TotR: Running Hacks – Just Breathe

Today’s Tuesdays on the Run linkup with Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs is all about running hacks.  You know, those tips, tricks and techniques that make running easier.  Mine is all about breathing.

JustBreatheWe all know how to breathe, but there are lots of questions for the best way to breathe on a run.  Nose or mouth?  A certain pattern? How do you get your breathing under control when you’re pushing hard?

There are a lot of different theories, but here is what works for me.  I breathe through my mouth or nose based on what feels right.  If breathing through my nose doesn’t feel right, then I breathe through my mouth.  There is an old-trainer’s tale that breathing through your mouth can give you side stitches, but I have not found that to be true at all.  Just go with what feels natural.

As for patterned breathing, you’ll often find that you naturally breath in time with your footsteps.  It just happens.  However, what feels natural is to inhale and exhale for the same number of beats.  For example, in twice and out twice and then repeat.  The problem with that is the tiny bit of extra force that you land with on an exhale.  It is not really obvious but you hit the ground just a little harder on the exhale.  If you breathe in and out at the same pace, the same foot will hit the ground on every exhale.  This tiny extra bit of pressure times thousands of footfalls can result in overuse injuries on that side.

Here’s how I do it.  At a tempo or long run pace, I breathe out three times and in twice.  So here’s how it goes:
Right foot – in
Left foot – in
Right foot – out
Left foot – out
Right foot – out
Left foot – in
Right foot – in
Left foot -out
Right foot – out
Left foot – out

It sounds much more complicated than it is.  On your next run just try to think in, in, out, out, out, in, in, out, out, out.  Each word should correspond with a footfall and a breath.  I do three out and two in because I’ve read that a full exhale encourages deeper breaths which means more oxygen and when you are running more oxygen = good!

There is another school of thought out there that you should breathe in 3 times and out 2 times because that provides more oxygen.  Like many things, give both a try and see what works for you.

If you are really pushing the pace, you may switch to a 1 in and 2 out pattern.  If you’re taking it easy, you may do 3 in and 4 out.  Don’t hyperventilate, make it feel as natural as possible.  The pattern will be hard to remember but if you practice it, it will become a habit and you won’t even have to think about it, you will just do it.  As you’re getting the habit established, a mantra can help.  For example:

Weakness Out (3-syllables for the exhale) – Stronger (2-syllables for the inhale)
I Am A (3 syllables) – Runner (2-syllables)

Pick something meaningful to you that has the syllable mix you need and repeat it with your footfalls.  It will help establish that breathing pattern.  It is also a good motivator during a rough patch.

So, it may seem strange, but that’s my running hack…breathe in a 3-2 pattern and use a mantra to help you remember to stick with it!

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TotR: Running Hacks – Just Breathe — 19 Comments

  1. Way back when I ran track in middle school, my coach taught us how to breathe correctly while running. It stuck with me because I still do it today. I follow the same pattern you do for tempos and speedwork. In 2, out 3. Great advice!!
    Melanie recently posted…ToTR: Running HacksMy Profile

  2. This is so interesting and timely. My niece just had an incident running in gym class where she couldn’t breathe. They dxd her with exercise induced asthma but told her learning to breathe correctly and build endurance would help a ton.
    Marcia recently posted…Weekend Rewind and a RecipeMy Profile

  3. Breathing is important…I wrote a whole post on breathing a while ago. Practicing yoga has really helped me focus on breathing a lot more. When run gets tough, I always return to my breath. Works great.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Sole foodMy Profile

  4. Yes! I read about this when I was starting to run and I definitely use my breathing to assess how hard I’m working, run harder, run easier, etc. I love the mantras you added to them!
    Coco recently posted…This Is What A PR Looks LikeMy Profile

  5. This is something I need to teach my son because while we did a 5k this weekend I looked over at him and realized he wasn’t breathing during our running intervals! WHAT? I kept telling him “breathe!” Maybe having a running cadence like this would help him. 🙂
    Mer @ScootaDoot recently posted…Road Tested: Cultures for HealthMy Profile

  6. I found a good way to breathe (for me) and I go by how I feel that day. Listening to myself breathe used to freak me out and I would get out of the breathing pattern and get a side stitch. Now I use headphones so I don’t stress about what sounds right and I focus on what feels right.
    Lesley recently posted…Summer PlaylistMy Profile

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  8. Very interesting. I haven’t tried this specifically, although I do focus on deep breaths with forceful exhales in all of my high intensity efforts on the bike and run. I may see if I can get into this pattern.
    Kelli recently posted…Brain Training For RunnersMy Profile

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  10. Can you please come run with me and teach me this? I have gone to running clinics and read so much stuff about running patterns and breathing patterns but for some reason I just can’t catch on. I start to think about it so much during my run that it doesn’t even feel natural!

    Oh, about the breathing in through your mouth or nose, I was taught ( through one of my college health courses) to always breath through your nose if you can help it. Not just for running but for everyday life. Your nose has a filter in it that can weed out the bad air ( or something) that we breath in. When you breath in through your mouth, there is no filter and you take in all the bad environmental stuff.

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