What’s Common Between Running and Speaking English?

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

English Harmony Author
I’m into running for nearly 3 years. Two, sometimes three times a week I’m doing a circuit of around 5 kilometers. And my loyal friend Roger – the mischievous beagle – is always doing the 5K with me. He’d do more; I’m sure, because when we run back home it’s me who’s out of breath – not him!

And the amazing thing about running that I wanted to share with you is exactly about what I just said – being out of breath!

You see, throughout all the years that I’ve been on the run, I was having issues. I was always having pain in my left side. You know, the kind of pain we’ve all had when having too much food and going for some exercise afterwards – be it swimming or running. But I was having the pain all the time – regardless the size of my last meal and how long ago I had it.

As a result, I was also having issues with stamina. Most of the times I could run quite fast and keep at my normal pace despite being in that constant, mild pain. However, on some occasions it would get so bad I could barely drag myself back home. A couple of times I nearly passed out – but I always put it down to a bad day or just said to myself – sure it’ll be OK next time!

Some might say – Robby, you should have gone to a doctor! Well, you see – it’s not that I would feel those symptoms when I was doing other kind of exercising. Lifting weights in the gym, swimming, punching bag – no problem! I wasn’t experiencing any pain in the side at all, so I assumed it’s something I just have to go through. I thought that as I become stronger and also my stamina increases, the issue will eventually disappear. However, it wasn’t the case.

I signed up for a 10K run and did it in 00:44:18 – which isn’t bad at all. However, in the final stages of the run I was fighting with myself just to keep going – let alone pushing a bit harder like others did. The pain was really bad and all I could do was jogging in a steady pace just to enter the finish line!

So something had to be wrong with the way I was running, right? Otherwise why would someone with years of experience in medium distance running have such issues with pain in the side?

A small sidenote here.

The issue I’m talking about in this article isn’t about running and sports only. You can find similar examples with constant struggling in all people’s lives, in many aspects of their activities, hobbies and professional performance. For me it was driving and speaking English. For years I was dreading getting into a driver’s seat and going to the City because I just couldn’t grasp the concept of checking on other cars and driving mine at the same time. For years I was struggling with speaking English despite being very good at writing and reading – when it came to speaking I would hesitate, get stuck and on many occasions I just couldn’t say what I wanted to say at all!

And here I have to touch the breathing. Years ago I had heard this – when you’re running, it’s very important to breathe properly. Note this word – PROPERLY. Does it say how fast or how slow you have to breathe? Nope. Nonetheless, for some reason I had always assumed it means SLOWLY. I thought you have to breathe in a very controlled, steady manner inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

And here’s the trick – while the nose – in, mouth – out thing was right, it’s the breathing pace that let me down! I had NEVER thought of breathing faster – which is quite shocking, isn’t it? For years I was running and struggling with pain but never though of changing the breathing pace!

So one fine day I went for a run and … I wouldn’t tell you why, because I don’t know the answer myself, but I just started to breathe faster. The same deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth – only at a faster pace.

The result? Well – I felt like I was running for the first time in my life!

  • I could run at a much faster pace! The years of running had contributed into my stamina and now when I was breathing properly I could run really fast!
  • The pain was gone! Yes – since I breathe faster, the pain has just vanished! It’s common sense, isn’t it? I was simply lacking oxygen and my body was always telling me that. By breathing faster I’m giving my body what it needs and the problem is gone!

You’re probably thinking – but wasn’t it OBVIOUS to me?

Well, you see – as crazy at it may sound, but it wasn’t!

Why wasn’t it obvious to Tim Ferris that by slightly adjusting the swimming technique you can swim long distances without getting exhausted?

Why wasn’t it obvious to me that I could drive confidently by just ignoring cars behind me and focusing only on those in front?

Why wasn’t it obvious to me that I could speak English fluently by learning most commonly used phrases and collocations instead of hammering thousands of English words into my brain?

Quite frankly – I don’t know.

I don’t know why all these things happen. I just DO know that little things can make a HUGE difference – be it running, swimming, speaking, eating, living and being confident and happy!

Thanks for reading,

Robby 😉

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P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

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  • Hi Juhapekka,

    I never knew about this method to be honest with you – I mean, speaking during a run to determine whether you’re pushing yourself too hard. Won’t work for me – like I said, I prefer very intense exercise.

    Speaking of the comments issue on my Accent Adventure blog – thanks so much for making me aware of it, I didn’t even know there was something wrong. I’ll have to look into it!



  • Juhapekka

    Hi Robby,

    This topic is a very interesting, indeed. I have known about the “speaking test” a long time but recently it caught my attention again when I read about it on http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/speak-easy .

    I think I know your strange running zone where you don’t think because I have preferred the same kind of state of mind when I have been running. When everything goes well during running, I tend also to stop thinking altogether and I’m absolutely fully concentrated only on my running without any thinking. Maybe certain kind of an empty mind is the best when trying to run as fast as possible and I have usually run my fastest times that way. Despite this, spoken English practice while running is absolutely worth of trying as long as aerobic running is concerned but anaerobic running may be totally different story altogether, though.

    But jumping to another topic, what has happened to the comment area of your Accent Adventure site? It doesn’t seem to work properly because I can’t either see the previously published comments or to submit new ones.

  • Hi Juhapekka,

    It’s a very interesting topic you’ve touched upon here!

    I find that repeating phrases works quite well when doing weights because you can do it in a controlled manner and there’s plenty of repetitions involved during which you can indeed repeat and memorize English phraseology and collocations.

    When running, on the other hand, I tend to do it at quite a fast pace and then I get into a strange zone where I don’t think – it’s just me running and that’s all!

    Yes, I guess when I’m running I’m well above the aerobic zone but given the fact I’ve been doing it since 2008, it’s not surprising I’m capable of maintaining a fast pace and to be honest with you – I really enjoy it that way.



  • Juhapekka

    It’s a bit surprising that I found a possible solution to my problem here. Namely, I have been experiencing similar symptoms as you, Robby: I’m also having a slight pain in my other side when I’m running. I’m going to try to breathe faster and see whether it works for me.

    But, by the way, have you ever tried to combine both running and spoken English practice? I have. I have tried to speak with myself at the same time when I’m running. I think it’s a good idea because there is a commonly used “speaking test” to determine whether you’re running or exercising too hard. If you can’t speak, you’re running too fast and you’re out of your “aerobic zone” where your muscles are not getting enough oxygen and accordingly if you can speak quite normally then you’re running aerobically and your muscles are getting enough oxygen and you can continue your running at the same speed.

    By combining those two activities, I’m able to kill two birds with one stone or actually three birds because after my running I have done my running exercise, determined whether I’m running too fast and done also my spoken English practice. I think it’s an excellent idea but unfortunately I haven’t achieved satisfactory results yet because I have been feeling myself frustrated during running because I had run out of both breath and words. It’s frustrating to notice that I’m in a poor shape, my active vocabulary and phraseology are too small and so on and so forth but despite those setbacks, I’m still feeling better after my running.

    I’m also planning to memorize the pieces of literature or the pieces of a song that I could repeat over and over again during my running. I try to find something that would be empowering and calming. It’s important because, despite the fact that running is physical exercise, it’s also mental exercise: The more calm and positive your mind is the better and faster you run! It’s an opposite phenomenon compared to speaking: People usually think that speaking is only mental but it’s also physical and when it comes to running it is the opposite fallacy! I know it for a fact because if I’m sometimes totally out of breath and energy, certain Finnish lyrics or ideas can suddenly bring them back. That’s why I’m looking for appropriate affirmations for this purpose but, of course, it doesn’t work every time but if I’m able to achieve a certain state of mind during my running, I can continue my running much longer and faster.

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  • School teachers’ hands are basically tied – you just can’t get all 20 – 30 kids involved and it goes back to the same old written English. And that, as you know, is something I’m fighting against!u00a0

  • ahmed

    oops you live in ireland i forgot lol

  • ahmed

    you never thought of becoming a school teacher? you already are better than most of my teachers.well, all of them except for one.

  • Hi Ahmed,nnI’m feeling flattered… I suppose now I just can’t fail your expectations and the System simply has to deliver… of which I have not doubt, of course! ;-)nnAnyway, the idiom “the writing’s on the wall” is used to describe a situation when something bad is going to happen and it’s very close. For instance, “The writing’s on the wall for the European Union but the country leaders keep convincing themselves they’ll be able to keep it together” means that the days of the European Union are over.nnTalk to you soon again,nnRegards,nnRobby 😉

  • ahmed

    in many cases, when i’m finished with writing something, i feel like if someone else , you for example could write his own version of it , it would be much more improved. i think this might be useful for someone like me.please robby can i write my version here and you in return write yours? don’t worry i wont bother you cuz i will do it once every two weeks.and since im already writing to you can you put “the writings on the wall” in a sentnece?by the way im going to buy your english harmony systemu00a0very u00a0soon, in the mean time i will keep on reading your website and liking you 🙂 you’re oficiallyu00a0my idol now :).

  • Hi Ahmed,nnThanks for your comment!nnFirst of all – never underestimate yourself and your capability – you might be closer to your goal that you think! I also used to think a few years ago I would never be able to talk to locals freely and here I am now… ;-)nnRegarding the English Harmony System – it works regardless of your location. I have customers all over the world and all you need to have is a PC with a DVD drive, some free time and willingness to speak a lot.u00a0nnAs for the idioms – well… I just know them! They’re part of my vocabulary and I don’t really have to exert my mind to come up with them. I just write and they come out naturally, and that’s what natural fluency is about. By the way – there’s loads of such and similar idiomatic expressions in the System and currently I’m working on an update with another 30 lessons. All customers will get the update for free! :-)nnRegards,nnRobby

  • ahmed

    i’m quite impressed by your english . i think it’s gonna take me ages before i’m up to ur level. i have two questions for you: would your english haromny system help me achieve flueny even though i don’t live in an english speaking country, when i’m writing an essay, for example to hand it over to my teacher? or in exams themselves. question 2: where do you get the idioms written in red?