When you've had a stressful day, you might just want to lace up your running shoes and go for a long run to clear your mind. If you're more interested in pursuing this sport on a regular basis, though, learning to breathe correctly will help you get more out of the workout.
Taking in gulps of air with your mouth will attract the wrong type of attention at work or in a restaurant, but this style of breathing helps during long-distance running. When you're exerting yourself, it's often difficult to inhale enough oxygen with your nose alone. When you can't get enough oxygen to fill your lungs and pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, you'll quickly get out of breath and tired. You don't need to open your mouth fully, but use it to suck in as much air as you can.
Breathing deeply is important in many types of physical activities, including yoga and boxing. During long-distance running, deep breaths help you take in enough oxygen to stay energized. You can use the stomach breathing technique, in which you breathe deeply enough that your stomach expands. When you're running, you don't want to focus too extensively on your breath, so practice stomach breathing while standing still. Place your hands over your stomach to feel it expand when you inhale, and continue this breathing strategy once you start to run.
When you're running at a pace at which you're out of breath, you won't be able to expel enough carbon dioxide from your body. As a result, you won't clear enough room in your lungs to inhale deeply, and you'll just continue to get more out of breath. Focus on exhaling fully, which allows your body to remove its carbon dioxide to make room for more oxygen, which will help you run. Push the carbon dioxide out through your mouth and feel your stomach contract.
Learning to breathe correctly for long-distance running can be frustrating, but the more you practice it, the more it'll become second nature. You'll develop a breathing rate that works for you, but breathing in longer than you breathe out is a common strategy. Try inhaling for three strides and exhaling for two strides. If this rhythm is initially difficult, adjust your stride to achieve it.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.