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What is the right way to breathe when running?

Is there a best way to breathe while running? Or is it just a case of what comes naturally to you?

Surprisingly, you’re not alone for wondering about this, and at some point or another, we have all asked our running friends for help.

As a running coach, I’ve encountered this how to breathe running question on more than few occasions and I think it’s important for beginners to understand how they should approach the sport from the very basics.

I’ve heard people advocate breathing in through the mouth and out through the mouth, using slow breathing rhythms, and all sorts of nonsense.

Nothing irks me quite like the spread of misinformation, especially when it pertains to training topics. Therefore, I am happy to help set the record straight today, by showing you how to breathe easier while running, so you can get back to enjoying your training without feeling like your lungs are going to explode…yes, even if you have asthma!

Should I Breathe Through My Nose Or Mouth While Running?

Here’s the deal:

You should always breathe in and out primarily through your mouth when running.

If your nose wants to join the party and help get air in and out, that’s great.

However, when you’re running, feeding your muscles the oxygen they need is of paramount importance, and breathing through the mouth is the most effective way to inhale and exhale oxygen.

To make the most of your breathing, make sure you avoid “chest breathing” in favor of what’s called diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing”.

Why is chest breathing bad?

Chest breathing is a weak form of breathing. It’s too shallow to bring in maximal oxygen and doesn’t fully expel your lungs when you exhale. This may be why you keep getting a side stitch when you run.

Instead, your breathing should be diaphragmatic, meaning the action of inhaling and exhaling extends down into your stomach.

As you breathe, your stomach should expand and contract as your diaphragm forces air into and out of your lungs.

Your chest, meanwhile, should remain mostly still, but you’ll take in more oxygen with every breath.

The next time you go running, be aware of your breathing and your natural inclination to breathe through your nose or mouth.

If necessary, focus on making the necessary corrections and taking in breath through your mouth. It may be a struggle at first, but you should eventually be able to transition to a better breathing technique, and do so without thinking.

With any luck, you’ll notice an improvement in your running efficiency and performance.

How Can I Train My Breathing Muscles To Run Better?

Just as we strength train our hips or hamstrings to improve our leg strength, we can strengthen the muscles used for breathing.

In fact, researchers at the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in England demonstrated a direct link between the strength of your diaphragm and fatigue during the marathon. We also interviewed world expert, Patrick McKeown on our podcast in an episode dedicated to how to breathe while running and he recommended exercises to help.

The easiest way to start is by lying on the ground.

While lying on your back, breathe deeply so your belly rises with your chest as you inhale, and lowers while you exhale. Feel your abdominal muscles contract, and try to hold the tension as you breathe out as well as in.

Watch your chest, does it rise and fall also?

You want to get to the point where you do not see your chest moving, but your belly is expanding (think making yourself get fat).

Continue to practice this while lying down until you feel confident to move upright.

Once you have this trick down, you can move on to pilates exercises. Pilates help stretch your intercostal muscles and lengthen the spine, which helps improve breathing and running.

What Rhythm Should I Be Breathing To?

Your exact breathing rhythm will depend on how hard or easy you are running and/or the intended intensity of your workout.

What is breathing rhythm you ask?

Breathing rhythms refer to the number of foot steps you take with each foot while breathing in or out.

For example, a 2:2 rhythm would mean you take two steps (one with your right foot and one with the left) while breathing in and two steps (again, one with your right foot and one with your left) while breathing out.

This is part of the method we recommend to stop a side stitch if you are out running and get that familiar side stabbing feeling.

Easy runs

Typically, you’ll find that a 3:3 rhythm (three steps – one with your left, one with your right, one with your left – while breathing in) works best for warm-ups and most easy paced days.

This allows plenty of oxygen to be inhaled through the lungs, processed, and then exhaled with relative ease.

Don’t try to force yourself into a 3:3 breathing rhythm on an easy day if it isn’t feeling comfortable.

Remember, the purpose of an easy day is to keep your effort comfortable and to help the body recover. If a 2:2 rhythm (described below) is more comfortable, go with it.

Breathing slower than a 3:3 rhythm is not advised because you’re not giving your body enough time to clear carbon dioxide.

The average runner should take about 180 steps per minute (some a little less, others a little more), which means you take 90 steps with each foot in a one minute span.

A 3:3 rhythm enables you to take about 30 breaths per minute, ample time to process carbon dioxide while still getting in the oxygen you need.

Moderate paced runs

Runs harder than an easy run, but not all out race efforts, should typically be performed at a 2:2 ratio (two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing in, two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing out).

A 2:2 breathing rhythm enables you take about 45 breaths per minute, which is perfect for steady state, tempo runs, and marathon pace runs.

Hard workouts and Races

At the end of races or the end of a particularly hard interval session, a 2:2 breathing might not cut it. In this case, you can switch to a 1:2 (one step breathing in, two steps breathing out) or 2:1 (two steps breathing in and one step breathing out) breathing rhythm.

This will increase your oxygen uptake to 60 breaths per minute.

I don’t recommend a 1:1 breathing pattern.

At this rate, you’ll be taking shallow breaths and you won’t be able to inhale enough oxygen to maintain proper ventilation in the lungs.

On a personal note, I don’t pay much attention to breathing rhythms at the end of races. I prefer to run all out, focus on competing, and let my breathing take care of itself.

However, it can be helpful to those runners who become anxious as the final meters approach.

Why Will Fixing My Breathing Help Me?

While breathing rhythms can help you identify and monitor the intensity of your run, you can also use them to monitor and control other aspects of your training and racing.

Pacing

Paying close attention to your breathing rhythm can help you monitor and “feel” your pace, especially on tempo runs or tempo intervals.

Once you lock onto your correct goal pace for the workout, you can monitor whether you begin to breathe faster or slower to identify when you accidentally speed up or slow down.

It requires close attention to detail, but it can help for runners who struggle maintaining a consistent pace.

Hills

Many runners wonder how to adjust their pace when taking on a hill during a race, even if you are using the correct running technique for hills.

Unless you know the exact grade and length of a hill, it’s very difficult to accurately measure how much you need to adjust your pace.

However, if you’re maintaining a 2:2 breathing rhythm through the race, then you should focus on maintaining that 2:2 rhythm as you tackle and crest the hill.

By maintaining the same breathing rhythm, you keep your effort even and prevent yourself from spending too much energy getting over the hill.

Side Stitches

If you encounter a side stitch while running, you can slow your breathing rhythm to take deeper, controlled breaths at a 3:3 rhythm.

Often, side stitches are caused by undue stress to the diaphragm, which is escalated by shallow breathing. If your side stitch persists after switching your breathing rhythm, you can try this trick for side stitches here.

As you can see, you have many ways that you can breathe and use rhythms to monitor your effort in workouts and races.

Try not to become too focused on your exact breathing rhythm every step you take. Do what feels comfortable and you’ll usually wind up falling into the proper rhythm by default.

(12/15/2022) Views: 739 ⚡AMP
by Runners Connect
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