Learning how to properly breathe while running is of utmost importance. Not only does it improve your athletic performance and endurance, it also makes your runs more fun. In fact, proper breathing can make the difference between a great run and a disastrous session.
Whether you’re a new runner or have plenty of miles under your belt, if you want to take your breathing while running to the next level, this guide is for you.
Proper Breathing While Running: The How-To
There’s a lot to say about breathing as it relates to running, but the following four points will have the most impact on your training (and overall fitness and health levels) and will help you to run your best.
Research has proven that rhythmic breathing can help you become a faster and better runner.
44 runners of varying backgrounds were asked to run on treadmills using different breathing patterns. Some were allowed to use random breathing patterns while others used a specific breathing pattern. The conclusion? The latter group had a better running economy and airflow dynamics than the “unpatterned” group.
The 3:2 Pattern
In my opinion, the ideal running-to-breathing ratio for beginners is the 3:2 pattern in which the footstrike is coordinated with inhalation and exhalation in an odd-even pattern. Your exhale alternates sides in a balanced manner. This eliminates the risk of always landing on the same foot at the start of the exhalation, and injuring the “overworked” side.
If you’re not alternating your exhalation footstrike, one side of your body is endlessly absorbing the greatest impact, which might set the stage for injury and other functional problems.
But when you alternate sides, 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
Your exact breathing pattern is a matter of personal preference. Much depends on the intensity of your session and training goals.
What what I’d recommend is finding what works (and feels) the best for you, then stick with it. To make that happen, you’d need to practice different patterns such as 2:2, 2:3, 3:4, or a 4:4. This is especially the case when you’re doing different workouts such as easy runs, tempo runs, and even sprinting.
Need more air on the run? Belly breathing is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Belly breathing—also known as deep, diaphragmatic breathing—will help you deliver more oxygen to your circulatory system and working muscles. This, in turn, boosts your performance and prevents nausea and fatigue.
Instead of relying on your chest to breathe (which is what the majority of runners do), train yourself to breathe deeply from your belly.
The Road to Mastery
Note: Before you start learning advanced running breathing techniques such as rhythmic breathing, you’ll first have to learn how to breathe deeply.
To master this type of breathing, start practicing it in the comfort of your home. Do it while standing, sitting and lying down. You should be belly breathing all the time, whether you’re shopping for groceries, reading a book, watching TV, etc.
Once deep breathing has become close to second nature, transfer your newly acquired skill to your running practice.
Nose Vs. Mouth Breathing
According to my experience, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out of the mouth is much more efficient for running.
Inhaling through the nose allows for deeper breaths and warms the air on its way to the lungs, whereas breathing out from the mouth helps get rid of as much carbon dioxide as possible. It also relaxes the body.
How to put this into practice? Simple. During your run, the mouth should be held slightly open in what’s known as the “dead fish” (the name speaks for itself).
Strengthen Your Core
The diaphragm is the main muscle in charge of breathing, and you can tone it the same way you strengthen your calves and hamstrings. Pilates exercises are one of the best ways to do this, and doing so will boost your endurance and performance.
Two Pilates Exercises For Better Breathing
Here are two Pilates exercises to try:
- Lie flat on your back with your legs squeezed together and your knees and hips forming 90-degree
- 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
- Lie flat on your back with your knees pulled to your chest.
- Inhale slowly as you lift your legs towards 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 your legs straight overhead, your core engaged, and your lower back remains on the floor.
- Repeat on the other side, reaching your legs over to the
- Continue reversing the circular direction each time. Aim for three sets of eight reps on each side.
I hope this blog post was helpful. Please feel free to leave any comments below, or send me any questions you may have. I’ll be happy to answer ASAP.
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Image Credit: Ed Yourdon