New Tools

I’m very much a non-gadget kind of barefoot runner. I don’t even wear a watch on most of my runs. So when I talk about tools for running, I usually mean something connected with nutrition or bodywork. I’ve recently started using three new tools – two are about nutrition, and one is about bodywork.

The Sports Breather is a nifty little device that helps develop diaphragmatic breathing. Put very simply, daily use of the Sports Breather is resistance training for the diaphragm. Like any resistance training regime, you build the frequency and number of repeats (breaths) and also the resistance the relevant muscle group (in this case, the diaphragm) encounters to make the muscle group stronger.

The reason I chose the Sports Breather instead of other products like it was partly because it’s been around since 1993, and has a lot of research material and user experience to back up its claims. (Some of this material can be seen at the site of the Sports Breather’s creators.)

I’ve been using my Sports Breather for a little over a week now. I started with one 5 minute session each morning and one 5 minute session in the late afternoon. I’ve just increased the inhalation resistance by one setting, and have also built up each training session to about 7 minutes. In the coming weeks, I’ll increase the inhalation setting some more, and build to 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each afternoon.

It’s early days yet, but I can already feel a difference. I now tend to do belly breathing (which is ideal for running both short and long distances) more deeply and more naturally. I stand up a little straighter because of that. And I find that, if I’m stressed, I can relax more quickly and more easily, because I’m always breathing better. I’m interested in seeing if four weeks of Sports Breather training will make a difference on the Tannenbaum 10K on December 12.

The first of my new nutrition tools is Udo’s Oil. I’ve seen this vegan-friendly omega 3-6-9 blend in various places for some time, but was encouraged to try it when I found out that elite ultra-marathoner Scott Jurekhas started endorsing it. Jurek is a legend – he won the Western States Endurance 100 Mile race seven times in a row, and the 135 mile Badwater ultra twice. He’s a practicing vegan, and seems to be a very pleasant person as well.

I’m certainly not – nor ever will be – Scott Jurek. But, as a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, I need to make sure my essential fatty acid levels are optimal if I want to run any distances and keep this old body moving as it should. So it’s two tablespoons of Udo’s Oil for me every day. The idea is that I’ll see an increase in “power, strength, endurance and energy along with improvements in recovery, joint function and body composition.” (I think I can deal with that…)

The third tool I’ve started using is stevia. It’s a natural, non-sugar, non-glucose, non-fructose sweetener.

I’ve been moving away from sugar for a while, but have been using organic brown sugar in my espressos. Switching from that to stevia may not seem like a big step, except that among stevia’s qualities is its ability to regulate one’s blood sugar levels. That means, for one thing, fewer – if any – energy surges and troughs (always a big plus for a runner), but I’ve found that I don’t have a longing for sweet things any more. So I get to enjoy my espresso habit without feeling any deep sugar rushes or yearnings.

There are lots of stevia products on the market. The one I’m using is from a company called Pure-Li Natural. It comes as a powder rather than in capsules, which makes sense to me.

As regular readers of this blog know, I like to think of myself and my running as “an experiment of one.” These three tools are part of the experiment I’m doing now. If they work – in whole or in part – I will enjoy the following:

  • increased breathing performance, endurance and stamina (Sports Breather)
  • improvements in performance, recovery, joint function and body composition (Udo’s Oil)
  • healthy blood glucose levels and steady energy processes (stevia)
  • That quite a list, isn’t it? Well, this is an experiment, after all. Let’s see what happens…

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