Breathing while Running

exhausted running

Proper breathing while running is probably something that you've not though much about, that is until you are out of breath and panting for air or have got a side stitch.

There is in fact a technique to breathing while running that will mean you can run further, faster and without feeling so exhausted.


Should you Breathe through your Mouth or Nose?

You'll hear most people say to breathe through your mouth and others say to breathe through your nose.

I always used to mouth breathe but then I got interested in Chi running and its co-founder Danny Dreyer's advice, was to nose breathe as this meant you were running at the right speed i.e. very easy. So now for my very slow runs I try and nose breathe. I do this more as a gauge to know if I am running too fast. 

However, if you are running at a pace above very easy, you should mouth breathe. This is in order to get in as much oxygen as possible to your muscles. More oxygen into your lungs means more oxygen being transported to your muscles which in turn means that they can create more energy so you can run faster and longer.

Breathing Ratio of Breaths to Steps

Ask someone that question and you'll get a multitude of answers from 2:2 or 3:3 and so on. Talk about confusing.

What the ratio means is the the number of foot steps you should take with each foot while breathing in or out.

So for example a 2:2 would mean taking 2 steps (one with the left foot and one with the right) whilst you breathe in and then another 2 steps (one with the left foot and one with the right) whilst you breathe out. See what I mean about being confusing.

My philosophy is that you should breathe naturally but to take note of your breathing. If you are panting and breathing rapidly and it feels uncomfortable, then you need to slow down to a more comfortable pace. Of course though if you are going up hill or doing some sprint workouts then you are going to be breathing harder.

I am a real believer of doing most of my runs by effort. You are much more likely to  stay injury free and it is far less stressful on the body. Even on hills I will try and keep my breathing as steady as possible even if that means I have to walk them sometimes.

Correct Method of Breathing while Running 

The best way to breathe while running is to breathe deeply so that your lungs are filled with as much air as possible.

How to tell if you are breathing deeply

Place one hand on your stomach and take a breath in. Did you feel your stomach area expand? If yes great, you are breathing right down to your diaphragm. If not, you are chest breathing which means you are not filling your lungs properly which in turn means you are not taking in as much oxygen as you could.

How to breathe deeply

Breath in, consciously fill your lungs with as much air as possible, right down to your diaphragm. You should feel your stomach push out. Then slowly breathe out and let your lungs fully empty and feel your stomach area go back to normal. That is the correct way to breathe.

Putting it into Practice

Don't stress if it takes a while to master this breathing technique. I know it took me ages to master as I was habitually a shallow breather and even now I get days when my breathing is all wrong.

Practice breathing while running on your easy runs and concentrate on your breathing for a minute, then forget about it. You'll find that over time, you'll start to do it naturally.

Always out of Breath?

If you always feel out of breath, firstly try and run a bit slower. Always being out of breath usually means that you are running too fast for your level of fitness. It could also mean that your aerobic fitness is lacking slightly and could be improved.  

However if you find yourself out of breath at even an easy pace, then definitely go and get checked up by your doctor. It could be asthma, anemia, allergies or other issues that your doctor can help to sort out.

Here in France, if you want to join a club (not just running but any sort of physical activity) or want to participate in a race, then you must have a medical certificate from you doctor and this is renewed yearly. It is quite reassuring to me to know that my blood pressure and heart are ticking along safely.

Breathing while Running - Where to Next?

Tips for Beginner Runners
Avoiding a Running Side Stitch
Good Running Posture

> Breathing While Running