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Why you should try wearing nasal strips in your next race

They could be your new secret weapon

Have you ever noticed that the winners of some pretty prestigious races have a strange band over their nose? It’s called a nasal strip and it’s supposed to open up a runner’s nasal passages and promote easy breathing. Most strips are actually designed to help people sleep who struggle with congestion or snoring–but many runners have added them to their race-day routine.

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Kate Van Buskirk is the host of the Shakeout Podcast and a Commonwealth Games medallist. She says she uses the strips in every race, whether she has a cold or not. “I’ve been wearing nasal strips in competition throughout most of my running career. In high school I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma and sought as many avenues as possible for dealing with restricted breathing. As I got older my asthma symptoms subsided significantly but the nasal strips remain a key element of my racing kit.”

Van Buskirk on race day

Van Buskirk acknowledges that they do look a little dorky and that she did have to remove her nose ring to ensure that they stuck to her skin, but she says it’s worth it. “These are small sacrifices to make for a cheap, effective tool that helps me breathe more freely during races. There’s some debate as to exactly how much benefit nasal strips provide, but even if that benefit is marginal, it’s worth doing everything I can to get the most out of myself on race day.”

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Jessica O’Connell, Canadian indoor 3,000m record holder, also swears by them. She’s pictured above wearing one to win the Canadian 5,000m title.

It’s not just track runners who wear nasal strips–lots of road and trail runners use them in races as well. Joe Gray wore the strip to race the Pikes Peak Ascent on the weekend and Molly Huddle, American half-marathon and 5K record holder, wears them regularly as well.

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Most strips cost under $10 and can be found at almost any drug store. If you’re feeling a little under the weather or just want to give them a try, there’s really no harm. Your worst-case scenario is that they don’t do anything for you, but they certainly won’t hinder your performance.