The Ribcage, Breathing and the Effect on Athletes

10 years ago I had a private pilates classes, the instructor said how can you run marathons when your ribcage on your right doesn’t move. I remember looking at her and thinking ‘of course it moves and an eye roll to myself’

However fast forward 10 years, this memory popped into my conscious (in the middle of the night!!!) and I was thinking ‘what effect did this have on my running, biking or swimming over the years’

I’m not going to give a long anatomy lesson, but suffice to say we breath in through the nose or the mouth, the ribcage should feel like its moving up and out to the sides. Breathing out the the ribcage should move down and in. I like to the of this like an accordion or a balloon.

Now if only one side is functioning correctly this ultimately will affect how much oxygen we are taking in and how much oxygen we can circulate to the muscle that require it (running – legs and glutes) and thus effect our athletic capabilities.

Whilst its true the ribcage is there to protect our most vital organs, each rib should move in relation to others coming together and apart ( accordion) this is the job of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles. If the ribs and muscles are stiff the breathing becomes shallow and the less oxygen we take in. The less oxygen we can breath in the more the rib cage becomes stiff and a vicious cycle occurs

Ever done a run and your feel you’re shoulders are up by your ears. Or your happily running along and your can hear someone practically dying, gasping for breathe. Then you or them are not breathing effectively or efficiently. I have often said to some one whilst running “breathe deeply”

How do we fix this? It’s very easy, practise breathing very deeply, right to the pit of your lungs without raising your shoulders. As you breathe in the ribcage should move up, out and your belly should raise and then the reverse should happen as you breathe out. This article by guys and Thomas hospital gives some exercises – click here

I’m happy to report my right ribcage is no longer stiff and not working. I haven’t got any quicker but i like to think this is because I’m getting older!!!

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