Not Waiting to Exhale

Breathing properly is the #1 rule in running, but often not something we choose to focus on. To make sure that the way you breathe isn’t holding you back, take a look at the following tips and information.  

Nose vs. Mouth

One debate in breathing has been between the nose and the mouth. Some say nose breathing helps regulate your breathing and warms the air before it hits your lungs, while others say that mouth breathing is more natural and allows you to maximize oxygen intake. Lucky for us, the debate has been pretty much settled, and mouth breathing or a combination of mouth and nose breathing is the way to go. In addition to the reasons mentioned, mouth breathing also relaxes your jaw while nose breathing can tighten your jaw and waste energy.  

Chest vs. Diaphragm

For the majority of us, the biggest breathing struggle is learning to breathe with our diaphragm rather than our chest. Breathing through the chest is a weak form of breathing that is too shallow to bring in maximal oxygen and doesn’t fully expel your lungs when you exhale. Instead, inhaling and exhaling should extend down into your stomach. As you breathe, your stomach should expand and contract as your diaphragm forces air in and out of your lungs. Your chest should remain mostly still.  

Breathing through your chest can also cause dreaded side stitches, or the cramps you sometimes get while running. The side stitch is a sign that you should be breathing with your diaphragm. Keep in mind that good posture also allows for better lung expansion, allowing for greater delivery of oxygen to the muscles.  

Breathing Exercises

If you really want to target your breathing, try a daily breathing exercise such as the following:  

Lie down and put a book on your stomach. Exhale completely, making sure you expel all your air, and then slowly raise the book as you inhale. Inhale for five long counts. Exhale the same way, counting down slowly from five until the book goes down. You can also use your hand instead of a book and try the exercise sitting or standing. Workouts such as cross training, yoga and Pilates can also help you learn to breathe from your diaphragm.  

Breathing Patterns

Before you start your run at full throttle, take the time to warm up properly and regulate your breathing. You might even start with a three to five-minute walk where you focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Once you begin running, start slowly and continue to focus intently on breathing for the first 10 minutes.