How to breathe while running—2 techniques that make a difference

The average person breathes more than 23,000 times a day. But breathing during a run? That’s a bit harder. Luckily, there are a few techniques you can call on to increase your airflow on the move.

We breathe to fuel our bodies and get rid of carbon dioxide. When we participate in high-intensity workouts like running, we may struggle to get enough oxygen to properly oxygenate our organs, increasing lactic acid in our muscles, which results in cramps and fatigue (ugh, the worst!). But not to worry, we’ve got two crucial techniques to help you breathe better when running.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the rate and depth at which you breathe is more important than whether you breathe through your nose, mouth, or both. Most running coaches recommend a hybrid when running at a high intensity to help maximize the amount of oxygen you inhale, and to breathe solely through your nose when doing lower intensity or recovery runs. Now, onto the good stuff.

1. Belly Breathing

Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is the practice of expanding your entire abdomen, rather than just breathing through your chest. By breathing through your entire abdomen, you can increase the amount of oxygen you inhale more efficiently and at a greater rate.

You can practice belly breathing at home by lying on your back and taking slow deep breaths, expanding your whole stomach, rather than just your chest. Try and relax your neck and shoulders and let your diaphragm do all the work, making sure to breathe out through your mouth at least two to three times as long as your inhale.

2. Rhythmic Breathing

Another way to breathe better when running is by rhythmic breathing, which is essentially a practice of creating a rhythm between breathing and your gait (the way in which you run). When running, the force of impact on your body is equal to two to three times your body weight. The stress of that impact is greatest when your foot hits the ground. If that impact is at the beginning of an exhalation, it catches us at the most unstable times for the pelvis and core. How to fix that? Rhythmic breathing.

Rhythmic breathing trains us to time the force of impact with our inhalation (more stability in our diaphragm and core muscles) and to shift the impact by ensuring we aren’t repeatedly inhaling and exhaling on the same foot through a 3:2 pattern. This means inhaling for a count of three steps and exhaling for a count of two steps, allowing more time for inhalation and an uneven number of steps to make sure the impact on your feet varies. As your pace increases, you can quicken the rhythm to a 2:1 pattern—two steps as you inhale and one as you exhale.

Ready to lace up your shoes and give these a try? We hope these tips are helpful for those long miles ahead. And if you’re running with a bit of nasal congestion, give Breathe Right® nasal strips a try—they offer up to 12 hours of instant nasal congestion relief and they’re made to stay put during intense workouts.