Tips for Breathing While Running

Tips for Breathing While Running

Most of the time, breathing comes naturally. You do it without thinking. But consider this: Breathing intentionally can help you become more efficient and research shows that certain breathing methods may even improve your performance as a runner. We all breathe differently—through our noses, our mouths or some combination of the two. First figure out what kind of a breather you are. Go for a walk or run and pay attention to how you breathe.

Most runners breathe through a combination of nose and mouth breathing, but research suggests that nose breathing—inhaling through your nose and out through your mouth—can bring more oxygen to your brain and your muscles. Your nostrils also filter allergens and add moisture to that inhaled air.

Breathing through your mouth may lead to constricted, shallow breathing; it can also make your mouth feel dry. That said, nose breathing isn’t for everyone, and research on the potential benefits of this style of breathing is still being conducted. As always, stick with what works best for you.

Follow these steps to practice nose breathing:
  • Lie down: Start by sitting or lying down on your bed, a couch or the floor.
  • Prepare your body: Place one hand over your heart and one hand on your stomach.
  • Breathe in: Close your mouth and breathe in slowly through your nose. Think about engaging your diaphragm, the large muscle beneath your lungs that helps with breathing. Gently push your hand against your stomach and feel your diaphragm tighten as you breathe in.
  • Breathe out: Breathe out through your mouth—you can flutter your lips or blow like you’re extinguishing birthday candles—and feel your diaphragm muscle relax.
  • Repeat: Continue this ritual a few times and try to extend your inhales and exhales by a few seconds each time.
You may not last more than 30 seconds or a minute—that’s OK. You’re teaching yourself a whole new way to breathe. Once you’re comfortable nose breathing seated or lying down, take the exercise outside and practice breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth on a slow walk. Work on lengthening your inhales so each breath in lasts a couple of strides, then exhale out for a few strides.

The final step is to practice while running. Start out slow and focus on your breath. Don’t worry about going a certain distance or setting a specific pace. After a few runs, nose breathing may feel more natural and you may tire less quickly. You may also breathe less heavily and recover faster. Nose breathing can also be a good indicator that your pace is just right: Set out too fast and you’ll notice right away if nose breathing feels too labored, in which case, you may want to slow down.


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