Many of the runners that I see on the roads are breathing very hard, really huffing and puffing. Some appear to by trying to gulp down huge amounts of air with each breath. Some are breathing only through their noses. Others are struggling with side stitches.
To run faster and more efficiently, you need to provide your body with all the oxygen that it needs, without tiring yourself out. There are a few key things to help you with your breathing.
Breathe in and out through your nose and mouth.
Some people have been taught by misinformed coaches, gym teachers, etc. that you should breathe in through your nose. Some were told that breathing in through their nose and out through their mouth will warm the air before it reaches your lungs or that it will help you to increase your lung capacity. Some women are told that breathing through their mouths isn’t “lady-like”.
To quote the legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard, when asked how runners should breathe, “Breathe through your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Suck the air in through your ears, if you can.”
Breathing in though your nose is like breathing through two small straws. Research has indicated that about 33% of a person’s air volume comes in through their nose when you are exercising heavily. If you breathe only through your nose, you are cutting off 67% of your air supply. You aren’t going to get enough air to be able to run fast.
Note: Some folks with exercise-induced asthma have reported that it helps them to breathe through their nose and out through their mouth.
Relax your abdomen when you breathe
As you breathe in, your abdomen should expand. As you breathe out, it should contract. This will keep your diaphragm relaxed and will help to prevent side stitches. If you have trouble doing this, try lying on the floor and raising a book place on your abdomen as you breathe in and lowering it as you breathe out.
If you have seen the film, “The King’s Speech”, there is a scene where King George VI was doing this exercise to strengthen his diaphragm. In a later scene (pictured above), he is seen lifting the Queen.
Don’t try to gulp in as much air as possible
Some runners, thinking they need more oxygen, try to gulp it in as if they were going to hold their breath or swim underwater. Doing this quickly tire your chest and shoulder muscles. You may even start to hyperventilate
What you need is a steady, rhythmic flow of air in and out of your lungs. Relax and breathe in and out through both your nose and mouth, in rhythm with your strides. Your breathing rhythm may vary, depending on your pace. Most elite runners use a 2-2 breathing rhythm. They breathe in for two steps and breathe out for two steps.
How do you breathe when you run? Loudly or quietly? Do you breathe through your nose? Do you get side stitches? Tell me in the comments.