The event takes place each year and is in support of finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.
To help get you prepared, we put together the best breathing exercises that will let you run longer.
The relationship between running speed and oxygen intake is known as your ‘running economy.’ The more efficiently you can convert oxygen into forward motion, the better. As your muscle’s workload increases, more carbon dioxide is produced within your system. If there’s no oxygen to flush it out, there will be a build-up of lactic acid, which can cause cramps, muscle pains and shortness of breath!
Table of Contents
5 Breathing Exercises for Runners
Patterned breathing exercises help you tone your diaphragm and gain more control over your breathing. When you get good at this exercise, you will be able to take deeper breaths and improve your running economy.
How to start using patterned breathing:
Step 1: start by walking and base your breathing on your strides. For example, inhale for two steps, and exhale for the same amount — this is called the 2:2 breathing pattern
Step 2: keep this pattern up for 1-2 minutes
Step 3: once you feel comfortable, speed up your pace and start running while still breathing based on your strides
These exercises can vary in formation, depending on your desired goal and pace. Use a 2:2 breathing pattern for short sprints or races and a 3:3 or 4:4 breathing pattern for longer training or races. Ultimately, paced breathing can help you run with more power and efficiency even as you start to fatigue.
Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing
This type of deep abdominal breathing strengthens your diaphragm (the muscles that control your breathing). This exercise is particularly helpful if you have shallow breath, which causes tension in the shoulders resulting in cramps and backache. Since this type of breathing allows you to take in more air, there is a reduced likelihood of experiencing stitches.
Here’s how you practice belly breathing in three simple steps:
Step 1: breathe in through your nose and fill your stomach with oxygen
Step 2: when your belly has expanded, push your diaphragm down and out
Step 3: when you exhale, make sure to lengthen your breath so they are longer than when you inhale
To begin with, try doing this exercise lying on the floor. Once you get the hang of it, implement it while you're running by slowing down your pace and following the steps above.
This technique focuses on making your inhales and your exhales the same length. It makes your breathing slow and steady, which helps immensely with pacing yourself. Although it seems easy, this is one of the more difficult exercises since it’s all about discipline and control.
Step 1: breath in and out through your nose
Step 2: make sure each inhale and exhale are of equal duration
A great trick is to choose a word or a short phrase to repeat while inhaling and exhaling
Although this exercise is the hardest to master, it is the easiest to implement while you are running as it doesn’t require any physical manipulation of your body. It’s useful because it ensures there is enough oxygen exchange in your system which will improve your stamina and help you to run further distances.
Alternating Nostrils Breathing also known as Nadi Shodhana
This method is easy and you can do it in 5 simple steps:
Step 1: lift your right hand up and press your first and middle finger towards your palm and leave the other fingers extended. When you exhale, use your thumb to close your right nostril
Step 2: inhale through your left nostril and then close it with your pinky and ring finger and release your thumb from your right nostril
Step 3: exhale out of your right nostril and inhale again
Step 4: close your right nostril and then release your left nostril and inhale, then exhale
Step 5: repeat this cycle for up to 5 minutes
Pursed-lip breathing will reduce the impact on your lungs while running. It slows your breathing by keeping your airways open longer — this makes it easier for oxygen to enter your bloodstream and flush out the carbon dioxide build-up in your muscles.
Follow these three steps to try the exercise out:
Step 1: inhale through your nostrils
Step 2: purse your lips as if you were pouting
Step 3: breathe out as slowly as you can through your pursed lips. It should take twice as long for you to exhale
This exercise is much easier than diaphragmatic breathing and has a similar effect on your system. You can easily implement while you are running as long as you are focused on your breathwork.
Breathing Exercises and Techniques for Cold Weather Climates
While many of the breathing exercises outlined above can help no matter the weather climate, there are a few others that can give you a bit of a boost when running in colder weather.
Knowing the different techniques will help keep your body warm, increase your oxygen intake, and improve your overall lung function.
Alternate Between Inhaling and Exhaling Through Your Nose and Mouth
If you have ever run in cold weather you know what it feels like to take a deep breath through your nose. But this can sometimes be a good thing versus inhaling through your mouth because it takes longer for the air to reach your lungs, helping to warm it up along the way.
Try to take steady inhales through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth. However, the downfall here is that it all depends on the intensity of your run. The harder you go, the more difficult it is to have enough oxygen when breathing in through your nose.
Alternating between inhaling and exhaling through your nose and mouth can be very helpful as you’re starting your run and warming your body up. Once you get a comfortable level and have acclimated to the temperature, you can switch to only breathing through your mouth.
Start Slow and Increase the Distance As You Go
Intense runs outside in the cold weather can have negative effects on your airways and make it even harder to breathe. Don’t just jump right into a full race pace your first time out — work your way up to a comfortable level and allow your body to adjust to the different elements.
Start by going for slower-paced, shorter runs and establish a base mileage and then you can steadily increase your distance. If it’s really cold, it can be better to focus on longer and easier runs to ensure your airways can keep up with the temperature instead of a high-intensity run.
On top of other breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing, deep breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing, Buteyko breathing can be another technique to add to your bag — especially in cold weather. It involves minimizing the total number of breaths you take each minute.
Focusing on this breathing technique can help limit the possibility of a respiratory infection and improve how efficient your breathing is. All you need to do is take a deep inhale through your nose and then continue to exhale back through your nose, not your mouth.
After you exhale, hold your breath for an extended amount of time (not too long, however) and then continue to repeat this process. You’ll find that after the first few times of doing the exercise you’re going to be more comfortable with the technique, and then you can do it as long as it’s needed.
3 Tips for How to Properly Breathe When Running
Here are some general steps to maximize oxygen intake while running. These will help you control your breathing, regulate your pace and maximize your energy.
Know when to breathe out of your nose vs your mouth. If you’re running at a slow pace, you can use nasal breathing or choose to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. But if you’re running at a faster pace, and are struggling to catch your breath, you might find it easier to breathe through your mouth.
Stick to a rhythm, this allows you to take in more oxygen. Alternate your exhalations between your right and left foot, this will reduce the impact of your feet hitting the floor on your diaphragm. This impact can equal up to 4 times your body-weight. Using an alternating breathing technique will help reduce the chance of injury as both sides of your body are absorbing this weight.
Finally, focus on your form. In order to maximize breathing depth, you need to maintain good posture while running. Keep your head up and in line with your spine, making sure your shoulders aren’t hunched.