Of course, you'll have to make an effort. And the older you are, and the longer
you've neglected your heart and circulatory system, the more you'll have to
push yourself to get the sand out of your gears. But soon your patience will be
handsomely rewarded. Not only will your pulse tell you how happy your heart is, you'll
also be hear what nature has been trying to tell you all along. Now that you're an athlete,
you'll be paying more and more attention to the processes in your body. A lot of questions
related to sports medicine, biology, and nutrition will crop up. I've answered the most
important of them in this book.
The next chapter tells you how running can simplify your breathing.
We now encounter two technical terms whose explanations will shed light on
why beginning runners pant for dear life even at slow speeds while experienced
runners can whistle a tune even though they're moving along at a much higher
pace. When you inhale and exhale slowly, you move about a pint of air. This is your
breathing volume while at rest. An adult breathes twelve to sixteen times each minute.
This is the corresponding breathing frequency. These two terms tell us that we need some
six to eight quarts of air each minute when we breathe normally. What do these figures look
like when you've made the sort of progress that allows you to run relatively fast? Your muscles
need a lot more oxygen.
Care to make a guess? Do you need two times the amount of air? Five times? Ten
times? I'll let the cat out of the bag. Instead of six to eight quarts you'll need 150 quarts of air,
or more. You have to increase your breathing by a factor of twenty-five, raising your air intake
from half a pint to three to five quarts, or even to six quarts in the case of marathon runners.
Make no mistake about it, even if you don't need a twenty-five-fold increase as a
beginner, you still need to send a lot more oxygen to your muscles. The experienced
runner regulates this "more" by increasing the volume of air in each breath. In other words,
he does it by raising the quantity of air, not by panting and gasping for more. He already knows
how to breathe economically: he breathes more deeply, and more oxygen molecules enter his
bloodstream by diffusion. Beginners, on the other hand, can at first only regulate this "more" by
changing the breathing frequency. Their breathing becomes heavier. This is biologically pre-
programmed, not a hereditary trait that only afflicts you and spares other people. Everyone has
to put up with it.
At the moment, then, the larger amounts of oxygen you require are produced by
faster breathing and the faster thumping of your heart. If you then decide you want to
run fast - well, I needn't tell you the end of that story. Every novice feels pangs of despair when
he orshe is passed for the umpteenth time by two light-footed runners shooting the breeze while
they themselves have trouble putting one foot in front of the next. Here, again, lurks the danger
of concluding prematurely that you can never make the grade. You can and will! Why?
The reason is, once again, simple, provided that you're familiar with the concept of
adaptation. Chemical changes transmitted by your nerve cells soon make it clear to the breathing
center that it is, in the long run, inefficient to breathe more heavily with each increase in physical
load. Gradually you'll switch from short heavy breathes to smooth deep ones. So don't be dismayed,
before long you, too, will be one of those people who jog through the woods chatting up a storm.
But something else will change in you, too. Something that also has to do with breathing - with
internal breathing. And to explain this we'll have to turn to the point where the oxygen molecules
infiltrate thebloodstream. This is where external breathing ends and internal breathing begins.