How to Breathe While Running at High Elevation

"Priceless" mountain vistas may in fact have a cost: oxygen.
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As of 2010, there were more than 310 million people in the United States, and only a relative handful lived at high altitude; Denver, Colorado was the only metropolitan area in the country with a population greater than 1 million situated over 5,000 feet above sea level. The implications? If you're a low-living distance runner and travel to, say, a ski town in the Rockies or a resort in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, your unsuspecting cardiorespiratory system faces serious challenges.

Step 1

Start your run at a pace that is much slower than usual. Even if you feel "normal" before you start exercising, the effects of altitude become much more apparent when your oxygen demands increase.

Step 2

Breathe using a pattern that matches your footsteps in some way, such as inhaling for two steps and exhaling for two: a 2-2 pattern. Experiment with different patterns such as 3-3, 2-3 or 3-4. What is most comfortable will, of course, depend on your effort level.

Step 3

Inhale deeply, focusing on letting your abs loosen on inspiration and contract on expiration; this is "belly breathing" and not only helps you draw complete breaths, but may help forestall side stitches.

Step 4

Relax your body and focus on your effort, not your pace. Remind yourself that the phenomenon of "air hunger" you may be experiencing at especially high altitudes is to be expected and that you can manage it with conscious effort.

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