What Are The Proper Breathing Techniques For Running?
by James Lee on March 30, 2022
We spent all our lives breathing in and out that it seems natural, so how can we get it wrong? Our muscles rely on oxygen from our lungs to function, so every breath counts. How you also breathe matters.
New runners and athletes push themselves harder each time they run which means their muscles need more oxygen. For some runners, breathing is short and challenging. What if we were told there is a more efficient way of breathing? Efficient breathing makes running a more pleasurable experience increases your performance at running.
How To Breathe Properly: The Proper Breathing Technique
The proper breathing technique for running takes time to master but takes your running to a whole new level. First, you must learn to breathe through your belly. Simply put, you have to learn to breathe through the diaphragm.
1. Breath Down Towards Your Belly
When you breathe in, your diaphragm contracts to let air in and expand the rib cage; working your diaphragm to its fullest capacity allows you to take in a large amount of air which your muscles need to function when running. The more air you breathe, the more energy your muscles can generate for improved running performance.
Many people often underused their diaphragm the majority of the time, which is why you should take your time and practice deep breathing. Practice will also get your body used to taking deep breaths, so you do not have to keep thinking about every breath you take.
Practice is also essential to get your intracoastal muscle accustomed to the new extra activity when running. These muscles are usually used to doing the bare minimum to keep you alive, and when the diaphragm begins to do more work, they quickly get fatigued.
How to practice belly breathing
You can practice deep breathing while reading a book, sleeping, eating or running. Try practicing in different body positions, including lying down, standing or doing an activity. Here is how you can do it.
Lie on your back or find a calm relaxing posture
Keep your upper body (shoulders and chest) still
Focus on raising your belly as you take a breath in
When exhaling, focus on retracting your stomach
Inhale and exhale through the nose and mouth, respectively
2. Establish a Breathing Pattern
Most runners inadvertently develop a 2:2 breathing pattern while running. This means that they inhale two-foot strikes and exhale two foot strikes. A foot strike is when the foot touches the ground, so the runner inhales after their foot touches the ground twice. This could be either foot, left or right.
Some athletes choose to breathe in and out after three-foot strikes instead. Both breathing rhythms work for the individual athlete adopting the breathing pattern. The advantage of the rhythm of the three-foot strike is you constantly exhale on the same foot allowing for some consistency.
The most important thing to avoid when running is breathing every time your foot strikes. You want to exhale on alternate foot strikes, making you inhale longer. If you’re struggling to get a rhythm in place, the best rhythm to adopt is inhaled for three-foot strikes and exhaled for two-foot strikes. The longer you inhale, the more fuel your muscles have to keep pushing on.
Practice your 3:2 while still and lying down, then take it for a run once you feel confident you’ve mastered the technique. This running method works best when running at an average speed and exerting less effort. But what if you are running up a steep hill or at high speeds?
3. Run Faster With Rhythmic Breathing Technique
When running at high speeds or up a steep surface, you will exert more energy from your muscles. Since your muscles are working harder to give you more energy, your lungs will need more oxygen so you’ll need to adjust your breathing.
How do you know it’s time to switch up your breathing? You'll get to a point when 3:2 is not working and your lungs feel uncomfortable maintaining the rhythm. This is your brain’s red flag to switch to the 2:1 breathing rhythm.
Take a deep breath during two steps and an exhale when you strike the ground once. This translates to more inhales per minute and less time spent exhaling. You should feel the hill getting easier to conquer. Once you have cleared the hill, you can continue this breathing pattern until you feel comfortable resuming the 3:2 breathing pattern.
To make adjusting speed and inclinations easier, you can start the 2:1 breathing pattern a few seconds before you make the change, so your body has a little energy reserve, giving you that extra kick.
When you start practicing your breathing patterns it is essential to pay attention to your breathing, but don’t let it take the fun out of running. If you notice you’re having trouble running then you should put more energy into controlling your breathing. The lungs quickly get used to the new breathing pattern and will take over after a few practice runs.
4. Breath In Through The Nose Or Mouth?
The jury is out on this one. Some people find it easier to breathe through the nose and exhale through the mouth. However, this may be hard if you’re going for a casual walk with a friend and having a chat. Breathing through the mouth and exhaling through the nostrils can work in this case.
The only downside to exhaling through your mouth is getting dehydrated faster, leaving your mouth and throat dry. If you have a bottle of water with you, this should not concern you.
The Advantages of Proper Breathing Technique for Running
Here are a few advantages of running using a breathing technique. Of course, these advantages only apply if you’ve been practicing your proper breathing techniques diligently.
Thanks to a good breathing technique, you will run faster and further with less strain on the muscles. Using your muscles without proper breathing techniques is like running a car without fuel; it will only hurt you and make running a lousy experience.
Thanks to breathing exercises, running does not have to feel like a death sentence. Your muscles feel pain when they go into oxygen debt. As the name suggests, oxygen debt implies that your muscles are not getting enough oxygen, which leads to an accumulation of lactic acid, causing a burning feeling.
This happens during runs that exert the body excessively and can be mitigated by adopting good breathing techniques. As you keep practicing, your body will get in tune with your breathing technique allowing you to enjoy running for the pure joy it is.