How to Improve Oxygen Intake While Running

Training your lungs is just as important as training your legs.
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Whether you're a trained athlete or a newbie on the track, your oxygen uptake -- or how much air your body uses -- during a run will be roughly the same. Likewise, track stars, joggers and everyone in between can improve oxygen intake while running, but there's no single, catch-all trick that guarantees better breathing on the move. Instead, it takes a combination of methods on and off the track to help your lungs reach peak performance.

    Step 1

    Take slow, deep breaths as you run. Focus on “belly breathing” rather than chest breathing, feeling your diaphragm expand as you breathe in. If you're breathing properly, your belly should expand and deflate rather than your chest.

    Step 2

    Open your mouth. Breathe in and out through your mouth rather than your nose to take in more air per breath. Long story short, more oxygen intake equals more oxygen for your muscles, which leads to improved endurance. Relaxing your mouth also helps reduce tension in the rest of your body as you run.

    Step 3

    Correct your posture. Pull your shoulders slightly back and keep them relaxed, allowing your chest to open up. Keep your spine straight throughout your run. Good posture increases your oxygen intake by putting the muscles that assist your breathing in their optimal position.

    Step 4

    Establish and maintain a consistent rhythm throughout your run. Create a steady breathing pattern by matching your inhalations and exhalations with your footfalls. Breathing rhythmically helps strengthen your diaphragm, which in turns leads to stronger breathing.

    Step 5

    Add brief, maximum-effort runs to your regimen. Run at your personal maximum speed for three to five minutes once weekly, then rest and run for the same amount of time about 20 percent slower. Repeat this process several times each session. In an article for "Peak Performance," endurance coach Olaf Astrand recommends this method, which acclimates your lungs to maximal-effort breathing and improves your overall oxygen uptake.


    • Practice belly breathing when you're at rest to master the technique. Give it a shot at your work desk or in front of the TV and you may find greater success when you hit the treadmill or pavement.

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