Many novice runners struggle to breathe properly. In some circumstances, they may hyperventilate and sound as if they are panicking or afraid. On other occasions, they seem like they are not getting enough air.
When you breathe properly, you make running easier. You also furnish your body with enough oxygen to support its needs, research shows.
A proper breather has a better chance of staving off fatigue and doing more exercise. Efficient breathing also increases a person’s endurance as they train.
Here are some of the techniques you can use to breathe better when running.
How to Control Breathing While Running
1. Master deep belly breathing
Diaphragm breathing is another name for this technique. The reason why most new runners feel tired quickly is that they take shallow breaths.
You don’t want to do this. Instead, breathe from the abdomen and engage your diaphragm. That way your chest cavity expands and takes up more oxygen. You know that you are breathing through your stomach when it expands and contracts instead of your chest.
You can do practice exercises by lying on your back and placing a book on your tummy. If it moves up and down, then you’ve got it right. By doing this you end up enjoying the numerous benefits of deep belly breathing.
2. Use your mouth and nose
There has been an intense debate on whether it is better to inhale with the nose or mouth.
Theoretically, you should breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. That way, the air you take in is filtered.
However, when running, you require as much supply of air as possible. Therefore, use both inlets. Be careful about not just breathing in with the mouth because that could make you hyperventilate.
Conversely, breathing in with your nose alone would make you feel like you are running short of breath. Breathing with both your nose and mouth makes it much easier to control breathing will running.
3. Your breathing rate matters- get into a rhythm
Your rate of breathing is determined by your speed of running. Normally if you are doing a leisurely run, you can take three steps as you breathe in and then three steps as you breathe out.
However, when you increase your speed to a medium – you can do a 2:2 ratio. Here you take 2 steps on the inhale and 2 steps on the exhale.
Finally, when you get to high intensity running a 1:1 ratio would do. For one-step, breath in and the next one breathe out.
Some people find that a 2:1 breathing pattern is better for quick runs. This is because it increases core stability. There is no cut and dried way. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
4. Do a warm-up
For you to breathe better, it is important to prep your body by starting with moderate exercise. Walk for about a minute while breathing slowly. Then increase your walking pace as you also increase your breathing.
Start to jog slowly for a minute and adjust your pace to a faster rate. Increase this to a faster run and alter your breathing correspondingly. Make sure that every time you change, you maintain a new breathing pattern.
It should not be erratic and should come from the belly. When you are this systematic about your speed, it will be much easier to control breathing while running and you are less likely to encounter problems with shortness of breath.
5. Take breaks
Some people put too much pressure on themselves to run continuously. Running for a long time takes a toll on your internal system. It is therefore critical for you to take a few breaks in between, researchers explain.
In these moments, you should probably be walking briskly while still focusing on your breathing. Then you can pick up the pace once you feel comfortable.
6. Run tall
Your spine should be tall and your head should be up. Likewise, your shoulders ought to be relaxed but straight.
Having a slumped posture means that you are reducing your lung capacity. It is critical to keep your chest up so that all the oxygen and carbon dioxide flows in and out of your system appropriately.
7. Consider different terrains and environments
Hills and highlands are known to have different oxygen demands compared to flat fields.
You should start working on your breathing in low altitude areas. Then when you feel confident, you can move to high altitude areas. That way, your lungs expand and you improve your respiratory capability. Remember it is the uphill climb where you’ll do the most work.
Additionally, you could try mixing up training regimens. In some instances, you can do medium-paced running while in others you can do sprints. This will make your body get accustomed to different environments.
8. Counting works
It helps to count your strides as you exercise. You can aim at counting until you get an arbitrary number like 100.
In this strategy, pair your 2:2 breathing with the first count. Then the second inhalation and exhalation pair of 4 follows until you get to 100.
This would make you maintain a steady breathing pace even in places where the terrain is rather tough.
9. How to know when your breathing is inefficient
If your back looks arched or your torso is rotating asymmetrically, then you need to adjust your breathing.
Likewise, if you seem to be gasping, that is a cause for concern. Any tightness in our neck, back or chest is an indication that you could improve the efficiency of your breathing.
Sometimes, if you are running and your shoulders are moving up and down, then you are breathing with your chest, not your belly.
Likewise, if you see your stomach rising in the exhale and sinking in your inhale, then you are not doing it right. The reverse should happen.
10. Signs of danger
A typical red flag is extreme shortness of breath. If you feel like you can’t breathe, then stop running.
However, after a few seconds, you should move your arms so that there is blood flowing to your upper body. In other instances, it might be dizziness, light-headedness or nausea.
When you feel this way, research says it means that your breathing is not keeping up with your pace of running. Try and relax for 8-12 minutes and seek medical advice if the feelings are persistent.
11. Stick to what works
Not every suggestion will work for you as there are things your body may want and others that it may not. It is critical for you to perceive what works and what does not.
If the idea of counting 2 strides before an inhale and one stride before an exhale is discomforting to you, then change tact. It is imperative to focus on making your breathing technique as natural as possible. It should suit your stride length, limitations and preferences.
12. Maintain a calm demeanor
When some people are nervous, they often find it hard to breathe. It is essential for you to remain calm even when you are participating in a competition.
This helps you to maintain a steady pace and control breathing while running. You should be sensitive to the rush of adrenaline that comes with nervousness. Take control of it.
If you practice these tips consistently, it is possible that you will start seeing changes after just 15-30 days.
Start slowly then pick up the pace as you get comfortable. Be sure to establish a rhythm and look out for instances when you are uncomfortable or breathing inefficiently.
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