Learning how to breathe is one of those things that every runner has to go through. It’s really a sort of rite of passage.
And once you get the ins and outs of breathing, then, out of nowhere, running will no longer be that frustrating.
That’s why, in my opinion, learning how to breathe while running is of utmost importance. Not only this can help improve your athletic performance, but also make your runs more enjoyable.
In fact, proper breathing can sometimes make the difference between a good run, and a disastrous run.
Therefore, whether you’re a new runner, or you just can’t seem to exert control over your breathing while running, then this guide is perfect for you.
My Story with Proper Running Breathing
When I started running, I, like most beginners, didn’t give much thought to my breathing. I just thought it’s something that happens on its own, and eventually with training, my breathing will improve.
But, once I got interested in learning the proper ways to breathe while, I was really able to revolutionize the way I run.
What I learned and discovered next…
My running performance skyrocketed. And the way I felt both during and after my runs improved drastically.
It was really the difference that made the difference for me. A complete game-changer.
And I’m sure you are going to reap similar results once you start walking on the path toward mastering your breathing.
The 4 Keys To Proper Breathing While Running
There is a lot to write about breathing as it relates to running, but the points I’m sharing with you are going to have the most impact on your runs (and overall fitness and health levels).
Without further ado, here are 4 keys to proper running breathing, along with the strategies you need to run your best.
1. Rhythmic Breathing
The rhythmic breathing technique can help you become a faster and better runner.
In a study, 14 runners of different backgrounds and fitness skill, were tested on the treadmills. Some runners opted for a regular breathing pattern while the others ran with a specific breathing pattern. According to the researchers, the runners who opted for specific breathing patterns had better running economy and airflow dynamics than the “unpatterned” group.
So what should you do next?
The 2:2 Breathing Pattern
To make the most out of it, opt for a 2:2 breathing pattern.
In my own experience as a runner and according to most running experts, is the ideal breathing pattern.
And here is how:
Inhale while stepping left, right. Then, on the exhale step left, then right. And so on. This might require a bit of mental focus at first, however, the more you practice it, the easier it’ll get.
After mastering this one, move to a 3:3 pattern—inhale, step left, right, left; then exhale, step right, left, right.
The ‘Injury-Preventing’ Breathing Pattern
As a runner, you can always mix it up by opting for a 3:2 pattern. In fact, this pattern is believed to reduce the risks of injury.
Here is why:
According to theory, the 3:2 pattern gives you the advantage of rotating the foot that strikes the ground when your exhale.
One side of your body is endlessly absorbing the greatest impact force of running, which might set the stage for injury and other functional problems. Thus, if you are always landing on the same foot at the start of exhalation, you might end up with pain and overuse injury on the “overworked” side.
However, the coordinated footstrike with inhalation and exhalation in an odd-even pattern will help you land alternately on each side in a balanced manner, offering a slight rest to both sides of your body from the undue stress of running.
In other words, the stress effects of running will be distributed evenly across both sides of your body, helping you decrease the risks of overuse and injury.
Experiment With Other Patterns
The exact breathing pattern remains a matter of personal preference since it really depends on the intensity of your session and your training goals.
It’s really about finding what works (and feels) the best for you, then sticking with it for the long haul.
That’s why you need to practice different patterns such as 2:2, 2:3, 3:4, or a 4:4 to see which one is most effective, especially during different conditions such as outside temperatures, easy running, steep hills, or even sprinting.
Use the Talk Test Strategy
The best advice I can give beginner runners to learn to master breathing is to run at a pace at which breathing can be achieved and done easily and without much effort.
Yupe. That’s the good old “talk test” thing. This gonna help you figure out if your pace if suitable for your current fitness condition and skill.
The simple talk test can help you determine if you running intensity is in line with your training goals—which, as a beginner, should be to get fit without getting hurt.
Also known as the conversational pace, when you run at this speed, you should be able to utter and say a full sentence without much huffing and puffing. If you are grasping for air, then you’ve failed the test and are running too much.
Slow it down homie.
2. Deep Breathing
Need more air on the run? Well, look no further. Deep breathing is the exact thing the doctor ordered.
Deep breathing is another subject that I was completely unaware of when I started running. I only became interested in deep breathing when I began learning about Yoga and Pranayama breathing techniques.
I remember reading a book about the subject. In the book, the author (I think it was Deepak Chopra; it’s been a long time), he emphasized the importance of belly breathing for complete health
The Power of Deep Breathing
Belly breathing—also known as deep, diaphragmatic breathing involves breathing from your diaphragm.
Breathing this way will help you deliver more oxygen to the circulatory system and working muscles, boosting performance and preventing nausea and fatigue.
Not only that, but you’ll also be expelling more carbon dioxide
And the fact is, taking shallow and frequent breaths is really useless and has negative impact on performance
Therefore, instead of relying on your chest to breathe—which is what the majority of runners do—train yourself to breathe deeply from your belly and diaphragm area.
The Road to Mastery
Note: Before you start learning advanced running breathing techniques—such as rhythmic breathing—you’ll have first to learn how to breathe deeply. You have to make the time for practice, period.
To master this type of breathing, start practicing it in the comfort of your own home. Practice deep breathing standing, sitting and lying down. You should be belly breathing all the times—whether you are shopping for groceries, reading a book, watching TV, working, etc.
Once you are doing it in real life with ease, then you can transfer your newly acquired skill to the running field without much trouble.
Breathe Better With Pilates & Yoga
Yoga can also help you learn to keep a steady and controlled breath during moments of discomfort and fatigue. It will help you become mindful of your breathing in ways you never imagined to.
3. Nose Vs. Mouth Breathing
So should you breathe in from the nose? Or the mouth?
Well according to my experience, I think you should breathe in from both pathways: the nose and the mouth.
Here is why:
By breathing this way, you’ll be able to deliver the maximum amounts of oxygen to your working muscles.
Breathing in through your nose helps you breathe more deeply and efficiently, which is good for running. It also warms the air on its way to the lungs. On the other hand, breathing in from the mouth maximizes the delivery of oxygen to your working muscles, and aids in nose breathing a lot.
The “Dead Fish” Position
During your run, the mouth should be held slightly open just in what’s known as the “dead fish” (the name speaks for itself).
This will alls help you reduce stress and keep your body relaxed and tension-free throughout your run. Having relaxed facial muscles is a big foundation.
On the other hand, the exhale plays an important role as well. A proper exhalation technique will help you promote relaxation and stress-free running throughout your session.
If your muscles are tensed and fatigued halfway through your runs, focus on relaxing the tensed areas of your body with each exhalation.
Begin your by letting your jaw and shoulder relax and hang loose. Breathe in into any intense area then breathe out all the tension and discomfort.
4. Strengthen Your Core
Most of the work—about 80 percent—of the breathing is done by the diaphragm. Therefore, if you work on strengthening that area, you may boost your endurance and performance.
When you have a strong respiratory system, your running improves, period.
Two Pilate Exercises For Better Breathing
You can tone the muscles you use for breathing the same way you work on strengthening your calves and hamstrings to improve your ability to take on hills.
Without further ado, here are two Pilates moves that strengthen the diaphragms, improve posture, helping your run harder and farther and with less fatigue. Practice each move two or three times a week.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs squeezed together, and knees and hips forming 90-degress angles.
- Lift both legs a few inches off the floor, engage your abs and buttocks, and raise your arms over your thighs. Lift your head and gaze at your toes
- While holding this position, start to pump your arms, moving them in a controlled up and down manner. While doing so, breathe in for five pumps, moving your arms in a controlled up and down manner.
- Aim for three to five sets and keep pulsing your arms for 10 breaths.
- Lie flat on your with the knees pulled to the chest.
- Inhale slowly as you lift your legs up to the ceiling as far as you can while tightly squeezing them together.
- Reach your legs over to the right, allowing the hips to lift away from the floor, then go back to starting position with legs straight overhead and core engaged, and lower back remaining on the floor.
- Reach your legs over to the left for the other side.
- Keep on reversing the circular direction each time and aim for three sets, 8 reps on each side.
Hopefully this blog post was to your satisfaction. And please feel free to leave your comments below, or send through any questions. I’ll be happy to answer ASAP.
Thank you for reading my post.
Image Credit: Ed Yourdon