This is honestly the one thing I spent the most time researching when I first started running regularly. But learning how to breathe while running appears to be something many people are searching for.
When I first started I would often start struggling to breathe after only a few hundred metres and I could never really understand what was wrong.
I would see people running past me and they looked like they were barely breathing and I was struggling for air.
I started to think I had a health problem or an issue with my lungs that meant I was unable to breathe properly during exercise.
When taking to the Internet to do research it also appeared as though there were many different theories and approaches to how you should breathe while running rather than one clear way it should be done.
I wish I was able to say do x,y,z when running to ensure you can breathe optimally but it actually needs some trial and error on your part to find what works for you.
Here are my pieces of advice that you should trial to see what works for you.
How to breathe while running
- Breathe through your mouth. Even as a child I was often told in sport lessons that I should breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. For runners this just is not optimal. Your body needs you to be taking deep breathes to bring in the oxygen required to deliver energy to your muscles.
- Breathe deeply. This combined with breathing through my mouth is what helped me massively! Shallow breathing will lead you to feeling dizzy and nausea as your body is not getting the oxygen required to pump round your body. Take fewer but deeper breathes in.
- Match breathing to steps. This is something that works well for many people. Try to inhale for three or four steps, then exhale for the same amount. This allows you to develop a rhythm to your breathing. This can also really help you with keeping your pace and cadence.
- Practice breathing. Sounds crazy right? It is not as mad as it sounds. Lying down on the floor, placing a hand on your belly and breathing deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you are belly breathing. If your chest moves up and down rather than your belly, you are not breathing deep enough. Focus on your hand and try making it rise and fall.
- Warm up. This should be obvious but if you start running from a standing start you are not giving yourself the best chances here. Before you start running do some light exercises to get your heart rate starting to build up and lungs working. I would suggest 1 minute of star jumps followed by 10 squats then 30 secs jogging on the spot… Do some stretching and then you are in better shape to start your run.
These are the things that really helped me with my breathing, which was the main thing that was slowing me down on my runs. Once I conquered my breathing I started knocking minutes off my PBs.
If you try these techniques and still do not see any improvement I would suggest going to visit your GP to rule out any health issues that could be the cause.
You will also find that if you are a new runner you will find it easier to breathe as your endurance increases and you get fitter. Don’t quit at this stage, fight through it and you wont regret it.
Have you ever struggled with breathing when running? How did you overcome it? What is your top tip for how to breathe while running?