Breathing while running - this is something that seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? That’s not always the case! Although breathing is an everyday thing that most people don’t take the time to think about, it can actually be quite the struggle for runners who haven’t had breathing guidance, especially when starting out.
How deep should each breath be? Why do I feel out of breath when running? Should I breathe with just my mouth or nose? Is it possible to improve my running times by breathing better?
These are all common questions asked by both new and experienced runners. Truthfully, learning how to breathe when running should be near the top of your running to-do list.
We did some research and have put together a list of the best breathing tips for runners to help you improve your performance, whether you want to increase your stamina or shorten your times.This video by Matt Cama, founder of Total Body Transformation Camp, breaks it down perfectly.
Here’s what you need to know:
2 of the biggest things that affect how you run are how you hold your body, and how you breathe. You may be surprised to learn that your posture is just as important as your breathing technique if you want to get more oxygen!
Applying the following techniques to improve both can totally change your running performance.
Tip #1: Stand Up Straight
Most people tend to hold their shoulders forward pretty far out of habit, usually due to their job situation, lifestyle, or just poor posture habits in general. This makes it so you can’t take advantage of your full lung capacity. The more slouched you are, the less are can go in your lungs.
You can test this by scrunching your shoulders forward and seeing how deep you can breathe in. Not so deep now, right?
Instead of slouching, stand up straight. Bring your shoulders back and open your chest. An easy way to do this is to put your fingers on your clavicle bones and push back. See how much taller you can stand? Do this while running, and your lung capacity will feel totally different.
Tip #2: Look Forward, Not Down
Another bad habit that gets in the way of your lung capacity is looking down at the ground while running. It encourages slouching which can make breathing more difficult.
To fix this, simply look in front of you! This simple fix will allow you to take in more air and get more oxygen in your lungs. The hard part is remembering to do it.
Tip #3: Find A Consistent Breathing Pattern
Matt says that most people don’t have a very consistent breathing pattern when they start out running, sometimes breathing in through their nose and out through their nose, in through their mouth and out through their nose, and every other combination… making you sound a big like a pug. This means you don’t have a proper breathing technique down yet.
By changing this and focusing on one breathing pattern, you will be able to breathe easier without even thinking about it!
He recommends breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth consistently. This will allow you to release air faster and get the air you need without drying out your mouth.
Tip #4: Use The 4-In, 4-Out And 2-In, 2-Out Methods
In addition to choosing one in/out pattern, preferably nose-in and mouth-out, it helps to use what Matt calls a “4-In, 4-Out” or “2-In, 2-Out” technique when taking each of these breaths.
The best way to describe this is that your breathing pattern will take a very quick pause with each step, taking either 4 or 2 steps to complete each breath in or out.
With the 4-In, 4-Out count, your breath will go:
In-step-in-step-in-step-in-step (your lungs should be full at this point), out-step-out-step-out-step-out-step (your lungs should be empty at this point.) Then, you repeat the pattern.
With the 2-In, 2-Out count, which Matt recommends for long distance running, your breath will go:
If this sounds confusing, make sure to watch Matt’s demonstration in the video.
Tip #5: Breathe Deep, Using Your Diaphragm
Here’s a quick test: breathe all the way in and out, with one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Which hand raises more as you breathe in?
If only your chest raises higher, you’re breathing is too shallow, and you may need to use your diaphragm more while breathing in.
To do this, try to breathe in with your belly.. and voila! That’s using your diaphragm. Now you’re breathing efficiently and getting as much air as you can easily, making it so you can run longer without feeling as winded.
There you have it - 5 of the best simple yet effective breathing techniques to improve your running! Try these hacks and let us know how it works out in your next race.