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As a freshman at Marist, my older son Joe would breathe slowly into the diaphragm and

through the nose. He always looked as if he were taking it easy. Sometimes while Joe
raced, from the sidelines his teammates (and/or other spectators that support Marist)
would tell him to breathe through his mouth and work hard. Had it been a year or so
earlier, I might have been screaming at him myself. However, Joe was in fact working as
hard as he could, but he looked so relaxed.
Within our society, it is quite difficult to understand how one may be giving it his all, yet
appearing calm and peaceful. As time went on, Joe improved, as one would expect of a
college runner despite appearances. What no one realized is that Joe trained himself
over a number of years to make his gains through balance and relaxation rather than
through stress. He is by no means a champion runner, but nevertheless a good runner,
and he is extremely healthy, nor has he ever experienced a medical problem or major
injury due to running.

What is most fascinating about Douillard is his sense of breathing efficiency. He teaches
that if breathing were to be done correctly, we would automatically slow our breathing
as the intensity of our activity picks up. In order words, the faster we run, the slower we
breathe. This is because, the air, during intense activity, needs time to reach the lowest
lobes of the lungs, and a more efficient exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide
also requires more time. When we find ourselves panting, the heart is beating too fast,
and the blood is rushing through our lungs.
It's like a train flying through a station without giving time for passengers to get off or
board. The heart should beat slowly, allowing the blood to move carefully through the
lungs such that the exchange can take place fully and perfectly.

Douillard goes on to teach that anaerobic activity in and of itself is not only inefficient,
but unnecessary for the most part. He understands it to be a learned activity whereby
we have come to associate stress with improved performance. He trains his athletes
simply to unlearn such an association and teach the body how it can do far more when
relaxed than when under turmoil, and here he has a lot of physiological support. He also
has a host of success with his clients as well as numerous testimonies from the world's
greatest athletes who verify Douillard's research with only one difference. They refer to
such stress-less performance as being "in the zone".
For Douillard, being in the zone is not a quirk but rather the norm if we behave in a
truly natural way. The key to being in the zone for Douillard begins with control of one's
breathing. It concludes with the bringing together of the mind and the body, such that
each works to fulfill the desire of the other.

I said earlier that improper breathing is linked to illness and injury. Simply speaking,
when we breathe improperly we damage the immune system. This makes us vulnerable
to illness. Secondly, when we breathe improperly, we thrust enormous and needless

stress upon the body such that the repair mechanisms in the body are either delayed or
shut down, hence muscle, tendon, and ligament or bone injury.
Native American Indians, who would run endlessly, maintained nasal breathing in
conjunction with their culture. Some tribes used a form tape to cover the mouths of
children during sleep in order to enforce the habit of breathing through the nose. Other
tribes taught their young to run long distances while holding a gulp of water in their
mouths. Such a practice would make it so breathing could be done only through the
nose. In addition, as the water remained in the mouth, it would gradually evaporate
thus providing the body with a source of hydration. And not one Native American
attended Harvard Medical School! Such practice undoubtedly contributed to the
longevity of this activity among many tribes throughout the Americas.
Among the Red Hook runners, we sometimes took daily pulses. What I observed was
after a hard workout or race day, a runner who breathed through the mouth would have
a heart rate increase of 10 to 15 beats per minute from one day to the next.
However, when breathing was undertaken through the nose, the rate of increase would
amount to a mere one to four beats higher. I myself was shocked to witness this.
Nevertheless, this is a hidden pearl for those who have ears to hear!
There is a medical term for the problem we are dealing with here. It is called
hyperventilation, or overbreathing. According to Buteyko's research, hyperventilation is
connected with almost every human illness conceivable. Runners commonly
hyperventilate without giving it any thought, but it is like a slow poison that eats away
at us over time.
I do not believe that Josh, breathes through the nose. But on the other hand, I have
rarely seen him run a race without maintaining control of his breathing. In addition, as
he was never subjected to the rigors of an Indoor and Outdoor High School Track
Season, he could avoid the kind of heavy anaerobic training which thrusts one into the
habit of rapid breathing. In other words, Josh's emphasis upon aerobic training allowed
his body to accustom itself to a slower, fuller type of breathing which kept him better in
balance, strengthened his immune system, and allowed his own muscle repair
mechanisms to function more normally.
There is nothing more central to running and life itself for that matter, than the issue
of breathing.
We all need to seriously study human respiration and no longer just take it for granted
that we are all doing the right thing when we take in air.
* Mr. J. Raucci has been training the kids at Red Hook and some from Rhinebeck, New
York, since 1999, in the off-season.

1. He discovered that asthma and its symptoms could be eradicated through proper
breathing. He considered proper breathing to be in and out through the nose,
and taking place at a slow rate.