Breathing is a natural reflex that happens, for the most part, subconsciously. But by taking control of your breathing when you’re running you can provide a better supply of oxygen to your muscles, prevent side cramps, and even help yourself relax during an intense session. Here are a few tips for “getting some fresh air.”
OUR TIPS ON HOW TO BREATHE WHEN RUNNING
A quick biology refresher: breathing supplies oxygen (O2) to your muscles – to the cells in your body to be more specific – when you breathe in and expels carbon dioxide (CO2) when you breathe out. Therefore, it’s essential to breathe well for your muscles to function properly during any physical effort (like running) that requires a large amount of oxygen.
If you’re satisfied with the way you breathe when you run, then you should feel free to let nature take its course! However, by working on just a few things you can improve both your performance and comfort level when you start pushing harder:
- Focus on abdominal breathing: inhale by first inflating your stomach and then lifting your chest. To exhale, pull your stomach in first and then let your chest drop. Using this technique, especially during an easy jog, will make your breathing deeper and more efficient.
- Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth during light exercise.
- Finding a way to stay relaxed, even in the middle of a big push, is key to improving your performance in all sports. Focusing on your breathing can help you do this.
- Finding your balance (not too far forward, not too far back) will help you breathe better. Strength training and core exercises will help as well.
- During a high-intensity race or workout, your breathing rate will increase dramatically. Remember to exhale completely to empty the CO2 from your lungs. This is another thing that can help you relax.
- If you’re a trail runner, the recurrent shocks you experience during descents can prevent you from breathing well and lead to a certain tension. So think about working specifically on downhill running when you train: How to run downhill
Finally, running without music can help you focus on your breathing. You’ll be less influenced by the changing rhythm of each song, and hearing yourself breathe can often help you breathe more deeply and evenly.
USE YOUR BREATHING TO CONTROL YOUR EXERTION
Since your breathing rate is directly related to your heart rate you can control your effort by focusing on your breathing:
- Basic endurance or jogging: at this level of effort you should be able to talk or breathe in through your nose.
- Sustained effort: speaking becomes difficult and is only possible every now and then.
- Maximum intensity: you are breathing too hard to speak.
This method is very useful for controlling your pace like, for example, during a warmup or low-intensity endurance session where you sometimes tend to run too fast.
HOW TO PREVENT AND HOW TO RELIEVE A SIDE CRAMP
You have certainly experienced the intense pain of a side stitch during a jog. If the exact origin of the pain is still not certain, we do know it’s generally not serious and that it goes away pretty quickly as soon as the effort stops.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid the discomfort of a side cramp:
- Don’t run right after a meal. We talk about this in our article What to eat before running.
- Begin your running session gradually so your body can get used to the effort.
- If you feel a cramp coming on, refocus on your breathing and take long exhalations to clear the carbon dioxide from your lungs.
Finally, if you get cramps more easily when you’re running in a group, maybe you should try talking less! 😉