How to Control Breathing While Running

Don't stop running -- just start practicing breath control.

Don't stop running -- just start practicing breath control.

Running without enough air is like driving with no gas in your car -- with each step, you careen toward total burnout, and it seems the only solution is to stop all together and fill up. Plenty of people have trouble getting adequate oxygen when they're running -- but like running out of gas, it's typically user error and fairly easy to fix. In order to control your breathing during your run, take some steps beforehand to ensure that you stay on the right track.

Warmup your muscles and get your respiratory system revved up slowly, advises running coach Jenny Hadfield. For about five to 10 minutes, jog slowly or walk, allowing your heart to slowly start beating faster and your breathing to increase steadily. This can help you cut down on the oxygen debt you might feel when you simply start running full-speed right out of the gate.

Test your breath to determine whether you're a chest breather or a belly breather. Following your warmup, stop and place a hand on your chest and another on your belly. Continue breathing as you were. Look down and take notice of whether the hand on your chest or the hand on your belly rises higher; if the chest hand does, you're breathing in the upper portion of your chest. The ideal breath comes from the diaphragm, located in your belly region. Start practicing breathing from your belly, focusing on pushing your abdomen in with each exhale, and out with each inhale. Every time you think of it, return to belly breathing throughout your run.

Develop a rhythm for your steps. Different trainers suggest different patterns for your breath, but the idea here is to breathe in for a certain number of steps, and then to breathe out for a certain number. Military Fitness trainer Stew Smith recommends a 3:2 method -- inhaling for three steps, and then exhaling for two steps as you run. Running coach Jenny Hadfield, meanwhile, recommends breathing in for anywhere from one to four steps, and then breathing out for the same number of steps. It's also OK to adjust your rhythm as you get farther into your run.

Breathe through both your mouth and nose to get the most out of each inhale and exhale. Your mouth can take in more oxygen than your nose, so it's a good way to ensure you're getting the air you need and not resorting to huffing and puffing, advises "Runner's World."

Tip

  • Practicing yoga can be another beneficial way to maintain better breath control. Because much of yoga is focused on the breath, taking deep inhales and exhaling fully, consider attending a class or practicing at home on a regular basis. Also consider adding more core-strengthening exercises to your strength-training routine, as these can help strengthen the muscles of the chest and diaphragm and make it easier to breathe.

Warning

  • If you're having serious trouble breathing or having chest pains during running, talk to your doctor before continuing your running routine.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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