I’ve been an avid runner for about two years now. It was the best change I’ve ever made to my life. Now I’m always looking for ways to improve my performance.
Imagine the surprise when I found out that you can boost your stamina just by optimizing how you breathe while running! At first, you might think this is an obvious revelation to come to, but to be honest, the last thing you’re thinking about while running is, “Am I breathing correctly?”
Indeed, when first starting, you’re more worried about not straining a muscle or pushing yourself too hard. It isn’t until you become a regular runner that you seek out ways to improve your daily jaunts. It isn’t until then that you really think about breathing. At least, I didn’t.
Which is shame, because had I known the proper breathing techniques from the get go, I would have been far better off. Indeed, if you’re breathing the wrong way while running, you could be starving your muscles of oxygen, wasting precious energy, and unknowingly giving yourself asthma-like symptoms.
But perhaps more importantly, you could be holding yourself back from achieving new running-related milestones!
Aside from bettering your endurance and performance the advice contained within this article will also help you combat some negative experiences you may encounter on your run – such as piercing your lungs with cold air.
With luck, the information below will keep you from making the same breathing mistakes I’ve been making the past few years.
1. Breathe Deeply.
Common sense, right? Well, maybe not. It turns out that most runners are, unsurprisingly, concerned more about developing their heart and legs than their lungs. That’s a mistake of course, as “better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance.” So, next time you’re out on a run, make a conscious effort to take deliberately deep breaths. When I tried this, I found that my breaths were previously far too shallow.
2. Use Your Nose But Not Only Your Mouth!
Apparently, one of the most common mistakes runners make is that they breathe solely through their mouths instead of through their mouth and nose, the former of which isn’t as effective at filling your lungs with air. As a certified mouth-breather (while running at least), I put this theory to the test a few days ago. To my surprise, taking in more air through my nose did make a noticeable difference. My lungs filled up with far more air than usual, and I felt like I had way more energy as a result. I think I cut about three minutes off my three mile time just by breathing deeply through my nose instead of mouth-breathing. That’s pretty impressive in my book.
3. Adjust To Varying Weather Conditions.
Another benefit of using your nose to breath is that it makes it easier to run in cold weather. Why’s that? Well, icy winter air warms quicker when filtered through your nose, which not only feels better but lessens the shock to your lungs. So, if you want to make running just a bit easier this winter season, make sure your nose is free of any obstructions and ready to take in air before going on your run. Your lungs will thank you, especially since exposure to air that’s too cold while running can cause asthma-like symptoms.
4. Concentrate On Your Rhythm.
I don’t want to over-complicate running too much for you, but if you want to maximize your performance, it’s best to time your breathing with the pace you’re going at. When combined with step number one, you’ll become a far more effective runner. Indeed, Doctor David Ross of UCLA’s Medical Center states that focusing on taking measured, rhythmic breaths while running can help strengthen your diaphragm, thereby delivering more oxygen to your muscles over time.
5. Use Music As A Guide.
I find that listening to music helps to keep everything aligned properly while running. Pick a few songs that play at around the same speed, and try and match your stride and breath to the beat. If it’s going too quickly for you, find a slower song, or vice versa if you want a challenge. Sure, you can try timing your breath and pace without a song, but this method makes it much easier and allows you to focus on other things while getting your run in.
6. Be A Belly Breather.
Most of us are chest breathers while running, and I’m no exception. According to New York-based running coach Mindy Solkin; however, that’s a huge mistake. She states, “when you chest breathe, your shoulders get tense and move up and down, [which is] wasted energy–energy you should conserve for running.” It makes sense when you think about it. An easy test is to just place your right hand over your chest, and your left over your belly. When you breathe, your left hand should rise, and your right should stay put. Try and practice this technique while at rest, and then apply it while on a run. With luck, you’ll be absorbing more oxygen than you were before, and wasting less energy while doing so, resulting in less fatigue while you’re doing your cardio routine. That’s really all there is to it! With luck, this information was news to you (as it was to me), and you’ll be able to get a bit more out of your next run. See you on the trails!
Featured photo credit: Run Start/ Elvert Barnes via flickr.com