Your breath is of the utmost importance, especially when you’re running, which can cause you to feel short of breath. To maximize your performance, it’s vital that you tune in with your breath and make the appropriate improvements.
This allows you to boost ease and efficiency so you can reach your full potential. Initially, new approaches may feel uncomfortable or unnatural. Over time, you’ll get used to the adjustments and be able to optimize your breath to make your runs more enjoyable.
Try these simple, effective breathing techniques to improve your running performance. Instead of trying to incorporate all of these tips into your running routine at once, start slowly.
Learn one technique at a time and allow yourself at least a week to get it down before trying another new approach.
Why does it feel difficult?
Strenuous activities such as running cause your muscles and respiratory system to work harder than normal. You require more oxygen and must remove carbon dioxide buildup, which can make breathing more difficult.
The quality of your breath can be an indicator of your fitness level or how well your body is responding to the pace and intensity of your run. If you’re working too hard or pushing yourself past your capacity, you may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, or tightness in your chest.
Nose or mouth?
If you’re going out for a casual run at a slower pace, you may use nasal breathing. You can also choose to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
However, if you find yourself struggling to catch your breath or carry on a conversation, you may find it easier to breathe solely through your mouth. During high-intensity runs or sprints, it’s recommended that you breathe through your mouth since it’s more efficient.
Inhaling and exhaling through your mouth allows more oxygen to enter your body and fuel your muscles. Plus, mouth breathing helps to relieve tension and tightness in your jaw, which can help you to relax your face and body.
Tips for breathing better while running
Make use of these simple, effective strategies so you can breathe more easily and efficiently while running. When trying out a new technique, start slowly so you can get a feel for it before picking up the pace.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
Deep abdominal breathing strengthens the muscles that support breathing and allows you to take in more air. Not only will you be able to use oxygen more efficiently, but you’ll be less likely to experience side stitches.
Diaphragmatic breathing is especially important if you have a shallow breath. Breathing into your chest can also cause tension in your shoulders, so you may find that your body is naturally more relaxed when you belly breathe. You can use diaphragmatic breathing during your daily life as well.
How to do it:
- Get a feel for belly breathing while lying on your back.
- Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air.
- As your stomach expands, push your diaphragm down and out.
- It lengthens your exhales so they’re longer than your inhales.
Do a few 5-minute sessions over a period of a few days. Slow down your pace when you first incorporate it into your runs. After you get the hang of it, you can pick up the pace.
2. Breathing exercises
Take time to focus solely on your breath. This helps to enhance lung function and capacity while developing breath awareness.
Discover which exercises resonate best with you. Create your own routine using one or more of the following breathing techniques:
- alternate nostril breathing, known as nadi shodhana
- equal breathing
- rib-stretch breathing
- numbered breathing
- pursed-lips breathing
3. Focus on form
In order to maximize your breath and find ease while running, position your body to support healthy, efficient breathing. Maintain good posture and keep your head in line with your spine, making sure it doesn’t drop down or forward.
Relax your shoulders down away from your ears. Avoid hunching or slouching forward.
4. Breathe rhythmically
Breathing in a rhythmic pattern allows you to take in more oxygen and put less stress on your body. Each time your foot hits the ground, the force of the impact can cause stress to your body.
To prevent muscular imbalances, alternate your exhales between your right and left foot. Rhythmic breathing allows you to put less pressure on your diaphragm and balance the stress of the impact between both sides of your body.
Follow a 3:2 pattern that allows you to alternate which foot gets the impact as you exhale. Inhale for three-foot strikes and exhale for two. If you’re running at a faster pace, you can use a 2:1 pattern.
If following a running pattern feels too complicated, simply pay attention to your breath to get a sense of how a comfortable rhythm feels.
5. Inhale fresh air
It will be much easier to breathe if you’re inhaling clean air. If you plan to run outdoors in an urban area with air pollution, choose the time of day when traffic is at its lowest. Avoid the busiest roads and choose streets that are less congested.
Tips if you have asthma
It’s important to stay active if you have asthma, even if exercise seems to set off or heighten symptoms. With the right approach, you can improve lung function and manage your symptoms. Take a look at some top breathing tips for runners with asthma.
6. Fair weather wins
Certain types of weather can trigger asthma symptoms. On these days, you may choose to run indoors. Cold air contains less moisture, which makes it less comfortable to breathe, and can trigger symptoms.
If you do run in colder weather, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf in order to moisten and warm the air you inhale. Other triggers include changes in the weather, hot days, and thunderstorms.
7. Ease your way in and out of running
Warming up is especially important if you have asthma since you need to allow your lungs plenty of time to warm up. Slowly build up the intensity to give your lungs a chance to start working.
Once you’re nearly finished running, wind down so your lungs have a chance to gradually cool down.
8. Avoid pollen
Check the pollen count before heading outdoors to run, and plan to run when the pollen count is at its lowest, which is usually in the morning or after it rains.
If it’s something you can’t avoid, consider wearing a pollen mask. After your run, take a shower and wash your workout clothing.
9. Breathing techniques
There are several breathing exercises that are recommended for people with asthma. These exercises may enhance your breathing patterns, thus bringing benefits to your runs.
You can try out some of these techniques to see which ones help you to manage your symptoms and bring you the most benefit.
You can practice:
- nasal breathing
- the Papworth method
- Buteyko breathing
- deep yogic breathing
When to see a doctor
Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you’re new to fitness, have any medical concerns, or take medications.
Take care if you have any lung concerns such as asthma or a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Seek medical attention if you find it difficult to breathe or experience shortness of breath, gasping, or wheezing while running. Other symptoms that warrant medical attention include feeling dizzy, faint, or disoriented.
The bottom line
With the right tools, you can improve your breathing patterns while you run. These straightforward techniques can help you to breathe and run at your full potential. Aim to run at a pace that allows you to breathe easily and carry on a normal conversation without struggling for breath.
Get in the habit of tuning into your breath not only as you run, but at various times throughout the day. Remind yourself to maintain a smooth, even breath and pay attention to any variations as well as how your breath responds to certain situations or activities.