How to breathe while running
I was reading various articles today about how to breathe while running as I know this has been a questions many runners have asked me about over the years.
How do you breathe?
What is the proper way to breathe?
Do you breathe through your mouth or nose?
We are all individuals in this sport. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. What is most important is not telling the world that your way is the only way. There are many ways to skin a cat as they say.
Running properly and more efficiently isn’t just about how many miles we run during the week. It means nothing to me to hear about runners putting in 100 miles a week but not doing the other things that matter just as much as all the training.
You can’t expect to get great results when doing high mileage if you are eating junk food, getting poor sleep and partying on the weekends.
Don’t get me wrong. Life should be enjoyed and some time away from it all, hanging out with friends is an absolute must.
Our sport is demanding and I certainly do not want you to not enjoy your downtime but overdoing it can be counterproductive.
I will give my two cents on how to breathe while running and again I state that you have to find out what works best for you.
I have always wanted my readers to always feel as though they have a say in this site as well.
I welcome comments and love getting emails from athletes from around the world who tell me their stories of triumph and many times ask me questions like how to breathe while running.
So here goes.
Breathing through your nose
My wife takes better to breathing through her nose and than out her mouth as she runs and many runners feel most comfortable doing this. If you are one of these types of runners I give you kudos as I would probably be gasping for air if I tried doing this while running.
That being said, it is very hard to change a pattern you have been accustomed to all your life. It would be like telling an athlete to keep his or her hands open when they have clinched them their entire career or trying to change your stride length.
It would not only feel awkward but you probably wouldn’t feel as comfortable or in control running in such a way. It makes logical sense to do what works best for you. Listen to advice, seek knowledge, yes but ultimately do what you feel most comfortable with.
Breathing through your mouth
This is the way I run and if I were to tell a runner how to breathe while running I would offer this option.
It still goes back to what we have been saying.
How uncomfortable do you think you would feel if you tried changing from breathing through your mouth to breathing through your nose?
Let’s take it a bit further. Imagine trying to do this at race pace. I don’t even want to entertain that thought.
The body demands so much oxygen delivery the faster we run and you have to breathe and do your best to get as much of that vital physiological real estate as you can get.
You may be able to to change breathing methods while running comfortably. An easy way to see how it feels is simply if you can carry a conversation while you are running.
There shouldn’t be too much of a strain for you to try breathing through your nose if you are accustomed to breathing through your mouth but try it again as you speed up.
Notice the changes in your breathing, muscle tension, arm carriage. Your whole physiology changes. You have to be as relaxed as possible and no matter what any coach or high level runner tells you, always follow what works best for you.
Take deep breaths
I do this quite often on my long runs and during harder tempo runs. I don’t know what it is but when I do this I seem to feel a bit more relaxed even while at race pace.
It is so important to learn to relax while at higher anaerobic efforts. I can’t state this enough.
Have you ever watched a world-class athlete run at top speed? Have you seen the way they look?
Smooth, confident, relaxed and as if they are floating. Shoulders are low, knee lift is high and there feet seem to be only on the ground for a split second than back in the air. Very smooth.
The point here is being as relaxed as you can while during sub maximal efforts. We all can relax running easy but once the heart rate gets above 150 your breathing comes even more into play.
I take in deep breaths through my nose a few times during long runs and tempo efforts. It seems to help me stay relaxed and grounded during hard efforts.
Don’t count in steps
I’ve heard this in the past and it quite possibly could work for you so don’t rule it out but I can say with all certainty. Less thought, better running.
The more we flood our minds with over thinking the process, instead of relaxing and putting ourselves on autopilot the more inhibition their is.
Have you ever heard of being in a ‘flow’ state? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term where he says when we are most relaxed our emotions are not only charged and working properly but filled with positivity.
We are fully prepared and focused at the task at hand. I have had many flows experiences as I am sure you have as well.
Think of what you were doing at that particular time. I bet you were relaxed and felt effortless and I am sure your mind wasn’t flooded with counting every step as you breathed during those runs.
Make it as simple as you can.
The process of breathing while you run is not something you necessarily even want to try to change.
I would feel very uncomfortable if I tried going for a long run breathing specifically through my nose the entire time when breathing through my mouth for the past 22 years is what I have worked best with.
If anything take the time while your running to say positive words to yourself.
- I am strong.
- Stay relaxed.
- I am in control
- I feel awesome
- Nice and smooth
Whatever you need to do to stay calm and relaxed. This is only my opinion but trying to count your steps while your breathing will over complicate a process that should feel as natural as possible.
This idea of how to breathe while running should be as simplistic as possible and it all comes down to relaxation and doing what works the best for you.