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How to Breathe While Running: The Best Techniques to Follow

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How often do you feel out of breath while you are running? Some runners experience extreme breathlessness because they either have low lung capacity or they have no control over their breathing, while running, which isn't a good thing. You must have wondered how to breathe while running? Well, if you haven't, you aren’t aware of the fact that breathing, though a simple task, is a vital part of running.

Few excellent runners, who make running appear easy, make us believe that they aren’t putting in any effort at all. Their breathing seems as normal as if they are simply standing still. But, that hasn’t come to them naturally. Expert runners devote a lot of time and effort to make perfect each and everything about running, including their breathing.

The main focus of an expert would start with a warm-up exercise, which is important to prepare the body for the pace of the workout in the next few hours. Warm up prevents muscle cramps and also regulates your breathing rate for running.

This quick guide will help you understand how to control breathing while running.

Nose or Mouth Breathing

breathing techniques for running
No Nose Business! (source)

In case you have been running for some time now, you must be informed of the fact that while running, one should primarily breathe in and out through your mouth.

But why do you need to breathe through your mouth?

Well, it is because when you are running, your muscles need more oxygen than what they need normally. It thus becomes essential that adequate amount of oxygen reaches the muscles, which isn’t possible when you inhale through your nose like you do regularly. Your mouth, however, is exceptionally capable of effectively inhaling and exhaling adequate oxygen.

It is true that when you are breathing through your nose, the air gets warmed and filtered. But, it isn’t a great idea to deprive the body of maximum oxygen when the body is under stress. When your intensity of running increases, you will notice that you aren’t able to get enough oxygen by only breathing through your nose.

Breathing Rhythm: Ratio While Running

Most people try to follow a breathing rhythm when they are running.

What is breathing rhythm? 

It is the ratio of the total number of steps while breathing to the total number of steps when you are exhaling.

  • While running at a rather high intensity, a breathing rhythm of 1:1 is recommended.
  • While running at average or medium intensity, a breathing rhythm of 2:2 is recommended.
  • When running at a rather low intensity, a breathing rhythm of 3:3 is generally recommended.
Count the number of steps while breathing (Source)

As it is quite obvious, this is just the general rule and may not always work for every runner.

When you are figuring out how to breathe while running, try a few breathing rhythms or patterns and accordingly check which of it works best for you. Some articles might tell you to follow a certain pattern while the others might disagree with it and ask you to follow some other rhythm.

When it comes to breathing while running, just remember to breathe naturally but through your mouth. As you continue running, your body will eventually find the perfect rhythm through trial and error of various patterns of breathing. Make sure that your focus is concentrated on deep belly breathing which would, in turn, increase the span of the time for which that you breathe in and out with ease.

Many people do not realize their actual lung running capacity until they go out there and run out of breath in 15 minutes. It is quintessential that a runner should maintain and periodically increase their lung capacity for doing long span runs.

High altitude training and rhythmic breathing technique can help one do the same.

How does having control of your Breathing Rhythm help you?

The breathing rhythms will definitely help you in identifying and monitoring the intensity with which you run. It can also be effectively used to control and monitor several other aspects of your training.

1. Pacing

You can monitor your pace if you pay really through attention to your breathing rhythm. Once you determine the correct pace for your workout, it will be easy to examine whether you breathe slowly or quickly, so as to make sure you are not accidentally speeding up or slowing down unnecessarily. This means that you have to pay close attention to the minute details. This process will definitely help the runners who face a problem of maintaining a certain or consistent pace.

2. Side Stitches

Runners, who are newly starting out and are still learning how to breathe while running, often suffer from side stitches.

It further slows them down. But, why does it happen?

Well, the side stitches occur due to undue stress caused by the inflated lungs to the diaphragm. This is further aggravated by shallow breathing. In such situations, you can reduce your breathing rhythm and start taking controlled and deeper breaths at the ratio of 3:3.

Rhythmic breathing is one of the easiest ways to get rid of side stitches while sprinting or running. Another effective way to relieve the pain in the side stitches is by stretching your body on the opposite side of the pain area or you can also gently rub the pain area with your fingertips. This slows down the pain.

Know all about Side Stitch: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention (Infographic too!)

3. Running on Hills

While taking on a hill during the race, most runners often wonder how can they adjust their pace. Despite using all the correct techniques that are required for the hills, somehow you may still fail to maintain a consistent pace. Unless you know the exact length and elevation of the hill, it would be quite difficult to measure and determine the adjustments required to determine your accurate pace.

For instance, if you are following a highly-intense breathing rhythm or an averagely intense breathing rhythm, then you might need to focus on maintaining the same rhythm through the length of the hill. By maintaining a consistent breathing rhythm, you will be putting the same amount of effort and will prevent your body from spending excess energy on reaching the top of the hills.

Check all about High Altitude Training: Do Not Let Elevation Mess Up Your Run

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing has been considered as one of the best ways to control breathing while running since ages. This may sound labour intensive but breathing by following a pattern can actually help you to run longer and faster. Every person is well capable of identifying and improving his or her own rhythm of breathing.

rhythmic breathing

Listed below are a few tips that will help you understand rhythmic breathing in a much better way.

Alternating your Feet While Exhaling

Rhythmic breathing has helped runners prevent injuries.

But, how is that possible?

To understand that, you must first be aware of the various pressures that your body faces when running. For instance, each time your foot hits the ground, the impact is huge. The pressure of this impact increases when your foot actually strikes the ground at the time you begin to exhale. This happens because every time you exhale, your diaphragm and the muscles associated with it tend to relax, which creates a much lesser stability at the core. This lesser stability at the core can cause harmful injuries.

alternate feet while exhaling

So, when you keep landing on the same foot while you exhale, your body will tend to wear out and you become more vulnerable to injury.

With the help of rhythmic breathing, you can coordinate your foot-strike to your inhaling and exhaling pattern in an odd-even pattern. This means that you will land on your left and right foot, alternatively at the starting of each exhalation.

This will ensure that the impact of landing is shared equally by the body. While practicing breathing techniques for running, try rhythmic breathing that will allow both the sides of your body to rest.

As it is quite evident, there are several ways in which you can breathe and use the breathing rhythms to monitor the effort that you put into your races and workouts. All you need to do is remain comfortable, confident and patient and you will eventually find your proper rhythm.You need not be too focused on the exact rhythm of your breathing with every step that you take but make sure you do follow it to a certain extent.

Establishing a Pattern

Most of the runners either adopt a high-intensity breathing rhythm or an average-intensity breathing rhythm. No matter what your rhythm is, the result is going to be the same. The pattern of breathing which extends the inhale will shift the exhalation point from right to left or from left to right or from one side of the body to the other.

All rhythmic patterns have a singular point: Exhaling on alternating foot strikes each time you run.

Most people recommend inhaling for a longer period and then exhale. This is because the breathing muscles and diaphragm contract when you inhale and that helps in bringing stability to your core. Stability is decreased when you exhale as the muscles can relax during that time. Therefore, it is best to hit your foot on the ground when your body is in its most stable form.

The rhythmic pattern that a person while running applies differs invariably.

Here, we are going to be following the 5-count pattern or rather the 3:2 breathing rhythm. This means that you are going to inhale for three steps and then exhale for two.

how to breathe while running
Odd One Right! (source)

Begin by practicing the basics on the floor.

  • First, lie down on your back while keeping your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent.
  • Now, breathe through your mouth and nose, and make sure you are belly breathing.
  • To the count of three, inhale and then to the count of two, exhale. How you count will depend on what you are comfortable with.
  • Make sure that you are concentrating on a continuous breath when you are inhaling up to the count of three and a continuous breath when you are exhaling to the count of two.
  • Once you have become comfortable with the pattern that you are following, begin walking.
  • You can change the ratio if you want to, to 3:3 or 2:2. Just make sure to choose the one which makes you feel comfortable and then practice it for a considerable amount of time.

Once you feel that you have mastered the rhythmic breathing pattern while lying down, standing and walking, try it out while running. Remember to be comfortable and, inhale and exhale continuously and smoothly with your nose as well as your mouth simultaneously. It might seem a tad bit difficult at the beginning but you will notice improvement eventually over a gradual period of time.

Belly Breathing

how to breathe while running
Breath Like You Mean It! (source)

Did you know that chest breathing is actually considered as a weaker but a simpler form of breathing? This is because chest breathing isn’t capable of bringing in as much oxygen as is required while running and also doesn’t expel the lungs completely while you are exhaling. It is why runners suffer from a side stitch while running.Therefore, you must concentrate on belly breathing, which suggests that your breathing should be diaphragmatic. This means that the entire process of inhaling and exhaling extends down till your stomach.

When breathing through your belly, your belly contracts and expands as the diaphragm forces oxygen in and out of your lungs. However, your chest must remain still. This way you will be able to take in more oxygen than usual. While practicing how to breathe while running, be aware and take a note of how you develop your breathing.

Why is Belly Breathing Important

breathing while running
Belly Breathing: Your Source of Energy (source)

As discussed above, belly breathing is essential and will help you with breathing while running. When you are inhaling, as a general rule your diaphragm contracts and moves downwards. During this process, the muscles in your chest contract so as to expand your rib cage and that increase the volume of the chest cavity.Most of the people tend to underuse their diaphragm, which is a not a good thing.

Remember, when running, the more you inhale, the more amount of oxygen will be available to your muscles. Therefore it is important to practice belly breathing even when you are standing or sitting. This way you will be able to belly breathe when you are running with ease.

To Practice Belly Breathing

  • First, lie down straight on your back and keep your shoulders and upper chest still.
  • Every time you inhale, focus on raising your belly and as you exhale, lower your belly.
  • Then, inhale and exhale through your mouth as well as your nose.
  • With continuous practice, belly breathing will start becoming easier and will come to you naturally. 

Concentrate on the way you breathe through your mouth, if you feel that you aren’t breathing properly. Of course, this might seem tedious but over time, you will be able to adopt a better technique and thereby improve your running performance and efficiency.

Including Walking in Your Routine

how to breathe while running
Take it Easy, Walk Sometimes!

Breathing is such a natural process that it may sound weird to learn, how to breathe while running. But, breathing correctly especially while you are running is essential. By including walking into your day to day routine, you will be able to find and adopt the best technique for breathing while running.

  • Start by going for one-minute walks. While walking, concentrate more on deep and slow breathing and belly breathing. Maintain an even breathing pattern throughout the walk and keep an eye on your stride. It might be possible that you are taking multiple strides each time you are inhaling and exhaling. Make sure that you are breathing properly. When you exhale appropriately, a good amount of CO2 will get cleared from the lungs and that will make more room for oxygen.
  • Maintain a good posture when walking. Keep your spine tall and firm, keep your head up while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Do not put much strain on any part of your body. A slumped posture is known to decrease the lung capacity and therefore it becomes essential to maintain a correct posture.
  • Now, pick up your normal pace and start a one-minute brisk walk while maintaining the same breathing pattern that you began with. Towards the beginning, it might seem a bit difficult to maintain constant breathing rhythm with an increase in the pace. But, by paying a bit closer attention to it, you will actually be able to control it easily.
  • Next, pick up your pace and head for a one-minute slow jogging. Just like the previous stage, try and follow the same breathing pattern. This might again seem challenging but with a bit of practice, you will be able to do this too. Keep a close eye on the number of strides that you take each time you inhale and exhale. To count a stride, count the number of times that your right foot hits the ground.
  • Now head for a one-minute run. At this stage, try and keep the breathing pattern similar to that you had been following since the beginning. Again, keep a close eye on the number of strides that you take for each time you are inhaling and exhaling. You will slowly and certainly notice a difference.

Initially, when you try this exercise, it might seem challenging for you to maintain the same breathing pattern through progressively faster intervals. But, with proper practice, you will soon be able to master your breathing while running.

Learn all about the Walking to Running Program: The Perfect Training for New Runners

While you practice different breathing control techniques, it is also essential to understand whether you are breathing sufficiently. A good way to determine this is the talk test where a runner should be able to form full sentences in continuation while running. If you can talk without huffing or panting, then you are breathing enough.

There are several techniques that you can follow so as to control your breathing while running. Deep and controlled breathing will help you to prevent any kind of injuries as well as the painful side stitches. Make sure that you are hydrated enough, throughout the span you run, so as to prevent drying up of the mouth. Usually, in long distance running, the mouth tends to get dry and dehydrated which creates difficulty in running fast. A runner should drink around 2-3 glasses of water half an hour before the run in order to keep the mouth hydrated. Gulping in small sips of water during the run also helps keep the mouth salivating.  

Belly breathing while running will also ensure that your muscles get adequate oxygen. Once you are able to control your breathing, you will begin to experience more pleasant and comfortable runs. You will then be able to focus on other aspects of running, like running faster and longer.

Also, if you are asthmatic or are allergic to some environmental factors, please consult your physician before implementing any of the above-mentioned techniques as it might vary from person to person.

Now that you know the tricks and techniques of breathing right while running, get going!


In case, you get to know any other tips which help you with breathing while running, do feel free to share them with us.

Happy Running!!

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