The stress of work and family can often make you forget to breathe during a workout. No matter how perfect your running mechanics are or how much you can lift, poor breathing techniques won't get you very far in your training. Regardless of what exercises you do, time your inhalation and exhalation with your movement patterns so you develop a steady rhythm like musical notes. When you exhale will depend on what type of exercise you're doing.
Before you start lifting or running, get your mind and body in the habit of breathing with your belly. When you inhale, your diaphragm expands like a balloon, which compresses downward to allow your lungs to expand and take in more oxygen. As you exhale, your belly compresses into your belly, forcing the air out of your lungs. Focus more on the exhalation by slowly breathing out through your mouth with slightly pursed lips. The inhalation should be automatic and should not be forced. The University of Missouri-Kansas City suggests that you do these breathing exercises from a supine position, which increases your breathing awareness. Placing your hands on your belly will improve your exhalation. Do this exercise for five minutes.
Whether you're lifting, pushing or pulling, you always exhale during the exertion, according to Military.com. For example, if you do a shoulder press, exhale when you push the dumbbells overhead. If you do a pullup, exhale as you pull yourself up toward the bar. The exhalation should be sharp and forceful through your mouth, and your belly will automatically compress into your body cavity.
Breathe and Stretch
Never hold your breath or do shallow breathing when you stretch. This will only make your muscles and tissues tighter. When you exhale, go slightly deeper into the stretch to the point of slight discomfort. As you hold the stretch, inhale through your nose and out slowly through your mouth with your lips slightly pursed.
If you find yourself running out of steam or getting muscle cramps while running, try the 3:2 ratio to keep that engine running, suggests Military.com. The 3:2 ratio represents a breathing pattern that requires you to inhale on three steps and exhale on two. For example, inhale for three steps in the left-right-left pattern and exhale for two steps in the right-left pattern. Don't worry if you find yourself running slower than your usual speed. With enough practice, you will eventually catch up to your regular running speed without suffering from cramps and early fatigue.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.