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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

By a Nose

Take a look at this picture of Sanya Richards-Ross racing at the 2012 London Olympics:

Source: Elle

Notice how her mouth is … shut?

That's because Richards-Ross trained herself to nasal breathe, a potentially performance-enhancing technique described in James Nestor's book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.

Now, before we go any further, let's get a couple things out of the way. Yes, this is another "What I'm Reading" post, but I've come to realize that most people don't really want to read my book reports (It's okay. I don't think my second grade teacher did either), so I'm trying to give them a different look.

Next, I have no educational credentials that give me any platform to talk about the science of nasal breathing.

So I won't.

Instead, click here for a good blog that argues in favor of nasal breathing for runners by describing the benefits.

And, click here for a Runner's World piece that disputes its advantages.

Now that we've covered our bases, let's talk about my n=1 experience with nasal breathing.

I've been taping my mouth while I sleep for the past couple months. The first few nights were weird. I woke up one night with the tape stuck to my hand. On a more frightening evening, I awoke with it in my mouth (tip: use 3M medical tape. That will be big and strong enough to do the job).

But by a week in, I was sleeping through the night, and sleeping quite well at that. In the past few years, I've trended towards being a lighter sleeper (probably too much time on the phone late at night, among other things), and I can honestly say I've seen 2 AM on the clock far less than I was last fall.

Additionally, for as long as I can remember, I've had that raspy, does-he-smoke-two-packs-a-day voice when I first get up in the morning. Since taping my mouth, that has gone away.

I've also dabbled with nasal breathing on the run. I'll be honest. When I first started out, it felt claustrophobic. My upper lip was quickly coated with a layer of snot. I made it about a mile before ripping off the tape.

But as was the case with sleeping, I started to adjust. A couple weeks in, I was running 6:30 pace comfortably, taking far fewer, and slower, breaths through the nose. Some days have been better than others, but on the days when it seems to come naturally, there is a euphoric feeling to breathing so casually at a faster clip.

So, you might be asking, should I try nasal breathing?

I won't tell you what to do.

But if I was, reading James Nestor's book would be a good place to start.

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