I guess you are one of the people who struggle with breathing when running if you are reading this post.
Don’t worry – you are not alone! The good thing is that there are lots of methods that can help you.
I will be completely honest, even after running for many years, I still struggle with breathing during my runs sometimes. However, most of the time I know why.
The reason for struggling to breathe during your run isn’t just affected by the way you run. What affects your breathing during the run the most sometimes and your general quality of breathing. Just your daily life and the way you treat your body. We will go through this in more detail later on.
In this article we will have a look at some breathing techniques when running that will help you increase your lung capacity, general wellbeing during the run as well as the pace and distance you run.
But first, let’s talk about what not to do…
What to avoid during a run…
1. Short and shallow breathing!
This is something I struggled with for a long time. It seems like running is associated with short and shallow breathing due to being an aerobic activity (nothing relaxing about that).
However, this kind of breathing will make you run slower and not enjoy your run at all. Very simple first steps to take to avoid this are not slouching and trying to breathe with your belly, not so much the chest what we are normally used to.
2. Tensing your body, especially abs!
Tensing your body takes up a lot of your energy. And you need all of it for the actual run. It can also lead to injury and muscle fatigue.
There is a myth that if you tense your abs while running – it will make you tone up. Really bad idea as running serves a completely different purpose and you have more chance of toning your body if you are as relaxed as possible during the run. More on that later.
3. Only breathe through your nose!
Also, not the best idea. Only breathing though your nose makes running more difficult as there is limited space for the air to come in and go out.. simple physics.
I have also noticed that when I breathe through my mouth during the run, my heart rate is lower than when I breathe through the nose. I do a lot of heart rate running so breathing through my mouth helps be run faster and for longer.
There is, of course, an issue with only breathing through your mouth. It can get dry very quickly.. especially in warm weather.
There are drawbacks for both. So many people find it beneficial to switch between mouth breathing and breathe in through their nose & breathing out through the mouth. This is best when combined with rhythmic breathing. More on that under the next heading.
The Best techniques to try during a run!
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
In simple language it is called belly breathing. The idea here is very simple – breathe in while filling your belly with air and pushing your diaphragm down-and-out at the same time. The key is to exhale for longer while contracting the belly back in.
This allows more efficient use of oxygen uptake and is an opposite of chest breathing which leads to shortness of breathe and shallow breathing. One of the ”AVOID” as mentioned above.
Most would suggest this as the first and most important thing to try to reduce breathing issues while running. I agree to an extent. The issue is that diaphragmatic breathing alone won’t make that much difference. It’s the combination of different techniques in my opinion which will provide the best results.
2. Keep an eye on that posture
You really don’t want to be slouched down as it will just lead back to short and shallow breathing. Instead, try to have your head high, look 50 meters ahead and also pull your shoulders back. Again – simple rule of physics – this will open up your chest which make easier for air to flow in.
This however might be an issue for office workers (myself included). We are used to sitting in the wrong posture for most of the day and it makes us tense up especially in the shoulders and neck.
I would suggest doing some stretching exercises, yoga and going for a massage once a month. It really helps not just for running but general wellbeing.
3. Train at mid high heart rate zone
This is called heart rate breathing which deserves a separate article. However, the idea is to get your body used to running and breathing slowly. Like with anything – learning first, getting used to something which will then lead to improvements.
Let’s say you are planning to run 10k in few weeks time. Start with 3k in the first week (at least 4 times) and make sure you keep your heart rate at mid range which would be 180 minus your age. Then take it up to 5k the week after and 7k the week after that. All while keeping your heart rate in mid range. You will notice that running and breathing gets easier as you go along and there will be a point when your speed will also increase even though you are keeping the same heart rate.
4. Rhythmic breathing
Before I explain how this works – I want to note that rhythmic breathing is very individual and really depends on your body. You should only do what feels comfortable for you.
If you are new to running and don’t know what rhythm works for you, I would suggest starting with a 3:3 (breathe in during 3 steps and breathe out during next 3 steps).
When you pick up your pace, you might want to switch to 2:2 as it will get harder to maintain 3:3. Especially if your are doing moderate runs and long distances.
Some people also do uneven count breathing. For example 3:2 or 2:1. I find this kind of breathing quite distracting for myself but it works for some. The idea behind this is that it takes more effort to breathe in than breathe out so more time should be given to breathing in.
If you are completely new, maybe just try to run and see what your natural rhythm is without thinking about the count. That will also give you an idea.
Daily suggestions to help your breathing
1. Morning mediation that concentrates on breathing and mindfulness
2. Do diaphragmatic breathing exercises at least 4 times a day and while exercising
3. Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants
4. Avoid artificial aromas in your place of living (scented candles, air re fresheners) – choose organic natural essential oils instead
5. 30 breaths twice a day with Power Breath Fitness. This inspiratory muscle training is great for those who do a lot fitness. Also proved to help people with medical breathing problems. Click on the photo below to get this from Amazon Store.
Don’t overdo it!
I just wanted to remind you that not everyone is the same. We are all unique in our own way so not everything will work the same for all of us. Try out some of these suggestions and techniques and listen to your body. It will tell you what works and what it needs.
Feel free to let me know what breathing techniques when running work for you!
So, clear your mind and just breathe!
I used to get breathing in my head so much that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it during my run.
I was also worried that any minute it will start to get difficult.
Sometimes all you need to do it just LET GO!
I was really taking care of myself and the quality of my breathing, so I decided not to worry anymore about getting shortness of breathe while I run. If that did happen, I would just start running a little slower to catch my breath and I gave myself time to get better.
I can’t even describe the impact of just letting go. In only few weeks I was back to my normal (even better) pace with no difficulty at all. The combination of self care, heart rate monitoring, breathing exercises and most importantly – not worrying all the time – really paid off.
Just try it and you will see the difference!