How to Breathe While Running – We Have You Covered

3 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Breathing should be simple, but in the middle of a long run, things can get a little complicated.

Breathing deep and easy will flood your blood with the oxygen it needs to supply the muscles and keep you going at peak performance. If you find yourself struggling or huffing and puffing and wanting to quit your run, it’s because you’re either overexerting yourself, haven’t found your rhythm, or you just aren’t breathing properly. 

Deep Breathing

You have to breathe deep. Breathe all the way from the belly in order to take in as much oxygen that your body will allow during any type of exercise.

When your body is moving and your muscles are exerting energy, they need more oxygen-rich blood to continue working. Breathing deep from the diaphragm, instead of short, shallow breaths from the chest, allows more oxygen to be efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body.

The common mistake is to think that more breaths equal more oxygen. This is partly true, your body will get more than enough oxygen – the problem is that it doesn’t know how to absorb it. Rapid breathing not only wastes your energy, but it also pumps up your heart rate. This is not ideal during an endurance activity like running. Rather, your goal is to maintain a calm breathing pattern. 

How should you be breathing? You should be breathing as normally as you can. Everyone is different and everyone has their own breathing pattern. The key with running is to align your natural breathing pattern with the pace of your run. This is easier said than done. 

At first, focus on simply not losing your breath and gradually relax your breathing from there.

Breathing in Stride

Get into a rhythm by pacing your breathing with your strides. If you can coordinate your breathing with the steps you take, you will achieve a more efficient run.

2:2 Ratio 

If you’re keeping it casual and not pushing yourself too hard, then try to time your breathing within 4 strides. That means 2 strides with 2 sharp inhalations followed by 1 long exhalation during the next 2 following. Repeat.

2:1 Ratio

If you find that you are still losing your breath, then try switching it up to a 2:1 ratio instead. Begin with 2 strides to 1 long inhalation and follow that with a 1 sharp exhalation on the next single stride. Repeat.

Both of these techniques take some time to get used too. When performed correctly, they will eventually increase the longevity of your runs.

Nose Breathing

Your nose was created for breathing! Although it is more convenient to breathe only through your mouth, it’s good practice (if you are one of those lucky ones who can) to divide your inhalation through your mouth and nose. Air going through your nose allows your brains to cool down and absorb oxygen faster.

While running in high heat, you might feel that you are blanking out or your vision may become cloudy. This might mean that your brain is a bit too warm and lacking in oxygen. If this is the case, try to slow down your pace and inhale solely through your nose with very deep breaths. Continue this process until you feel fully restored.

Loud Inhalation

Sometimes (probably most of the time) when you run, you’ll start to hear a little voice in your head telling you to stop or take it easy.

This voice is incredibly persuasive. Don’t worry, you are not alone. Every athlete hears this voice from time to time and you are no exception. It is completely natural. 

To shut this voice down, listen to your breathing! Focus totally on it and nothing else. If you find it hard to focus then try to breathe louder. Make it purposefully loud. And try not to worry about what anyone in ear-shot will think. Who cares what they think anyway? All that matters is it works and helps you to stay focused.

Consistency

Running is a marathon – unless it’s a sprint… Either way, keeping your breathing consistent and at a steady pace will increase your running performance. Be as slow and methodical as you can with your breathing. Keep your breathing rhythmic. If your feeling exhausted or your body is telling you to quit, return your focus to your breathing. It’s all about pacing yourself.

Key Takeaways

Steady breathing is essential to any physical activity and it’s even more crucial concerning distance running or long-term endurance sports. Focusing on your breathing and implementing strong breathing practices can make the difference between beating your personal best and falling flat. Sure, we all know how to breathe, but are you getting the most out of each of your breaths? 

  • Breathing deep from the diaphragm is the only way to ensure your body is taking in as much oxygen as possible.
  • Focus on breathing in stride by using a 2:1 or 2:2 breath-to-step ratio.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to keep that brain cool mid-exercise.
  • Avoid thoughts of quitting by focusing on your breathing and committing to steady, purposefully loud breaths.
  • Consistent and rhythmic breathing is key to continual, long-term performance.

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