It can be frustrating to be on a run where your legs want to go faster, but your lungs just can’t keep up. It could simply be because you’re out of shape, or maybe you need to practice breathing.
If at this point you have realized you don’t know how to breathe at all you should probably seek medical attention immediately.
Why you breathe more when you run
First, some background knowledge.
When you start in any kind of exercise, your muscles need more oxygen, because they need it to make energy. Best way to do this? Breathe more. But it’s not only about the number of in- and exhalations, it’s also about the quality. To get a lot of oxygen deep into the lungs, you need a deep inhalation. When you breathe rapidly and uncontrollably, like on a tough run, you’re not getting the oxygen your muscles need. The fast inhalations are too shallow and lots of the oxygen doesn’t reach the bloodstream. It means you’re pushing your body to it’s limits.
You might never have thought of it this way, but you can actually train your lungs. More specifically the diaphragm, a muscle at the bottom of your rib cage. One of the differences between trained and untrained people, is that untrained people need to more air to get the same amount of oxygen to the muscles.
When you take a breath, 80 percent of the work is done by the diaphragm. If you strengthen your diaphragm, you may improve your endurance and be less likely to become fatigued.
– Everett Murphy, M.D., a runner and pulmonologist at Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, Kansas.
Are you a belly-breather?
Or a belly talker? It’s not relevant, I just think it’s super cool.
You can test if you’re breathing properly the next time you’re out running at a pace that is challenging. Stop and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. If you’re breathing correctly, your belly should go up and down like a balloon being inflated and then deflated, while your chest should move less.
Breathing with your belly is something you should practice in everyday life as well. You can try yoga, where focusing on your breathing is part of the practice (and it’s good for your body in many other ways as well). Doing deep breathing exercises will strengthen your diaphragm.
Get your posture in check
Running is not just about your lower body. If your shoulders and chest are tense, it’s harder for you to breathe deeply. Loosen your upper body before you go running by doing some dynamic stretching like arm circles and arm crossovers.
Make sure you don’t hunch over, and keep your core engaged.
Breathe with your mouth
Another quite simple change is to start breathing through your mouth. Your mouth is larger than your nostrils, and can therefore take in more air. I think most people do this naturally.
However, beware of insects. If you like me sometimes run in the evening near a lake , you might get a bonus snack 😉
A cute breathing technique
I think this way of keeping your breathing under control is very sweet. What you have to do is sing the alphabet (in your head, out loud would take too much of an effort – unless you’re really badass).
- When the song goes up (A – B – C – D), you inhale
- When the song goes down (E – F – G), you exhale.
Another way of doing it is paying attention to your feet. For every 3-4 steps you either inhale or exhale, and find a rhythm that way.
Consult a doctor when in doubt
Having a little bit of trouble breathing is not uncommon, but if you have actual problems breathing or start wheezing, it’s best to consult your doctor. Exercise-induced asthma or just asthma and allergies can make it very hard for you to breathe, and you should never exercise if it makes you feel downright uncomfortable. Always be safe!
Do you pay attention to how you breathe when you run? Let me know in the comments!