Ask The Expert

Best Breathing Techniques For Running

We asked a group of selected fitness experts for their top tips when it comes to the best breathing technique for running

Best Breathing Technique For Running
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

It’s common knowledge that making sure you’re breathing as efficiently as possible while running can help you to get the most out of your training.

So, what are some of the best breathing techniques for running to support your training and workout goals?

We asked a selected group of fitness experts for their input when it comes to the best breathing techniques for running as you look to step your game up.

Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. Our articles and the products featured in them are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Always speak with a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, and/or taking any supplements.

Here’s what they said.

Gradually Teach Yourself To Take Deeper Breaths While Running

Karen Shopoff Rooff, Certified Personal Trainer and Running Expert

For most new runners, focusing on taking deep, full breaths feels like a lot of work.

When you are just starting to improve your cardio capacity, it is natural to want to take short, quick breaths.

To learn how to take deeper breaths while running, start at an easy pace. Inhale for three steps, then exhale for three steps. Repeat this three in-three out pattern for as long as you can.

If you notice that you want to breathe more quickly, take a 30 second walk break to let your heart rate lower. Then try the three in-three out while easy running again.

The goal is to breathe with the diaphragm so that the lungs can fill (and empty) as much as possible each breath. These deep, full breaths oxygenate your blood and thus allow your muscles to work most efficiently.

Man Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Try This Simple But Effective Technique

Michelle Howell, Professional Runner, USTFCCCA Accredited Coach and Running Coach for Tagalong

When coaching a new runner, I make a point of identifying and focusing on good basic habits so that the runner’s awareness of these habits are heightened and they can reinforce them with every run.

It’s much easier to build upon a good habit than to undo a bad one. So starting with a strong foundation is key.

New runners are often concerned with their form – how they move their legs, where they position their arms or how much they should swing them, and so on.

The truth is we’re all built differently and because of that, the ways in which we move our bodies varies from person to person. What is good form for one person may not be right for another.

New runners should start out slow and allow themselves to relax while running. The first step is to focus on breathing.

Runners should learn to breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth. It may sound simple, but it’s harder than you think. When we exert ourselves, it’s common to want to breathe in and out of our mouths (mouth breathing).

The problem with mouth breathing for runners is two fold. First, when we inhale and exhale through our mouth, our throat and oral cavity become dry causing a “cotton mouth” feeling that, quite frankly, is just uncomfortable.

Second, and more importantly, when we mouth breathe, we’re less likely to inhale deeply. Failing to do so means that our body’s tissues, which need to be fed while running, are not being sufficiently oxygenated. That can result in muscle cramps, excessive soreness and plain old exhaustion.

So, how can a new runner focus on breathing when running? First, start by running at an easy pace, one at which you could easily speak a few words or sentences. This will help you avoid gasping for air and want to mouth breathe.

When running (or jogging) at a comfortable pace, make sure you’re breathing in through your nose and exhaling completely through your mouth. See how long you can do this. If you can’t maintain it, walk for a short distance until you can get your breathing under control and then start up again.

Once you can maintain proper breathing a few solid minutes at a set pace, go ahead and add a little more speed.

Just keep reinforcing the right habit. It may seem slow at first, but over time you will become better at doing this and more comfortable with the sensation, which will benefit your lung function and your body overall.

As you progress as a runner and are able to run at higher tempos and for longer distances, proper breathing will allow you to stay relaxed and able to focus on other aspects of the sport.

The bottom line: when you’re a new runner, learning to breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth, while simple, can make a big difference as you progress in skill level and will ultimately help make you a more efficient runner over time.

Woman Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Make Sure You Use The Diaphragm

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Silverdale Sport and Spine

Some runners choose to use a rhythmic breathing pattern, where inhalation and exhalation corresponds to strides.

For example, a 2:2 pattern of breathing, which is fairly common, means two strides per inhale and two strides per exhale. A 2:1 pattern would mean two strides per inhale and one stride per exhale.

Some experts have suggested that you don’t want to finish your exhale on the same foot each time, and instead alternate which foot completes the exhale. The rationale is to promote balance and not excessively load one side of the body.

This would require an odd pattern, for example a 3:2 sequence with three strides per inhale and two strides per exhale.

In order to master any breathing rhythm, it is important to practice the pattern while walking until it becomes habitual.

Rhythm breathing has been shown to help running performance, however the ideal pattern varies between individuals.

In addition, it is crucial to use the diaphragm, the primary muscle of respiration.

An upright posture while running, where the lower rib cage and pelvis are parallel to the ground, enhances the efficiency of the diaphragm.

As the diaphragm descends during inhalation, the entire abdominal wall should expand.

Compared to an upper chest breathing pattern, diaphragmatic breathing allows for less strain through the neck and shoulders, and promotes better overall movement while running.

Group running

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Focus On Your Breathing Pattern

Tami Smith, Certified Personal Trainer

First, I find that the in through the nose, out through the mouth technique is the most efficient for running as it allows for circular breathing and the ability to really focus on your breath throughout the whole run.

When things start to get difficult, you can always bring it back to your breath, even saying to yourself ‘in through the nose, out through the mouth’.

Focusing on that breathing pattern will help distract you from any physical discomfort you may be feeling and it will also help keep your breathing under control as well as your heart rate.

I like to pay close attention to the way the air feels entering my nose as well as how it feels leaving through my mouth.

If you’re trying to recover from a sprint interval or an intense terrain that’s left you out of breath, think about taking big, long, deep breaths in, and releasing them back out in the same manner.

Eventually, your breathing and heart rate will settle back down to a manageable rate.

Woman Running in Park

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Just Go With The Flow

Rahaf Khatib, Superfeet Wellness Expert and RRCA Level 1 Certified Running Coach

In my opinion when it comes to breathing and running, I would just go with the flow. There isn’t any set rule as to how and where to breathe (nose or mouth) from while running.

Remember to keep your chest up, arms at a 90 degree angle, and pretend as though you are carrying a chip in your hands. You don’t want to break it, but don’t want to drop it either. So don’t ball your fists tightly.

Another thing you can do is loosen up your upper back by foam rolling it for 30 seconds. Foam rolling your upper back and shoulders really helps loosen up tight muscles which in turn will help your breathing.

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