There is more to being a good runner than putting one foot in front of the other. Diet and training programs all contribute to how well you perform on your weekly run, but so does your breathing technique. In fact, the proper breathing technique might be what is required to take your running to the next level.
One of the things runners dread is running out of breath, causing painful side stitches that slow their run to a crawl. You need a certain breathing rhythm if you want to be a successful runner, for not even the best fitting shoes will save you if you can’t breathe properly.
I have a confession to make
I used to suck at running. I was completely miserable when I ran because I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my lungs and I faded early. My diaphragm was clueless on what its role was and both my mouth and my nose wanted to suck in all the air at the same time.
When you run breathing is everything, so it’s not enough that you train your quads and hamstrings. You can exercise and practice to make your legs stronger, but if you fail to get enough oxygen into your lungs, your muscles won’t get the nutrients they need to combat fatigue.
The Two Types of Breathing
If you’re new to the sport of running and you want to know what type of breather you are, do this test:
- Lie on your back and put one hand on top of your chest and one on top of your stomach.
- Take a deep breath and see which hand moves.
- If the hand on your chest moves, you’re a shallow breather, which is considered an inferior way to breathe, especially when running.
- If the hand on your belly moves, you’re a deep breather, which is the proper way to breathe according to doctors and running coaches.
Shallow Breathing – Also called thoracic breathing or chest breathing. This occurs when minimal air is drawn into the lungs by using the external intercostals and not throughout the lungs using the diaphragm. Most chest breathers do it throughout the day and don’t even know they are doing it, causing rapid breathing or hyperventilation.
Deep Breathing – Also called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, this is touted by some as the right way of breathing, especially when running. It is done by contracting the diaphragm, expanding the abdomen rather than the chest, and breathing through the mouth and not the nose.
Rhythm and Breath
You can conquer running only when you master deep, rhythmic breathing. This can be done by timing your breath to your gait or step, ensuring a steady rhythm when you’re running.
- 3:3 – If you’re a beginner like me, the 3:3 rhythm count is a good starting point (three steps – left foot, right foot, left foot – breathe IN / right foot, left foot, right foot – breathe OUT). You’ll be taking approximately 30 breaths per minute with this rhythm count and it’s best suited for light and easy runs.
- 2:2 – You can also try the standard 2:2 rhythm count used by a majority of marathoners (two steps – right foot, left foot – breathe IN / right foot, left foot – breathe OUT) for moderate runs. You’ll be taking about 45 breaths per minute with this count, ideal for some steady cardio, like running on a treadmill.
- 3:2 – Others find an irregular or odd numbered rhythm count such as 3:2 and 2:1 to be more effective in preventing injuries because you’re alternating between landing on your left and right foot.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re constantly running out of air. All runners go through this phase in the beginning and it’s just temporary. Regular deep breathing practice, even while at rest, can help you re-master the art of deep breathing again.
Just remember to treat your lungs and diaphragm like you do your muscles – train them regularly and they will get stronger. Do the rhythm counts when taking a walk or jogging so your body knows what it has to do when it’s time.
See you at the finish line.
More reading -> A Simple Guide To Running Gear For Beginners