As the saying goes, “as natural as breathing” doesn’t always apply if you’re a runner with pectus excavatum.
Anyone who is a fan of running but suffers from hereditary pectus excavatum knows that it can be hard to inhale enough oxygen to comply with the need their body is requesting. You’re probably huffing and puffing as you run the miles away.
This kind of breathing trouble is typically related to somebody who is out of shape. However, if the runner is in form, but still has breathing difficulty symptoms, it is probably medically related.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur, expert, or even a competitive runner. The trouble with breathing can occur in any case, regardless of skill, age, or weight.
For amateur runners, inhaling and exhaling while running can feel like rocket science. Even if you consider yourself as an expert runner, there is a lot to be improved when it comes to controlling your oxygen with your sunken chest.
Don’t think that you’re the only one having breathing troubles while running. Even though pectus excavatum causes shortness of breath, I’ll share a couple of tips you can use to improve your oxygen intake while running.
Don't feel discouraged to start running because of your pectus excavatum.
The most crucial factor to consider while running with the indented chest deformity is to ensure that the respiratory system operates appropriately.
Every time your body goes through a tough physical activity, your muscles need a considerable amount of oxygen to perform correctly. Because of this, your breathing system needs to work overtime.
While you are running, the air is inhaled into your body through your mouth or nose. Then, it flows directly to your lungs. When it enters your lungs, it immediately gets swapped with carbon dioxide.
After that, the oxygen is transferred across your body to vital organs and muscles. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide is exhaled out of your body through your nose or mouth.
Breathing mechanics are vital when it comes to running with a sunken chest.
The problem with running with pectus excavatum is that your lung capacity is abnormally decreased because of the deformity. Depending on the severity of the condition, your VO2 max capacity will be usually lower than ordinary people.
Your muscles are strong enough to endure the running. Because they are working hard to keep the tempo, they require a lot of oxygen.
Your lungs won’t be able to transfer an adequate amount of oxygen to the muscles and organs to satisfy their needs while you’re jogging.
That is why runners with the hollow chest condition experience trouble with breathing.
Your VO2 max capacity will probably be lower than "normal" people.
A lot of people think that you should inhale only through your nose and exhale only out your mouth.
However, that can minimize oxygen intake. While you’re running, I recommend you breathe through both airways every time. This will help you maximize oxygen intake. You won’t feel as dizzy anymore.
To be a successful runner with pectus excavatum, you must listen to your breathing patterns. Running with loud music blasting in your headphones prevents you from getting in touch with your inhalation pattern. You won’t be able to hear how loud you’re breathing.
The best way to get aware of it is to hear your body.
If you’re breathing too loudly, that’s a clear sign that you’re out of breath and need to stop.
Breathing is an automatic function of the body. The more you get exhausted while running, the more your breath can go irregular.
If you’re gasping for air, that’s the exact period when you’re involved in shallow breathing. There is a high chance that you may suck air into and out of your cheeks.
Please make sure that you’re doing diaphragmic breathing throughout the jogging session. You should feel your abdomen expanding while breathing, rather than the cheeks.
Also, focus on a slow exhalation.
Pectus excavatum sufferers tend to slouch over during any physical activity. That’s caused by the muscular imbalances in the chest and back. Also, the fear of showing the dent in their chests to the world leads to slumping.
This is known as “pectus posture.”
I’ve seen plenty of people with the sunken chest deformity participate in running. The first flaw that I noticed was their poor posture.
If you are slouching over, it will affect your breathing.
While you run, make sure that your shoulders are back, your head. That will allow for unhindered breathing and even longer strides.
I’d highly suggest you pay attention to what your body is telling you while you run. If your deformity is severe, you might experience sharp pain in your ribs, sternum (breastbone), and shortness of breathing.
This is an appropriate reason to dislike jogging. Evaluate how you feel and make sure you see your doctor.
You’ll probably go through a CT scan to measure how the dent in your chest is affecting your heart and lungs. If there is evident compression on your organs, your doctor will refer you to see a cardiologist.
Before you continue running, make sure your doctor clears you for sports with your deformity.
Patients with inverted chests usually shy away from participating in sports activities in comparison to their peers. This is mostly because of psychological reasons.
A study done by Malek showed the effects of pectus excavatum on distance runners. Eighteen out of 21 concave chest sufferers performed aerobic activity 30 – 120 minutes a day on average, three times a week.
However, even with intense aerobic exercising, their maximal oxygen consumption was considerably lower than sedentary people.
In addition, their Lactic tolerance was very low. The authors of the study state that these irregularities are a result of heart impairment caused by pectus excavatum.
To conclude, being a long-distance runner with pectus excavatum is very tough and demotivating.
No matter how hard you train, your competitors with regular chests will always have a higher VO2 max than you, even with exercising less.
So, if you want to be a better runner, you must fix your pectus excavatum condition.
Numerous studies revealed that runners with pectus excavatum will have lower VO2 max than competitors with normal chests, no matter how hard they train.
Running can help you increase the stamina that you’re probably lacking. Also, it’ll help you with some of the mental symptoms caused by the deformity.
Pectus excavatum can be fixed non-surgically and surgically. The Nuss procedure is the most commonly used surgical option for correction.
I managed to repair my deformity with the non-operative treatment method thanks to exercising, bracing, vacuum bell therapy, stretching, and deep abdominal breathing. Therefore, I advise you to follow the exact approach.
Scientific research indicates that lower habitual physical levels can not explain decreased stamina fitness in kids fenwith pectus excavatum.
Running is a great addition in the non-surgical approach of deformity correction.
While I was suffering from pectus excavatum, I used to play basketball. I hated conditioning drills like running across the gym and doing suicide drills (sprints).
I was always a fast sprinter, but I sucked when it came to long-distance running.
I wanted to improve that badly.
Also, I was aware of the importance of maintaining good cardiovascular health. Because of that, I started track running, and I have a couple of tips that might help you.
The best advice that I can give you is to reduce speed. When I was starting, I paid zero attention to my running form. The mechanics of sprinting and running are different.
I began running too quickly paid zero attention to my running form. I felt terrible all the time at the track. Ever since I decelerated everything, I started practicing a more effective running form. I still practice on my form to this day.
After doing that, jogging is a lot easier on my lungs and my joints. On top of that, my speed increased quite a lot.
Be aware that your breathing will suffer because of your deformity. However, don’t let that demotivate you to quit running.
Synchronize your breathing to your tempo. Begin by inhaling in and exhaling out of your mouth instead of your nose. That way, the oxygen will get to your lungs quicker.
When starting, if your deformity is severe, you may experience heart palpitations and breathing tightness. If it is too bad, please stop and consult with your doctor whether running is right for you or not.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with an 18-year-old girl that suffered from a moderate to severe pectus excavatum. Nevertheless, she managed to get three varsity letters in running.
She said that her breathing or heart functioning didn’t affect her in any visible manner in her four years of running. She decided to see a specialist at the University of Michigan, to be on the safe side.
The specialist said that because she could run long distances without any issues, it meant that her physique modified to her effort.
So, my advice to you is to start running.
If you struggle with running technique and breathing struggling while doing so, but still want to retain cardiovascular health, then I recommend you try cycling for a while.
You can do cycling both indoor and outdoor. In the summertime, I am a huge fan of biking long distances. I want to escape from the city and go to places I haven’t been to before. I love what nature has to offer.
This summer, I decided to combine both jogging and cycling. I carried my running gear in my backpack and cycled to the nearest trail.
I figured out that I loved trail running more than road running. It was easier on my joints and better on my lungs because the air in nature, in most cases, is unpolluted. However, the closest trail was 10 km away from my city.
I concluded that the best way to get there was to warm-up with cycling and then continue the run on the trail.
That’s what I’ve done, and I saw tremendous improvement in my lung capacity and endurance.
Cycling can be a fun and effective alternative to running.
There are tons of benefits of interval training for athletes with pectus excavatum. Every single runner can benefit from this method.
Truth to be told, it is one of the most popular training methods out there. It is perfect for a broad spectrum of runners, starting from beginners up to professionals.
It is not a new training method. It has been around for decades. It was first used in running programs at the start of the 20th century.
Interval training was popularized by the Czechoslovakian runner Emil Zatopek, who won 3 gold medals at the 1952 Olympics. He followed this type of exercise for his 5k, 10k, and his marathon preparation program.
Numerous studies were done to compare interval training with uninterrupted running.
The studies concluded that much better workout benefits could be accomplished with interval running, with the same training duration.
Interval running enhances your aerobic and anaerobic stamina increases your VO2 max capacity and makes your running form better overall.
What I love the most about this type of training is that it makes you take a short break when you get exhausted and out of breath. After the short rest period in between intervals, your body will feel rested and ready for another running period.
This is crucial if you’re suffering from pectus excavatum. After just a few weeks of training, all these amazing benefits will be felt.
On top of that, the exercise effect on the muscles is more significant if you do interval running.
The muscles will also need a lot of energy to rebuild during the recovery phase. This is perfect if you’re also trying to drop weight.
Interval training is optimal for people who suffer from pectus excavatum. This type of training can help you start loving running.
If you’re new to interval running, the best way to start is to follow a run-to-rest ratio of 1:2.
That means 2 minutes of running, followed by a 1-minute rest.
Aim to finish at least ten intervals, for a total of a 30-minute workout.
After doing that, try to increase your running speed while reducing rest. You’ll be able to catch your breath during the one-minute rest.
The best thing about this is that you’ll feel more confident while running with pectus excavatum. You won’t feel like it is a grudge anymore. I started enjoying running after implementing this training method in my routine.
Below is a beginner friendly example you should feel free to follow.
Interval running is the most effective type of cardiovascular exercise. It is proven to bring benefits faster than typical cardio workouts that are too taxing on your body if you have the caved-in chest condition.
Recent studies showed that 27 minutes of High-Intensity-Interval-Training, performed three times a week, produces the same aerobic and anaerobic effects as 60 minutes of cardio, performed five times a week.
Interval running can get you in shape more quickly. A study done in 2011 showed that two weeks of high-intensity interval running could increase your aerobic capacity as much as eight weeks of long-distance endurance jogging.
This training method will save you valuable time that you can use for other activities.
Combining bodybuilding and high-intensity interval running is a perfect blend when it comes to dealing with the negative consequences of pectus excavatum.
Bodybuilding is fantastic for building muscle mass and muscle toning. Most pectus excavatum sufferers are ectomorphs (characterized by a thin frame and trouble gaining weight). They need to eat in a caloric surplus and increase their time in the weight room to see noticeable improvements in their physique.
That’s a fantastic way to make the dent in the center of your chest much less noticeable.
If you want to stay on top of your physical game, you should also integrate cardiovascular activity like running. That will help you increase your VO2 max capacity and improve your overall endurance.
You’ll notice the lower occurrence of shortness of breath, which is always a great plus.
Improving your physique through weightlifting and high-intensity running will also have a remarkable impact on your psychological health. You’ll start walking more upright, with the chest up, full of confidence.
After you check yourself naked in the mirror, you’ll instantly get a quick confidence boost.
If you continue this over a year, your life will change for the better.
This is the exact path that I’ve chosen. I installed the unshakeable discipline in myself. I now have the confidence to take over any challenge and get the best out of it.
Some may be questioning whether running with the combination of weightlifting wastes a lot of time.
To be honest, it does. However, I wouldn’t think of a better way to spend your time, especially if you want to correct your pectus excavatum deformity without surgery.
Combine bodybuilding and running if you want to notice amazing improvements in your physique and stamina.
Don’t use pectus excavatum as an excuse to not participate in running. Even though science proved that your lung and the VO2 max capacity is reduced, it is still a great way to improve your overall health.
To improve your physical appearance, I highly recommend you combine running and bodybuilding. You’ll be able to build muscle while improving your cardiovascular health and shedding excess fat.
If you’re feeling severe trouble with breathing while running long distances, I highly recommend you use the interval training method. On top of that, use the four best running tips for pectus excavatum.
I promise that you’ll be able to run longer distances while controlling your breathing.
Finally, I recommend you purchase the right running gear. Investing in a pair of running shoes will do wonders for your running. Stop doing every single physical activity in your basketball shoes.
There are reasons why sportswear companies create sneakers for every sport.
If you wear jogging shoes, your running stride will immediately feel more natural. Also, your ankle and knee joints won’t take the most significant toll while running on concrete.
Don’t miss running. Ever since I started it regularly, I feel much happier and have a more positive outlook on life. If you run with the inverted chest wall deformity, it will help you psychologically as much as physically.
It is also a simple activity that is highly recommended for everyone, including males, females, adults, children, and even people in age.
I recommend you do the same and give running a chance for at least a month. You’ll thank me later!