How to Breathe While Running
From marathons to sprints, learning how to breathe while running can help you go faster and calm your mind. Try these breathing techniques on your next run.
Every new runner has experienced it: run too fast, too soon and you’re quickly out of breath. Often, it’s an indicator that you need to run at a slower pace, gradually picking up momentum as you warm up. However, it can also be a sign that you’re not breathing properly.
How Does Breathing Affect Your Running?
During a run, your body needs to replenish oxygen and release carbon dioxide, which accumulates faster as you work harder. With a few simple breathing techniques for running, you can breathe more efficiently — increasing your oxygen intake and letting go of more CO2 with each breath. Proper breathing can also help you find more enjoyment and relaxation from your runs.
As an EXOS performance and training specialist, Eric Dannenberg uses some key breathing techniques to improve his performance and efficiency when he’s running:
- Breathing with your belly: inhaling deep through your diaphragm and belly, not just your chest.
- Controlling your breathing cadence: slowing your breath to align with your pace.
- Nasal breathing: inhaling and exhaling through your nose instead of your mouth, activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Power breathing: adding force to your exhale for stronger sprints.
What’s the first step towards learning how to breathe while running? Dannenberg suggests simple awareness: “To optimise your technique with breathing and running, simply start by being aware of your breath.”
That awareness can help runners clear their minds and get into “the zone,” a state when the run becomes rhythmic and even relaxing: “As I start to control my breath, I can control my mind,” he says, “and this is where I can drop into the zone.”
Video: Breathing Exercises for Running
On a muggy afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, Dannenberg teamed up with adidas to demonstrate a few simple techniques for breathing during a run that can give your performance and your mood a head start. Watch the video to learn how you can try these techniques on your next run.
BREATHE WITH YOUR BELLY
To breathe more efficiently, Dannenberg suggests “diaphragmatic breathing,” which means inhaling through your diaphragm to expand your belly, instead of just your chest.
- As you inhale, breathe in about two-thirds through your belly and one-third through your chest.
- Exhale thoroughly, first through your torso and then all the way up your chest.
How it helps you run: Breathing with your belly draws more oxygen into your lungs, helping you get more energy from each inhale. It can also help you slow your breathing, even as you pick up the pace.
MASTERING YOUR BREATHING CADENCE
Once your awareness is on your breath, you can start to control the cadence of your breathing.
Here’s how to start:
- As you’re running at a steady pace, try to match your inhales and exhales to each stride, breathing deeply into your diaphragm.
- Try to maintain this steady rhythm through your run.
How it helps you run: When you match the cadence of your breath to your running pace, it helps you breathe more steadily, slowly and efficiently while keeping your mind focused. With practice, you can keep your breathing at a controlled pace when your run kicks into high gear, whether you’re facing sprints, slopes or staircases.
As your strength builds, Dannenberg recommends nasal breathing to boost your body’s parasympathetic response. It’s just like it sounds — simply breathe through your nose.
How it helps you run: Breathing through your mouth kicks your sympathetic nervous system into gear — triggering your body’s stress response and increasing your heart rate. When you breathe through your nose, it stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system which Dannenberg compares to “your body’s rest-and-recovery response.” Nasal breathing when you run can help keep your heart rate steady and your state of mind relaxed.
BREATHING FOR SPRINTING
Want to super-charge your sprints? Even experienced distance runners can be surprised by the challenges of sprinting. Techniques for what Dannenberg calls “power breathing” can help you sprint faster and increase your oxygen intake when you need it most.
Here’s how to power breathe through your sprints:
- Start by inhaling through your nose, steadily and all the way into your diaphragm — standard nasal breathing.
- When you exhale, push the air out with force while humming gently through your teeth. Try to exhale for a bit longer than you inhaled, to expel as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as you can. As you improve your nasal breathing, it’ll become easier to exhale through your nose as you hum.
How it helps you run: As your exercise intensity increases, you want to maximize the oxygen your body absorbs while expelling carbon dioxide as efficiently as possible. This power breathing technique can help you release more CO2, while the vibrations of the hum can actually help your body absorb more oxygen, by stimulating the production of nitric oxide.
If this technique is new to you, you can start with breathing out through your mouth. With practice, you can increase your efficiency by breathing through your nose, even when you’re pushing through a sprint.
Breathe Easier, Run Faster
Bringing your focus to your breathing can help you tune out distractions, quiet your mind, and get in the zone. Soon, you won’t just be running faster, you’ll feel more relaxed and more energised during your runs.
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