Thursday training tip #4 : Breathe deep to run easy
Many beginners, myself included, breathe incorrectly, especially when the going gets tough – which is when we need our breathing to be at its most efficient. In fact, there are probably loads of experienced runners out there who could benefit from some tweaking of their breathing technique.
First and foremost – breathe easy. Many runners and running books are proponents of the ‘in through the nose, out through the mouth’ technique, however I’ve only really found this possible on low intensity ‘recovery’ pace runs. If your tempo is up, then use your mouth for intake. It’s a much bigger opening so you’ll be able to take fuller breaths. If you are having to ‘force’ the suction of air through a restricted opening (your nose) then this is extra energy your diaphragm and intercostal muscles are having to expend to get the same air in.
Secondly, breathe deep. This sounds obvious but many people equate breathing quickly with a higher air intake. In fact, the opposite is true. Breathing quickly or panting means you can only breathe ‘high’ in your chest, to allow the rapid change from inhalation to exhalation. Breathing ‘high’ in your chest only activates a small part of your lungs, so you won’t be able to get much oxygen into your bloodstream this way. Instead, breathe deeply, ensuring your diaphragm and belly are activated. This will draw air deep into your lungs, the area of your lungs with a higher volume and greater number of air sacs.
Thirdly, try to synchronise your breathing into rhythm with your stride. If you’re quite fit, a slow ‘recovery’ jog might be at 4-4 cycle, this means one breath in for 4 steps, one breath out for 4 steps. Most people however will find 3-3 most comfortable for their easy runs and 2-2 for tempo pace. Most elite distance runners will run a marathon at 3-3 and only move to 2-2 in the later stages. I’m personally trying out a 3-2 technique, which is thought to help with injury prevention and fatigue in long runs, on the basis that this puts the start of exhalation (when your core is weakest) onto opposite feet each cycle. For me, the jury is still out on this one, because I find the odd number cycle at odds with the ‘flow’ of running. However, for those that are interested here is a link to the article explaining the benefits.
Fourthly, reinforce your breathing muscles with some Pilates type core exercises. This Runners World article has some information about the above as well as some good exercises which will benefit your breathing but also your core strength in general.
So, next time you’re out running pay attention to your breathing and make sure to breathe deeply, easily and rhythmically and watch it can make a difference to your running, especially when the going gets tough.
Happy running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!