cold water on your face whilst holding your breath, it'll trick your brain in to thinking that you're about to be submerged under water, and will accelerate bradycardia; the slowing and regulation of your heart beat, which allows blood to be pumped around you body more effectively.


Respiratory Training Equipment
If you're a serious runner and looking for additional ways to improve lung capacity, you might consider using a respiratory training apparatus. These devices might have gimmicky names and unsightly appearances, but the science behind them is quite sound. Training masks are designed to simulate elevation training by partially blocking airways, adding resistance to your normal breathing. By forcing your diaphragm to work harder, these breathing masks actually improve lung capacity. Some respiratory trainers resemble snorkeling tubes and are both small and portable. They are also designed to create breathing resistance. Unlike the mask, the tube devices can adjust the level of resistance for breathing. These devices might give some endurance runners a competitive edge, but the trick is finding the ideal balance for your training session.


Cardiovascular Activity
The more permanent solution to improving your lung capacity is maintaining a regular schedule of cardiovascular activity. If you're already a runner, then keep up the pace, and your lung capacity will gradually improve over time. If you are looking to start running and don't think you have the wind for it, start slowly and work your way up to a more challenging regimen. Sprinting in short, powerful bursts, also called sprint interval training, is one way to build up your cardiovascular capacity. Sprint interval training minimizes the physical impact on your body while achieving the same results as traditional endurance training. Exercises such as cycling, swimming and skiing are also cardiovascular activities that can improve your lung function over time. The key is to get moving and push yourself so that your heart and lungs get exercise, too.

[Related: Cardio For Very Busy People]


Avoid Smoking
Perhaps the worst thing you can do to decrease your lung capacity is to smoke. In 2013 the HealthGuidance website includes quitting smoking in its list of the top three ways to improve lung capacity. Smoking damages your lungs by leaving deposits of tar and other carcinogens in your breathing passages. Smoking also constricts the airways, making your lungs work harder to absorb oxygen. Even second-hand smoke can take its toll on the body and take seconds off your run time. There are runners and fitness enthusiasts who smoke, but avoiding smoke is one of the most proactive things you can do to improve your own healthy lifestyle.


Do some breathing exercises several days before your first run
In order to be ready for your first run, you have to be sure you will be able to last at least for a few minutes in a proper form. To do this, there are several exercises you can do at home to help expand your lung capacity and be able to take in more air that you usually need.

Note that these exercises are especially beneficial for the lungs of smokers and people who just stopped smoking and that they will be able to achieve better health if they follow these routines.

Breathing exercises typically involve simple steps and are relatively easy to do anyplace, which is a great advantage. You can do them at home in any situation and with no preparation, you can do them at work when you have a short break, you can even do them while walking. You only need your lungs to do them.

A breathing exercise that expands your lung capacity and improves your running performance and overall stamina is done by taking in as much air as possible and holding it for about 20 seconds. If you cannot hold your breath at full lung capacity for 20 seconds, then hold your breath for as long as you can and then increase duration gradually. This will set up your lungs to receive more and more air each time. Repeat 3 or 4 times in one series.

Always find something that motivates you!

[Related: How to Breathe For Every Type Of Exercise]


Some variations of breathing exercises

When doing breathing exercises, it's important also to mind your posture in order to have the maximum effect on your lung capacity.

  1. The first and the easiest method to perform this exercise for lungs is to stand up, place your hands on your hips, and take a deep breath so that you can actually feel your rib cage expand to the maximum. Count to 20, and then exhale as slowly as humanly possible. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
  2. The second method of building lung capacity is a bit more demanding as it requires you to be in an upright position, take a deep breath to expand your lungs and then slowly bend over to touch your toes with fingertips. After that, slowly release the air you are holding on your way back to the upright position. Repeat this exercise 4 or 5 times, but keep in mind that it is more strenuous than the previous one, so you might want to start with the first one in case you never tried breathing exercises before.
  3. The third simple breathing exercise is a bit more fun (at least for me). This one is actually done while walking, and is fairly simple. It implies that you take a deep breath to expand your lungs to the max, and then walk 15 steps before releasing it. If you cannot hold your breath for 15 steps, do less, and if you can do more, by all means. This method will give you better insight in how you are progressing.

[Related: Breathing Tips For Running That Could Change Your Life]


Whatever exercise you prefer, it's good to have a heart rate monitor
Your lungs and your heart benefit from running and exercising in general equally. Your lungs provide the oxygen for your blood and your heart makes sure it gets to your muscles that need it. It's important to maintain your heart rate at a certain level if you know what kind of results you aim for. Monitor your heart rate at all times!

In the long run, increased lung capacity will mean more stamina, better overall fitness and you certainly won't feel tired after doing some menial things you have to do every day. You will have elevated energy levels, feel stronger and generally be able to meet all your fitness and weight loss goals.


Am I ready to run?
After doing breathing exercises continuously for a little while, you should be able to notice that you breathe less heavily when performing certain activities that made you pant before. You should be able to walk fast without flushing too much and losing your breath entirely. You should be able to have a kick start at your running plan.

The important thing for beginner runners is not to start their exercise regimes too recklessly and remember that our bodies are made such that they always gradually accommodate to new "stress".

Try to run in smaller intervals and walk in between sessions of running in order to regain your breath and composure. If you strain yourself in a continuous run your muscles may overflow with lactic acid (which is that infamous muscle burn) and your session for the day will end sooner than it could. If you run and walk in intervals, you will progress faster and enable your lungs to accommodate to your oxygen needs. This will result in better stamina, increased lung capacity and better circulation and more oxygen in your blood and tissues.

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