Running - Knowledge

The Ultimate Guide on How to Breathe Properly While Running

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Do you often 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 when they are running and that isn’t a good thing. Have you ever wondered how to breathe while running? Well, most people don’t because they aren’t aware of the fact that breathing, though a simple task, is a vital part of running.

how to breathe while running
Short of Breath? You're Not Alone (source)

 Some excellent runners, who make running appear so easy, make it seem like 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. These expert runners have devoted a lot of time and effort to perfect each and everything about running, even their breathing.

Table of Content:

  • Nose or Mouth Breathing
  • Breathing Rhythm or Ratio While Running
  • Belly Breathing
  • Including Walking in Your Routine

It is only when you learn how to breathe while running that you will actually be able to succeed. You might be winning races but the chances of you getting injured are high if you aren't aware of the correct breathing techniques.

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

Nose or Mouth Breathing

breathing techniques for running
No Nose Business! (source)

If you have been running for some time now, you must be well-aware of the fact that while running, you should primarily breathe in and out through your mouth. It’s great if you want to use your nose too.

Why do you need to breathe through your mouth?

Well, it is because of the fact that when you are running, your muscles need more oxygen than normal. It is therefore essential that adequate amount of oxygen reaches the muscles. That isn’t possible when you inhale through your nose. Your mouth, however, is capable of that and can effectively inhale and exhale adequate oxygen. Of course, 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 breathing your nose.

Breathing Rhythm or Ratio While Running

Ratio While Running
Run to the Rhythm of Your Breath

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

What is breathing rhythm?

It is simply the ratio of the number of steps while breathing into the 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 you are running at a rather low intensity, a breathing rhythm of 3:3 is recommended.

As is quite obvious, this is just the general rule and does not work for every runner. When you are practicing how to breathe while running, try a few breathing rhythms or patterns and then check which one works the best for you. Some articles will 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 and through your mouth. As you continue running, your body will eventually find the perfect rhythm through trial and error. Just make sure that your focus is on deep belly breathing which will increase the length of the time that you breathe in and out.

How Controlling Your Breathing Rhythm Helps You

how to control breathing while running
Breathing Rhythm: The Essence of Running (Source)

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

  • Pacing
how to breathe while running
Pace it Out (source)

You can monitor and feel your pace if you pay really close attention to your breathing rhythm. Once you are able to determine the correct pace for your workout, you will easily be able to examine if you breathe slowly or quickly so as to find out if you are accidentally speeding up or slowing down. This means that you have to pay really close attention to the details. But, this process will help the runners who face the problem of maintaining a certain or consistent pace.

  • Side Stitches
breathing techniques for running
Side Stitches Slowing You Down? Breathe Them Away!

 Many runners, who are just starting out and are learning how to breathe while running often suffer from a side stitch, that can often slow down a person.

But, why does it happen?

Well, the side stitches occur due to undue stress caused to the diaphragm. This is further escalated 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.

  • Hills
breathing techniques for running
Climb Those Hills Like You Own Them! (source)

While taking on a hill at the time of the race, most runners often wonder how they can adjust their pace. Of course, you might be using all of the correct techniques that are required for the hills but somehow you still fail to maintain a consistent pace. Unless and until you know the exact length and grade of the hill, it is quite difficult to measure and determine how much you will be required to adjust your pace.

For instance, if you are following a high-intensity breathing rhythm or an average intensity breathing rhythm, then you must 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.

Rhythmic breathing has been considered as one of the best ways to control breathing while running. This may sound labor-intensive but breathing by following a pattern can actually help you to run longer and faster. Each and every person is well capable of his or her own rhythm of breathing. Listed below are a few tips that will help you understand rhythmic breathing in a much better way.

Alternating your Feet While Exhaling

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

Rhythmic breathing has helped a lot of people in preventing injuries.

But, how is that possible?

To understand that, you must understand the various stress that your body faces when running. For instance, each time your foot hits the ground, the impact is huge. This impact stress increases when your foot actually strikes the ground at the time you are beginning to exhale. This happens because each 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 can cause injury.

So, when you always land on the same foot while exhaling, 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 with the inhalation and the exhalation in an odd-even pattern. This means that you will land on your left and right foot at the starting of each exhalation.

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

As 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 and confident and you will eventually find your proper rhythm.

Never be too focused on the exact rhythm of your breathing with each and every step that you take.

Establishing a Pattern

how to control breathing while running
Patterns are Everything!

Most of the runners either adopt a high-intensity breathing rhythm while some adopt an average intensity breathing intensity. 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 ids decreased when you exhale as the muscles 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 you are going to apply most of your running will differ from person to person. 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. Begin by practicing on the floor.

  • First, lie down on your back while keeping your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent
  • Now, ensure that you are belly breathing and breathe through your mouth and nose
  • 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 till the count of two.
  • Once you have become comfortable with the pattern that you are following, begin walking.
  • You can change the ration too if you want to 3:3 or 2:2. Just make sure to choose the one that you feel comfortable with and then practice it for a considerable amount of time.

Once you feel that you mastered the rhythmic breathing pattern while lying down and standing, try it out while running. Remember to inhale and exhale continuously and smoothly with your nose as well as your mouth at the same time. It might seem a bit difficult at the beginning but you will notice that you are starting to improve eventually over-the-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 form of breathing?

This is because this form of 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. This is the reason as to why most runners get a side stitch when they run.

Therefore, you should concentrate more on belly breathing or rather, your breathing should be diaphragmatic. This means that the entire process of inhaling and exhaling extends down till your stomach.

When breathing with this technique, your stomach 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. When you are practicing how to breathe while running, be aware and take a note of how you mostly breathe.

Why is Belly Breathing Important

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

 As discussed above, belly breathing is rather 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 bad thing.

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

To Practice Belly Breathing

  • First, lie down straight on your back and keep your shoulders and upper chest still.
  • Each time you inhale, focus on raising your belly and as you exhale, lower your belly.
  • Then, inhale and exhale with both your mouth and nose.
  • With a bit of practice, belly breathing will start becoming easier to you and will actually feel absolutely natural.

Work on improving the way you breathe through your mouth if you notice that you aren’t breathing properly. Of course, all 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 actually feels weird to learn how to breathe while running. But, breathing correctly especially when you are running is especially essential. By including walking into your 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 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 the same breathing rhythm as your pace is increasing. But, by paying a bit of close attention to it, you will actually be able to control 8it rather 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, pick up your pace again and head for a one-minute run. Even at this stage, try and keep the breathing pattern same 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 certainly notice a difference.

The first few times that 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 it.

There are of course 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 those painful side stitches. Make sure that you are hydrated enough so as to prevent drying up of the mouth.

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

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

how to breathe while running
Let's Get Running!

Do you know any other tips that can help you with breathing? If yes, do feel free to share them with us.

Happy Running!!

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