How you breathe when you run can have an impact on your performance and comfort level. For many runners, just breathing naturally is enough. But some people get into bad habits when it comes to breathing.
Consider these tips to help improve how you breathe when you run:
Breathing in – You may have heard you should breathe in through your nose to warm and filter the air you take in, but during a high-intensity workout like running, your body needs more oxygen than you can take in through nose breathing alone. Breathe in through both your nose and mouth when running to give your muscles the oxygen they need to keep you going. Nose breathing alone won’t be enough when you pick up the pace.
Breathing out – When exhaling, breathe out slowly and evenly through your mouth and try to exhale as fully as possible to remove more carbon dioxide from your lungs.
Breathe from your belly, not your chest – When you breathe from your belly, you take in more air and breathe more deeply. Push your stomach out and your diaphragm down to draw in more air with each breath. Chest breathing doesn’t allow you to breathe in as deeply or empty your lungs as fully when you exhale. Belly breathing increases your oxygen intake.
Pay attention to your posture – In order to breathe deeply, it’s important to keep your posture straight. If you hunch over or jut your head forward, you won’t be able to breathe as deeply.
Take the talk test – If you’re new to running, you can determine if your pace is too fast or too slow based on the “talk test.” To find a comfortable pace, you should be able to talk in full sentences without gasping for air but you shouldn’t be able to sing. Can’t get in a string of words without needing to catch your breath? You’re probably going too fast. If you can sing and not just talk, you can pick up the pace a bit.
Switch breathing rhythms – There’s a lot of talk in the running world about breathing rhythms. These should only be used as a rule of thumb – try out different rhythms and use the one that feels right for you. You’ll often find that a 3:3 breathing rhythm works well when you’re running at an easy pace or warming up. This means you breathe in for 3 steps and then breathe out for 3 steps. If that doesn’t feel comfortable to you or you pick up the pace, switch to a 2:2 rhythm (breathe in and out for 2 steps each). Running harder than that, you may want to switch to either a 1:2 rhythm (breathe in for 1 step and out for 2 steps) or 2:1 rhythm (breathe in for 2 steps and out for 1 step).
If you get a side stitch – Side stitches are often caused by shallow breathing, so switch to a 3:3 rhythm to take deeper and more controlled breaths to see if that helps.
Try not to become too focused on your breathing when you run. If you do what feels comfortable, you’ll usually wind up breathing properly and in the proper rhythm.