How to Breathe When Running

Importance of Proper Breathing for Runners

They don't call it "taking a breather" for nothing.
They don't call it "taking a breather" for nothing.

You've probably heard a well-meaning coach or spectator say, "Don't forget to breathe!" When performing any sort of physical activity, quality air exchange is vital. But it's not as simple as it sounds. For most sports there's a right way and a wrong way. Here are the basic components of proper breathing technique when running.

  1. Breathe in and out through your mouth and nose.
  2. Keep your lips parted and let your jaw drop open slightly. You may hear this referred to as the dead fish expression.
  3. Make sure your facial muscles are completely relaxed. If they're tense, it's harder for oxygen to get into the cells.
  4. Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. This is called belly breathing, which we'll explain in more detail in the next section.
  5. Establish a pattern between your steps and your breathing. For instance, you may naturally breathe in for two steps and out for two steps. Whatever your rhythm is, keep it steady and use it to regulate your breathing.
  6. Some runners find that repeating a chant or cadence provides a rhythm for their breathing and helps them control it. Others say it also takes their minds off breathing, so it becomes a more natural process.
  7. Slow down, or even walk for a bit if you're breathing too hard. If you're able to talk in full sentences without gulping for air, then you're going at a comfortable pace.

Following the steps above will not only improve your performance, but will put less stress on your body and reduce your risk of injury.

Read on to learn how to perfect belly breathing.