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August 12, 2020

Breathing on the Run

Written by Coach Hiruni Wijayaratne

breathing

Breathing on the Run
Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne

This is a popular question from our athletes - "How do I breathe while running?

Breathing is important because we feel awful when it is ragged and shallow. Conversly, we feel better when we are running easily enough that we hardly notice it at all.

The faster you run, the quicker you will reach a point where you will have to concentrate on breathing to continue at that pace.  That is because the additional strain of the pace over time has caused your muscles to demand more oxygen on a quicker schedule. 

So how do you breathe better?

1) Relax 

Breathing is an art. Stay as relaxed as possible in your upper body. Drop your shoulder, extend your torso and neck, and drop your mouth.

During hard efforts, your body craves oxygen. So, you will need both your nose and mouth to intake oxygen. 

2) Focus on Form

Running posture often falls apart when we get tired – the shoulders hunch over, arms get tense, neck and jaw almost lock. 

Remind yourself to draw your shoulders away from your ears and straighten up nice and tall.  This allows for your lungs to have the maximum room to pack in more air and may be able to help ease symptoms of a side stitch by stretching out the afflicted area.

3) Breathe deeply

You can practice breathing properly even when not running. Start by sitting in a chair or lie down on a yoga mat. Place you hand over your belly. 

Inhale with your nose and feel your stomach/ diaphragm fill with air. You should feel the hand on your belly button rising. Exhale through the mouth.  A deeper breath is like sticking your water bottle directly under the faucet stream vs panting is like splashing it with droplets of water.  Fill up those lungs so they can do what they do best – get air to your screaming muscles!

4) Find a rhythm

Start by doing this on easy runs/ walks. Count your footsteps. Your breathing pattern may be 2-2 or 3-3, that is, it takes two footfalls (one landing of either foot) to inhale and two footfalls to exhale, etc.  

However, when you are tired and air is at a premium, try to spend a bit more time on each inhale than you do on each exhale, for what might end up as a 3-2 rhythm or a 4-3 rhythm.  The most important thing you can do is to fill your lungs with each inhale. Take your time, try to relax yourself generally by the almost meditative counting of your breathing rhythm, and / or let a favorite song guide your brain through the pattern. All of a sudden, you’ll be at the next mile marker or water station.



Breathing is different for everyone. All of us from novice to experienced runners, need to practice techniques in low stress situations before taking them to the streets in the big race.   Listen to your breathing on easy runs to find out what your natural patterns are.  Try to maintain a tall posture and open your chest when the running is easy before forcing yourself to find that position when the running is tough.  Test out a 3-2 pattern or a 4-3 pattern on your next interval or tough workout and see what feels right.  

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