How to Breathe While Running
Learning how to control breathing while running can help calm your mind and boost your performance. Try these simple breathing techniques on your next run.
Every new runner has experienced it: run too fast, too soon and you’re quickly out of breath. Often, it’s an indicator that you need to run at a slower pace, gradually picking up momentum as you warm up. However, it can also be a sign that you’re not breathing properly.
During a run, your body needs to replenish oxygen and release carbon dioxide, which accumulates faster as you work harder. With a few simple breathing techniques for running, you can breathe more efficiently, increasing your oxygen intake and letting go of more CO2 with each breath. Proper breathing can also help you find more enjoyment and relaxation from your runs.
What Is The Correct Way To Breathe While Running?
As an EXOS performance and training specialist, Eric Dannenberg uses some key breathing techniques to improve his performance and efficiency when he’s running:
- Technique 1: Breathe with your belly: inhaling deep through your diaphragm and belly, not just your chest.
- Technique 2: Control your breathing cadence: aligning your breath with your steps in a rhythmic pattern.
- Technique 3: Nasal breathing: inhaling and exhaling through your nose instead of your mouth, activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Technique 4: Power breathing for sprinting: adding intentional pressure to your exhale for stronger sprints.
What’s the first step towards learning how to control breathing while running? Dannenberg suggests simple awareness: “To optimize your technique with breathing and running, simply start by being aware of your breath.” That awareness can help runners clear their minds and get into “the zone,” a state when the run becomes rhythmic and even relaxing: “As I start to control my breath, I can control my mind,” he says, “and this is when I can drop into the zone.”
How To Breathe While Running
On a muggy afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, Dannenberg teamed up with adidas to demonstrate a few simple techniques to control breathing while running that can give your performance a head start. Watch the video to learn how to run without getting out of breath on your next run.
Technique 1: Breathe With Your Belly
To breathe more efficiently and avoid feeling like you’re running out of breath, Dannenberg suggests “diaphragmatic breathing,” which means inhaling through your diaphragm to expand your belly, instead of just your chest.
- As you inhale, breathe in through your belly, focusing on expanding deep into your diaphragm.
- As you exhale, push through your diaphragm to exhale air from your belly and core.
How it helps you run: Breathing with your belly draws more oxygen into your lungs, helping you get more energy from each inhale. It can also help slow your breathing even as you pick up the pace, which can help to diminish the feeling of running out of breath.
Technique 2: Control Your Breathing Cadence
Once your awareness is on your breath, you can start to control the cadence of your breathing.
Here’s how to start:
- As you’re running at a steady pace, try to match your inhales and exhales to each stride, breathing deeply into your diaphragm. You could try an inhale for two steps, and an exhale for two steps, or a similar pattern that works for your breath and pace.
- Try to maintain this steady rhythm through your run.
How it helps you run: When you match the cadence of your breath to your running pace, it helps you breathe more steadily, slowly and efficiently while keeping your mind focused. With practice, you can keep your breathing at a controlled pace when your run kicks into high gear, whether you’re facing sprints, slopes or staircases.
Technique 3: Nasal Breathing
As your strength builds, Dannenberg recommends nasal breathing to boost your body’s parasympathetic response. It’s as simple as it sounds—just breathe in and out through your nose while you run.
Is It Okay To Breathe Through Your Mouth While Running?
It is okay to breathe through your mouth while running, however it might not be the most efficient way to breathe. Inhaling through your mouth kicks your sympathetic nervous system into gear, triggering your body’s stress response and increasing your heart rate. When you inhale through your nose, it stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system which Dannenberg compares to “your body’s rest-and-recovery response.” Nasal breathing when you run can help keep your heart rate steady and your state of mind relaxed. However, exhaling through your mouth (also known as “power breathing”) can be beneficial during high exertion runs like sprints or tempo runs.
Technique 4: Power Breathing For Sprinting
Want to super-charge your sprints? Even experienced distance runners can be surprised by the challenges of sprinting. Techniques for what Dannenberg calls “power breathing” can help you sprint faster and increase your oxygen intake when you need it most.
Here’s how to power breathe during your sprints:
- Start by inhaling through your nose, steadily and all the way into your diaphragm—standard nasal breathing.
- When you exhale, push the air out with force through your mouth while creating a strong “sss” sound through your teeth. Try to exhale for a bit longer than you inhaled, to expel as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as you can.
How it helps you run: As your exercise intensity increases, you want to maximize the oxygen your body absorbs while expelling carbon dioxide as efficiently as possible. This power breathing technique can help you release more CO2, while the vibrations of the “s hum” can actually help your body absorb more oxygen, by stimulating the production of nitric oxide.
What To Do If You Start Feeling Out Of Breath During A Run
If you take off for a run and get that familiar sensation like you’re out of breath, then you might be pushing yourself to your max. Slow down to a jogging pace where you can hold a conversation or walk for a minute and shake out your limbs. Running with these techniques like nasal breathing can feel uncomfortable at first, so do what you can and always feel free to revert to a form of breathing that’s comfortable for you—because at the end of the day, what matters is that your body is getting sufficient oxygen during the workout.
Breathe Easier, Run Faster
Bringing your focus to your breathing can help you tune out distractions, quiet your mind, and get in the zone. Soon, you won’t just be running faster, you’ll feel more relaxed and more energized during your runs.
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