Running Club F.C., Volume 18: Terry McConnell, Buckland

  • Buckland’s Terry McConnell, shown here instructing a class on breath at the Greenfield YMCA, has changed his breathing regimen during runs. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2020 4:49:03 PM

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We continue with Volume 18 where we talk breathing techniques with a veteran West County harrier.

Terry McConnell, Buckland

Here’s an exercise for the next time you’re out running: breathe in, then breathe out. Inhale, exhale. Easy, right? That’s just what we do. Now, try again, but this time, don’t use your mouth. Breathe in through the nose, then back through the nose. And then do it again, and again, and again. Try doing it throughout the entirety of your training run.

How’d that go for you?

For 73-year-old Terry McConnell, doing exactly that has become a way of life. The Buckland resident adopted the breathing routine four years ago, after reading the book “Body, Mind, and Sport” by John Douillard. McConnell and his wife Carol teach courses in breath, which he said can help people asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, or sleep problems (their website is

Terry McConnell said he’s had asthma his entire life. When he decided to adopt breathing through his nose while running, he said it came after a long history of illness following runs.

“In my 60’s, I would run hard and then I’d be sick two days later,” he explained. “It was a pattern. I’d run hard, breathing through the mouth, and then I’d get sick. I was doing something wrong. After reading the Douillard book, I started working toward breathing entirely through my nose when I was running. It took me about four years to get to this point, but my health is much better now at 73 than it was in my 60’s. I think a lot of runners have that problem, but maybe they don’t like to talk about it that much.”

McConnell said the process wasn’t easy. I can attest to that, as I’ve been trying it myself recently during runs and things haven’t gone particularly well, to say the least.

“With asthma, I’d been a mouth breather all my life,” he began. “The first time I tried to run while breathing through the nose was very frustrating. It seemed like an impossible task. But I kept at it for four years. Now I breathe through the nose all the time on both inhale and exhale. I can run at top speed now, breathing through my nose. Nose breathing has made a big change in my life. I get sick a lot less and an illness will last about a day. I remember back a few years ago when an illness could last a month or two.”

The only time McConnell said he uses his mouth to breathe during runs comes when he races, though that’s usually just an occasional exhale. He ran a virtual 5K recently, and said he found he was comfortable inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth, but that’s a rare occurrence.

“It’s important on a daily basis to do all my breathing through the nose in a workout, with the only exception being in a race,” he offered.

The benefits, he said, come from finding a better balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.

“You need a balance of carbon dioxide for your body to function properly,” he said.

McConnell said he runs six days a week, averaging about 23 miles per week at the moment. Part of his daily regimen includes a variety of breathing and meditation exercises, including coherent breathing and sun salutation, the latter being a yoga technique that he said opens up his chest. He said he has a stringent stretching regimen, particularly if he’s going for a hard run.

“By doing all these things before the run, I’m clearing my chest,” he began. “With asthma, I tend to collect mucus, but these exercises I do, they help the mucus go away.”

It all comes down to balance for McConnell, who said he never tries to push it beyond what his body can handle.

“I never go more than five percent (above) what I did the last week,” he said. “This week, I’ll probably run 24 miles, and then next week maybe I’ll do 25 miles at the most. If I try and run 30 miles next week, I’m in trouble.”

No matter what, the change to nose breathing has certainly worked for McConnell. At 73, he’s feeling as good as he has in a long time. Pardon the pun, but the nose knows.


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