How to Breathe While Running: Expert Advice and Guidance

It is not often that we think about our breathing; after all, inhaling and exhaling happens involuntarily. But paying attention to your breathing could unlock better performance.

“Running is an endurance sport that relies heavily on oxygen intake and carbon dioxide emission,” explains Michele Olson, senior clinical professor of sports science at Huntingdon College in Alabama, USA. “The more effectively you’re breathing, the more you can deliver oxygen to your cells and remove carbon dioxide from your cells.

Most of our energy comes from our breathing, not from our food or drink. So when breathing is inefficient, it puts extra stress on the cardiovascular system, causing fatigue to set in faster, explains Alex Rothstein, an exercise physiologist and coordinator of the exercise science program at the New York Institute of Technology. York.

How breathing can stop you

Many factors play a role in inefficient breathing. Your posture may be poor, which can restrict your lungs’ ability to fully inflate and prevent your respiratory muscles from optimally shortening and lengthening. Your deep transversus abdominis muscle, a key core muscle that supports breathing, can also become fatigued. This can affect the contractility of the diaphragm, but it can also weaken the stability of the lower spine.

No matter what is interfering with your ability to fully inhale and exhale and deliver oxygen to your body, your breathing will appear erratic, says Belisa Vranich,
clinical psychologist and founder of The Breathing Class. To control it, regularly exercise your body’s respiratory muscles, says Dr. Vranich. This will delay fatigue, especially over longer distances. The capture? “You have to do it separately from your sport to exercise your respiratory muscles to exhaustion,” she says.

Dr. Vranich’s go-to strengthening exercise is called the exhalation pulse. Here’s how to do it: Sit tall with your legs crossed. Pull your navel in so your stomach is concave; should have a slight rounding of the spine. Then, with your hand on your belly, brace your abs as you exhale through your mouth. Each time you exhale, it should be short and sharp, as if you were blowing out a candle; your back should not move. Between each exhalation, relax your belly. This engages your deep core muscles, says Dr. Vranich, who suggests allowing 15 minutes before or after a run or strength session to work on your breathing muscles.

How to improve your breathing while running

This is how you should breathe while running and during the day: diaphragmatically. Most people use the auxiliary muscles of the neck and shoulders as their primary respiratory muscles, says Dr. Vranich. “Breathing with the auxiliary muscles means you’re taking a smaller upper body breath, which has to be faster to be efficient. Faster, shallower breathing is stressful breathing, so it increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol,” he says.

And that’s not the only reason you should breathe from your belly. “Good deep-breathing mechanics generally result in parasympathetic activity, which is more of a relaxing response, while inconsistent or abnormally rapid breathing can influence sympathetic responses or your fight-or-flight reaction,” adds Rothstein.

Although Dr. Vranich suggests strengthening your breathing muscles outside of racing, that doesn’t mean you can’t put the techniques to use as you rack up the miles. Here’s how to focus on his breathing when he runs:

Warm up with some diaphragmatic breathing

      Take several deep breaths after warming up and before high-intensity exercise. To do this, place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage, inhaling
      slowly through the nose so that the stomach moves against the lower hand while keeping the hand on the chest as still as possible; try to tense your stomach muscles, so that your stomach rolls back as you exhale through pursed lips. This ensures that you maximally stretch the elastic muscles and lung tissue of the respiratory system before stressing them during exercise, says Rothstein.

      check your posture

      As you run, “focus on certain shape cues that make it easier to breathe and fill your lungs, like relaxing your shoulders down and back, broadening your chest, and swinging your arms like pendulums, front to back,” explains Amanda Nurse. , trainer and marathoner. and founder of Wellness in Motion coaching. The muscles of the upper back, lats and core are really important for more efficient breathing, while tight pectoral/pectoral muscles are the cause of shallow breathing, because it is more difficult to create more space to breathe, add. This is also why it’s important to integrate posture-strengthening exercises like the superman, glute bridge, and plank into your strength routine.

      try nasal breathing

      “The nose provides additional passageways for air to become clean, warm and moist before entering the sensitive lower respiratory system that can be damaged by airborne debris or cold, dry air,” says Rothstein. “Breathing through the nose also helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and will keep the individual more relaxed, saving energy.” Furthermore, according to James Nestor, author of Breath: the new science of a lost artnasal breathing results in a 20 percent increase in the efficiency of oxygen consumption.

      Unfortunately, most people breathe through their mouths. “When you breathe through your mouth, you tend to breathe too much,” says Nestor. “You tend to breathe more shallowly, and when you do this, most of the air you take into your body isn’t actually used for oxygen exchange. It is in the mouth, throat and bronchial tubes, and never reaches the lungs.

      Nasal breathing isn’t easy and can be uncomfortable, so it’s best to do it slowly. Rothstein recommends starting with nasal breathing during low-intensity runs, then increasing intensity as you get more comfortable.

      Nailing nasal breathing forces you to breathe slower, which Nestor says is key. Furthermore, research published in the borders in psychology Journal in 2021 revealed that “slow breathing can activate anti-inflammatory pathways and increase lung capacity, thereby increasing aerobic endurance, emotional well-being, and sleep quality.”

      Try different breathing patterns while running

      Rothstein recommends trying out different breathing patterns while running to find what works for you. For example, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, then breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. After one minute, add a two-second hold after inhaling but before exhaling. Then challenge yourself with an eight-second inhalation, followed by a two-second hold, and a four-second exhalation. “Adding these types of breathing challenges to your exercise session will improve your breathing ability and efficiency while increasing mindfulness and enjoyment of your exercise session, once you’re comfortable with the techniques,” he says. .

      When it comes to inhaling and exhaling, finding the practice that feels most natural is really what will allow you to progress in the race, says Nurse. “You’ll be able to accelerate your pace and distance with quality breathing that will allow you to consume maximum oxygen and rapidly eliminate carbon dioxide buildup,” she explains.

      Take more steps per breath on easy runs

      As another way to try to improve your breathing, Nurse suggests taking more steps per breath in easy runs (for example, three steps inhaling and three steps exhaling) and fewer steps per breath as intensity increases (for example, two steps inhaling). and two steps exhaling in medium intensity runs).

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